At least part of the answer to the question of what shapes Steven Pressley may be found in that little green book: the League Managers’ Association jotter that he is often seen clutching on the sidelines and in press conferences.

“In my loft I’ve got stacks of them,” Carlisle’s manager says, picking up the current volume from his desk. “They’ve normally been black ones over the years rather than green." What goes in them? "Lots of things, little reminders.”

Such as? “Well, today, for instance, I read something about [Leeds boss] Marcelo Bielsa and the ‘murderball’ game he plays in training. It’s a 11v11 game. We always talk about these foreign coaches and the things they are doing…but this is something I’ve been doing for five years! It’s the foundations of our pre-season.

“I was interested to read that, so I wrote it down. I’ll make a note of conversations I’ve had with agents, players who have impressed me in training, something I might want to say before the game. Players always want consistency – if you’ve said something to them, they’ll always remind you. So I’ll write down those conversations as well.”

The collection of books chez Pressley would make for an interesting read across his managerial days with Falkirk, Coventry, Fleetwood, Cypriot club Pafos and half-a-season in Cumbria. Now the aim is to make 2019/20’s chronicles engrossing for the right reasons.

It has been an often anxious pre-season across United’s support but Pressley, through most of their summer, has appeared calm. He says this aspect of his personality is like “night and day” compared with his younger days in management. At 45 he is hardly a dugout veteran but his varied career, plus his grey beard, reflect a certain breadth of experience.

Pressley agrees, though, that he inhabits an absurd profession. Having enjoyed good times at certain clubs, but also seen the axe abruptly fall at others, has he ever considered seeking a simpler life?

“I’ve tried to do that,” he smiles, as we talk in his office at Brunton Park. “My mother is always telling me, 'you need to do something else'. But I can’t. You either adapt to football management, and take to it, or you don’t. If you do, it’s a drug.

“I’ve experienced periods out of the game – a year, six months – and I don’t think people realise how difficult it is. When you’re a manager you’re living on the edge all the time. It’s an intense, demanding lifestyle, and a real pressure. You take that away and there’s a huge void in your life. How do you get the adrenaline rushes?

“I’ve spoken to people like Andy [Hall, United’s media officer and a former soldier] about life in the Army, where you’re doing that every day and then it stops. You look at the suicide rate of guys in the Army or Air Forces – it’s high. It’s because you have this constant and when it goes, it can be impossible to replace.”

Pressley says that, in those voids, he has kept himself motivated by spending time with his family which is often elusive during a season, and also by travelling to other football clubs to learn. “I went to Israel to see Steve McClaren. I spent a few days with David Moyes at Real Sociedad. Even smaller clubs, places like Walsall, to see how everybody works. Also going on courses – just now I’m on my LMA Diploma course. I’m always trying to learn, to improve.”

Management is dramatically different to being a centre-half and a captain, and Pressley concedes that his playing days now feel long ago. He is, though, clear that his grounding, and time with clubs such as Rangers, Hearts and Celtic, influenced his nature.

“I was really lucky that I was schooled at Rangers, and came through during the time of their great success, when they won nine [titles] in a row,” he says. “It was a ferocious dressing room, full of winners, driven by really strong coaches.

“It was a sink or swim environment. You had to win every day. If you drew at Rangers it wasn’t accepted. Being around that was a brilliant learning curve. Of the six or seven in my age group, I was probably the sixth or seventh they expected to make it, but I was the only one who really went on [because] I had a real determination. I practiced a lot of things I was weak at. Archie Knox had me heading 100 balls a day. I would never have had a career if it wasn’t for guys like Archie Knox.”

These lessons at Ibrox went deeper. “As a young player, I had to clean 15 pairs of boots a day. I became almost Archie’s personal chauffeur too, and I had to clean his car.

“Underneath it all, Archie did that to mould me. He wanted me to be a player. [When I was manager] at Coventry, I got a lot of the young players – Callum Wilson, James Maddison – doing these things and, when I left, their parents thanked me. I was never gonna teach James to pass the ball, because he had unbelievable talent. But I could help him understand what it took to be a footballer, the good values it required.”

