“I’m a gobby person,” says Byron Webster, with the sort of straightforward manner Carlisle supporters hope will translate to the pitch, when he is tackling centre-forwards.

League Two is no place for shrinking violets in the back four. There would be little chance of a 6ft 4in, tattoo-smothered defender hiding in the shadows anyway, but Webster – who comes with rich experience from a senior career mainly spent in League One and the Championship – was signed to be a leader.

He readily accepts this challenge, but it will not be all old-school barking and swearing from the No5 position. “On the pitch [I] might not come across nice, but I am a nice person,” he says. “I like to encourage more than anything. If you’re calling someone a name or whatever, they ain’t gonna react to you as well.

“Put an arm around them, tell them what they need to be told but in quite a nice way – I think you get better results from them.”

When Webster was waiting to speak to the media on Monday morning, United’s goalkeeping coach Craig Wight elicited laughs when he appeared from an office and compared the giant, blond-haired signing to “a Greek god”.

Carlisle fans will accept something less mythological, provided Webster still stands tall as the figurehead of a new defence. United’s rearguard has changed steadily over the years, but this summer it has had a complete refit. All the more need for Webster to follow some of the best centre-half leaders of recent years in terms of influence. Two years ago it was the outstanding Clint Hill, while last season Anthony Gerrard’s experience was an asset at times, his condition not in line with Steven Pressley’s preferences at others.

Webster looks a leaner figure, which ticks at least one box on the manager’s list. The overall challenge will be for the 32-year-old to bring the best of his career to Cumbria.

In 2013, for instance, he helped Yeovil shock League One by going up through the play-offs. In 2017, same again, with the more fancied Millwall. These successes give his career proper meaning. “That’s what [you play] for,” he says. “You can look back at your appearances or whatever, but if you’ve got nothing to show for it it’s not a good thing.

“I’ve been fortunate. In my house up north I’ve got my little room where I’ve got a few medals and shirts up. I’ve got two young kids who like to know about it now – they’re getting to the age where they’re asking questions.”

A third play-off venture, also with Millwall in 2016, was cut short when he pulled up before the final, where the London club lost to Barnsley. “I’d got injured in the semi-finals, so I kind of knew it, but I tried to get through it in the [final] warm-up and broke down,” he says.

“But it’s a good place to play football, Wembley, and it definitely gives you that excitement to be back there. If we can get anywhere near, or if we can get automatic [promotion], it’s going to be an exciting time for the players and the fans.”

Webster’s “up north” remark may be residue from the Yorkshireman’s stint at the Den, where he made 137 appearances in what appears to have been a popular stint among Lions fans. His latter time there was affected by a cruciate knee ligament injury, from which Webster recovered before moving to Scunthorpe for the second half of last season. This was not a particularly glittering period, as the Iron were relegated to League Two and Webster did not play as often as he wished.

“I went there hoping to play games straight away, but the team went from not doing well to getting a few results, so it was a case of having to bide my time to get in,” he says. “I didn’t get as many games as I wanted to.”

Millwall, he says, was a more positive experience – “I absolutely loved it” – and testament to the way Webster built his career from a varied start. “I was in the York City first team at about 17, and you think you’ve cracked it,” he says. “I got my contract, but a new manager came in. I was young, and thought I was mentally strong, but I wasn’t. He [the manager] kind of broke me in a way. I was fed up with football, but went abroad and fell in love with it [again] there.”

Abroad meant FK Banik Most, in the Czech Republic. “It was in the top league, playing against teams like Sparta Prague and Slavia Prague. I enjoyed it, but you don’t train for very long, so I was sat in the flat by myself, maybe getting a bit homesick, and I wanted to get back. I was fortunate Doncaster liked what they saw, so I went there.”

A return to Yorkshire was followed by a spell at Northampton, before Yeovil and Millwall. This route has seen Webster encounter different managers, different styles, and he feels he can adapt to Pressley’s proposed high-energy, passing game with United.

“At Millwall there wasn’t as much of that, but that’s different managers,” he says. “When I was at Millwall, and successful, we had a game plan, but when you start winning you’re able to play it around. He [Pressley] wants to play football, which is what every footballer wants to do.

“[Wherever you are], if you want to play in the team, you do whatever the manager says. I’m looking forward to his style of play.”

He does not, it seems, want a stereotypical image as a head-and-kick-it centre-back. His aerial strength should be obvious, “but I do like to get it down and play. And just enjoy it, mainly. Too many times you see people without a smile on their face – I’ll always have a smile on my face and always be grafting for the team.”

Webster seemed genuinely impressed when asked for his take on United’s facilities – the gym and their “bowling green” pitches. He is experienced enough to know pre-season training, which starts on Thursday, will be no picnic, but hopes there will be “some thought to it”, in line with modern ways, rather than being asked to “run like a horse”.

He says he found Pressley a “positive” person with “no airs or graces” or “grey areas”, and believes these qualities can get the best out of him. Crucially, though, it is about getting the best out of himself, even if the terms do not currently extend past a one-year deal.

“There are not many players now who sign five or six-year contracts,” says Webster, who talked over United’s approach with his family at a wedding with after meeting Pressley. “There has to be something that excites you, otherwise it shows in your performances and shows in you as a person,” he adds.

“I don’t think my wife or dad would let me just plod along. There’s always been that drive within me to do it. That’s why the places I’ve been to, until this year, have not been close to home – Yeovil, Northampton, Millwall. I’ve gone where I’ve had to. Even Carlisle is still a two-hour drive for me. There has to be something there to get my teeth into.”