No player should ever have to be dragged towards captaincy. All the same, it is reassuring to hear that Callum Guy, Carlisle United’s new skipper, practically ran towards it.

“It’s not something I was expecting. It’s something I really wanted,” says the midfielder, last season’s player of the year and now the team’s chief for 2021/22. “I wanted to lead the team this season. The gaffer’s given me that chance, put the trust in me and I’m really thankful for that – and now I have to repay him.”

Guy’s selection by Chris Beech to succeed the Bristol Rovers-bound Nick Anderton as captain seems a natural enough fit. This is not a squad chock-full of experienced campaigners but Guy, at 24, was not an unexpected pick.

The former Derby County and Blackpool player commands authority as a result of consistent performances last season and a seizing of responsibility in the team’s midfield. He wore the armband on occasions when Anderton and vice-captain Aaron Hayden were either unavailable or unselected.

Now, the man who started more games than any United player last season, and who totted up more assists than anyone else in the division, is at the absolute forefront of what Carlisle want to be, how they want to look and play.

News and Star: Guy captained the side on occasion last season (photo: Barbara Abbott)Guy captained the side on occasion last season (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Guy is certainly one of United’s more vocal players and he sounds ready for this extra seniority. “It’s a massive honour,” he says. “It’s such a big club, a great club, and obviously all the fans really appreciate the hard work you put in.

“I’ve been captain before, for a season in the Under-23s at Derby when I was one of the older lads in that group, so that’s helped. I had the few games last year, and you really want to step on from there as a captain. It really drives you on to want it again. Luckily I’ve got that chance this season.”

What sort of captain, then, does Guy consider he will be?

“I just want to be a good person that people can go and talk to if they ever need to,” he says. “I want to lead by example on the pitch, which is one of the most important things, but also off the pitch, demanding high standards from the lads, making sure training’s right at it, which it has been.

“My personality won’t change too much. I’ll still be who I am in the changing room, but when I step out on the pitch at 3pm I’ll try to be the best leader I can.”

Guy says he had a “massive smile on my face” when Beech called the midfielder, along with defender Hayden (who retains the vice-captaincy) into his office on Monday to offer him the armband and discuss how United will step forward.

“It was a proud moment for me and my family,” he says. “We had a good long chat about everything, and that’s between me and him [Beech] as to what was said. I know what I need to do and I know what he expects from me.”

Guy is also reassured that United’s fans seemed in agreement with Beech’s decision. The response on social media was approving. Some went further and speculated that the decision might be another way of making one of Carlisle’s leading assets feel further tied to Brunton Park.

News and Star: Guy was the division's leading assists man last season (photo: Richard Parkes)Guy was the division's leading assists man last season (photo: Richard Parkes)

He appears that way inclined anyway, having extended his deal earlier this summer and made his home at United since joining from Blackpool - Carlisle’s pre-season opponents next weekend - in January 2020. Guy made himself vital to Beech’s team last season, with many set-piece assists and some driving midfield play.

The response from supporters, then, means a lot to a player who feels the backing from the fanbase as well as closer to home. “[The social media reaction] makes it even more special,” he says of the captaincy announcement, “because you’ve got the players, staff and your family who’s really happy for you, and then the fans showing all the support on Twitter is an amazing feeling for me.”

Family means the most to Guy. His partner Abbie, with whom he has two young children, was the first to know about his new status at the Blues. “I told her before it got released and she was so happy for me,” he says. “She knows all the work I’ve put in, what I’ve been through, with past experiences and stuff like that. She’s been a rock for me and is probably the most proud for me.”

The midfielder points out that it is vital, as Beech has said, that United have “11 leaders” on the pitch and others prepared to step up from the bench. He is also keen to refine his own game beyond what he produced in Carlisle’s 2020/21 season.

Guy took home a host of individual club awards, including the News & Star readers’ prize for player of the year. He was also voted Football League World Fans’ League Two player of the season. Yet he regards those accolades as things to park now, as a new campaign lies ahead.

Asked how he wants to build on last term, he says: “It’s all about trying to replicate last season, and adding a few bits on top. There are still areas of my game I need to improve on, like scoring goals [he is yet to score for United].

"I can maybe get myself higher up the pitch. But it’s something I’ve been working on over the summer and hopefully I can put that into this season and get a few goals to my name.”

Guy says a “close-knit” squad, which has not seen as much upheaval this summer compared with last year, has created a good feeling at Brunton Park again, at this stage of a “tough” pre-season.

United’s latest work has been undertaken in some serious Cumbrian heat. “It’s lovely weather, although it’s not that good when you’re strawberry-blond,” he smiles. “But it’s something you need to get used to because more than likely when we come to the first game of the season it’s going to be really hot.”

That first game, against Colchester on August 7, is accompanied by a £10 ticket offer and is intended to be a big day of celebration and reflection after last season’s Covid-hit campaign. Guy can’t wait to lead the team out on such a day.

“It’s going to be an amazing feeling,” he says. “We’re constantly talking about it in the changing room, how excited we are to see the fans back in. There was quite a few at the game on Tuesday at Penrith and that was nice, speaking to them after the game.

“It’s what football’s missed. Everyone says football’s nothing without the fans and they are right. It gives you that extra 10 per cent.”