Jon Mellish is on the way back up after the greatest disappointment of his young career. This move up to Carlisle United ought to be another step in the right direction for a promising player.

Mellish, five years ago, was one of scores of players who are let go by a bigger club every year. Many fall and are not seen again. Others settle for much lesser circumstances. Carlisle’s summer signing, though, fought back – not that it was easy.

“At 16 I got released by Sunderland,” Mellish says. “It was hard. From there, I didn’t know what I was going to do.

“I went to Gateshead College for two years, and it was almost a step back from football. I just wanted to enjoy it again.

“Thankfully it was there that I got back into it. I got a third-year scholar[ship] at Gateshead, then onto a pro contract for two years, and here I am now.

“In a way, I’m lucky to have progressed through something where I’ve been learning along the way. I’ve never looked back.”

Last season confirmed that Mellish’s disappointments were now in his rear-view mirror. An outstanding season for Gateshead in the National League saw the centre-half picked for England C and also named the best young player below the EFL.

It was a welcome, if not entirely expected, trajectory. “I went into the season not sure what would happen,” Mellish admits. “I set myself a goal of playing 10 games, or something. As it happened I played every game, got young player of the season and as a team we also had a really good season, just dropping short of the play-offs.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more personally, both with the season and then this move.”

Although Gateshead had other bright young players, not least midfielder Tom White who this summer joined Blackburn after an aborted United attempt, the north east club was not a bed of roses in 2018/19.

Breaches of financial rules saw them suspended from the National League after their ninth-placed finish, and ultimately demoted a division. Now under new owners, a brighter future is hopefully within reach, but Mellish concedes it was a challenging environment in which to be developing his craft.

“It was quite a weird one, quite hard,” he says. “There was a lot going on. Every week there was something new chucked at us.

“We had quite a young team where we didn’t think about it too much. We just wanted to play, and I think it showed. Maybe, towards the end of the season, it got a bit too much when we were struggling for players and just fell short of the play-offs.

“As a team I feel we dealt with it well. But it was hard.”

It was, one hopes, an early education in some of football’s tough realities which will equip Mellish for the demanding road ahead. First he has to nail a place in Steven Pressley’s team, despite the presence of two much more experienced centre-halves in Byron Webster and Nathaniel Knight-Percival.

Then he has to carve a reputation as a capable Football League player. Mellish has versatility, which has already been demonstrated this pre-season, and the thigh injury being nursed by Jack Iredale means he has an even chance of starting the campaign at full-back.

He knows, thought, where he ideally wants to play.

“When I was younger I used to be a bit of a winger,” he says. “The older I got, and the more I grew, I went back and back.

“I don’t mind left-back, and if I need to do it I will – I did it a few times last season – but centre-half is my favoured position.

“Mainly I would say I’m a centre-half who likes to get the ball down and play, to step in when I can, to try and make something happen from the back. With that, I do love defending – I know that’s my main job. But I’m more of a ball-playing centre-half.”

Webster, the former Millwall man, is an obvious leader already in this rejigged (and incomplete) Carlisle squad and a candidate for the captain’s armband. Mellish is looking forward to being in his company.

“I had that last season, with [the ex-Newcastle defender] Mike Williamson,” he says. “He’s an experienced centre-half so I learned a lot off him. He took me in, taught me a lot.

“To have that again here can only make me better. I’ll listen to him [Webster] and take on board what he’s got to say.”

Mellish is awaiting his EFL debut but has already represented his country. He was among the pick of the National League last season and on his England C experience, he says: “It was two months into the season – I remember the gaffer bringing me in for a chat, to say I’d been picked. I didn’t expect it, and going there was a really different experience, playing with different people and how they go about things.

“We played against Estonia [under] 23s and Wales C. Two good but very different oppositions. Walking in the changing room and seeing the England strip was a bit weird, but putting it on was a really good feeling.”

The pursuit of good feelings with Carlisle will start soon and, while a further influx of signings is still sorely needed with the big kick-off now two weeks away, Mellish is optimistic. “As soon as I got here, I liked it,” he says. “After having a chat with the gaffer about potentially signing, I left the building and had a feeling for it straight away. The ground, the pitch, the facilities – I couldn’t ask for more.

“It’s my first proper pre-season and I’m definitely feeling it, but I’m enjoying it. I think the play-offs is something we definitely want to push for, and maybe we’ll be disappointed if we don’t [make it]. We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure we achieve that.”

Mellish is happy to put on record the names of those who have helped him. As well as his parents, he cites Steve Watson, Micky Cummins, Ian Watson and Ben Clark from his time at Gateshead.

Now he is seeking new influences, new experiences. The hope is that Mellish will be one to watch at United in 2019/20. “My goal’s always been to be in the Football League and now I’m here it feels really good,” he says.

“August 3, v Crawley…I hope I’m playing and I cannot wait for it.”