Statistics don’t always tell the full story, but in some cases they can sum it up nicely. Take Gary Liddle, who is now in the proud category of footballers with 600 career appearances to their name.

The following is the number of times Liddle has played in each full season since 2006/7: 47, 47, 52, 44, 51, 42, 51, 37, 50, 41, 54, 49.

That averages out at 47 per campaign, a figure he will also hit should he play in Carlisle’s final dozen games of this one. What are those numbers if not a mark of reliability in a volatile sport; a willingness to hit the sweet spot of all his managers ever since he began first-team life at Hartlepool?

Liddle’s 600th was a 1-1 draw for United at Colchester which nudged the Blues outside the play-off places. Their next 12 fixtures could be defining and the usual pressure awaits. It is still appropriate, though, to look back, given their defender’s milestone.

“I’m really pleased with it,” Liddle says. “I was told last week by Andy [Hall], our media guy, that I was on course for the 600. I wanted to do it having started a game – that’s always a little bit better than coming off the bench.

“If someone had told me, having left Middlesbrough at 20 years old having not made a senior appearance, that I would hit the 600 milestone at 32, I would have snapped their hand off. I would have snapped their hand off to have done it by 35 or 36, to be honest with you. I’d like to think I’ve a few years left in me, and plenty more games in the tank.”

The reasons for Liddle’s longevity are explained modestly but they also carry a simple, essential message for young players trying to navigate all the obstacles in front of a young pro.

“I’ve been really lucky, whichever club I’ve been at, that the manager’s quite liked me and played me,” he says. “I’ve always been very lucky with injuries, and the ones I do have tend to be a couple of days to a couple of weeks and then I find myself back in contention again.

“I think it comes down to looking after yourself. As a youngster I might have gone out a few times, but as I’ve got older I’ve recognised that, if I went out [on a Saturday night], I probably wouldn’t recover for a Tuesday game…

“It’s all about moderation, and also not taking the game too seriously. There was a time in my younger years when I would let football really affect me, after a game. As I’ve got older, probably with the introduction of children into the family, I tend not to take it home with me and let it affect my family life too much.”

Liddle, naturally, has fond thoughts of appearance number one. “I remember it quite clearly, it was a League Cup tie away to Burnley,” he says of his Hartlepool debut on August 22, 2006. “We came out with a 1-0 victory at the time which was a nice debut.

“There have been some great games and some great stadiums along the way, the likes of Anfield and Stamford Bridge, and some great memories that stick out.”

One that sticks out more than any other is Liddle’s highlight from his sextuple century. January 24, 2015, Chelsea versus Bradford in the FA Cup, Liddle and his team-mates against Ramires, Oscar, Fabregas, Willian, Drogba, Salah, Hazard and Mikel, and an extraordinary 4-2 victory.

“The best game of my life,” Liddle smiles. “It was quite surreal at the time and it’s one I’ve got mementoes, shirts and souvenirs from.

“Hopefully there’ll be a few more memories to come and to finish this season with promotion is obviously the aim. I got promoted with Hartlepool [in 2006/7] in second place but I’ve never experienced a promotion through play-offs. That would be great.”

One imagines that Liddle, who joined Carlisle in January 2017 after spells with Notts County, Bradford and Chesterfield and has 32 career goals, will have positive experience to pass on at the business end of United’s challenge now?

“You hope so. At Colchester [on Saturday], I asked the young lads like Regs [Slater] and Cal [O’Hare] if they’d ever played there before and they said no,” he says. “It’s a shock when you’ve got lads in the team and they haven’t experienced not just these stadiums, but this league.

“It’s a learning curve and these games show how intense, and close, and fine the margins can be. We know we need to get back on the bandwagon because that’s four games without a win. We need to put a stop to that pretty quickly if we want to keep in touch with those above us.”

Liddle’s first Blues campaign, which saw play-off disappointment at Exeter, was not a great personal success but last season saw his own performances rise back to what supporters may have considered familiar levels – whether at right-back, centre-half, or occasionally holding midfield.

It is on the right of Steven Pressley’s defence where his immediate future appears to lie. What, though, about the longer term, given he is one of many players out of contract this summer?

“Other than people like Kelvin [Etuhu], who have hit triggers, everyone’s in the same boat,” Liddle says. “If the manager wants, he can have a brand new squad next season. That’s just how it is and it’s not just here, it’s generally how League One and League Two are. You rarely see two-year contracts given out these days, and everyone’s playing for their future, I guess.

“At this current time it’s all about promotion. It’s an old cliché, taking it a game at a time, but that’s the case, and everyone’s future will take care of itself, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

Another long trip, to Newport, now awaits; game 601 for this relentless pro on a challenging Rodney Parade surface which has hosted some absorbing cup ties against Premier League teams this season, and where United have come a cropper in the past.

“It’s not Wembley, is it?” Liddle says, considering the pitch. “I watched those cup games and Newport are a difficult team to play against, especially on their patch. They’re a good team, who have a certain way of playing, and sometimes it’s difficult to combat, as those Premier League teams found out in the early stages of those games.

“It’s something we will prepare for. The manager is quite a tactical manager and he’ll have us ready to go all-out, that’s for sure.”