Pressley says he is reintroducing these principles to Brunton Park’s top prospects now. “We’ve created a players’ hub here, and although young Josh [Dixon] and Keighran [Kerr] have now gone beyond their apprenticeship, I still make it their responsibility, along with Jarrad [Branthwaite], to ensure that place is spotless at the end of the day. It’s keeping a sense of grounding to them, understanding they’re not there yet.”

Pressley says it was his first job, at Falkirk, that gave him this eagerness to nurture young players. “When you don’t have the resource, you have to find the answers within,” he says. “I had to develop young players and I learned from an early stage that if you coach them properly, demand from them properly, they seldom let you down.”

Coventry’s bizarre circumstances, which included a spell playing home games in Northampton, set certain tests too and Pressley says the young players he oversaw there also influences his desire to play an energetic style of football. “I think that type of football – high-intensity, pressure football – reflects the type of character I am. I’m a very passionate manager. I think I’ve also been shaped by energetic young players applying those principles.”

Pressley has been clear about these wishes when talking about his rebuild of the Carlisle squad this summer, and the system he prefers. What convinces him that his high-pressing, high-fitness playing style can thrive in the traditionally robust old fourth division?

“It’s interesting,” he says. “I think you’re seeing more and more loan players coming down from the bigger clubs, managers as well, and compared with when I first came to England, there’s more purity about Leagues One and Two. There’s still directness in some sides but one thing you need to be is true to yourself. As a coach and a manager it’s hard to be what you’re not. It doesn’t mean I can’t always improve, and adapt, but the principles of how I want to play are pretty much what I am.”

So, even if the situation dictates a more physical style, we will not see Pressley’s Blues launching it? “You’re not gonna see that from me, because I couldn’t watch my team play that way. It’s not a criticism of anybody else. I’m only being true to how I see football. I want to see a fast, attacking football performance.”

At its best, this attempted style delivered a few high-octane wins after his January arrival last season, such as a 4-2 April beating of Crawley which saw a four-goal first-half salvo. Alternatively, Carlisle suffered some deflating defeats, especially on the road, and one that springs to mind is at Newport, when the Exiles’ powerful frontman Jamille Matt stomped all over United’s attempted patterns.

Pressley has long wanted a “big striker” to be part of his planning – admitting this has been the hardest player to source this summer – but not simply as a target for his other players. “We do need a big No9 that’s gonna score from crosses, and also, if teams come and press, someone we can go into and support. That’s still using a big striker, but not in a percentage way or a long-ball game.”

Managing the percentages in other ways is a test, given Carlisle's well-documented budget approach. He says he is comfortable working under their director of football structure [theirs is David Holdsworth] and, asked to appraise the club, adds: “I really like the club. I think it has good potential, because of the support. The training ground, gymnasium, infrastructure are all terrific. Financially, though, we’re nowhere near some of the big ones in this league. In fact I would say we’ll be bottom five financially, there’s no doubt about that.

“That has its challenges. I can assure you that, because of the geography of the club, if you’re not big payers, you can’t get people to come here easily. That’s why the loan market is something we have to exploit to get players of the standard I think can help take the club forward.”

Pressley, though, is enthused by the prospect of working with those he has recruited. He is big on “mentality”. He adds: “Some of our players, technically, are very good. They just need moulded in certain ways, a belief put into them. It’s about giving them that guidance. I’m not a magician that can change a boy who doesn’t want to change. I can only help a player if he wants to improve."

What about the manager’s own mentality, amid the job’s insane demands? “One thing Gordon Strachan told me was ‘live in your own bubble’. It means, even if we’re winning eight on the bounce, I would never read a newspaper or listen to anything. It means me and you can have a good relationship because you can write what you want about me! I would never read any social media either, because I don’t want to be affected by it. We are all human beings, and it keeps my sanity. Just block it.”

Despite this self-imposed media blackout, Pressley did react once in a post-match interview last season, when he was affronted that BBC Radio Cumbria’s James Phillips had not presented the “positives” of a 2-2 draw with Cambridge.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” he says of that “set-to”. “If I’m a supporter, I want to see some emotion from my manager. It doesn’t mean me and James fall out. There’s a clash of opinions and that’s no problem. You’ve also got to remember that, at times like that, not only your supporters listen to you but your players also do, and you are thinking of the week ahead.

“Supporters don’t want to hear bluff. They want some honesty. At times you have to protect your players.”

Pressley says last season’s better occasions, such as a memorable toppling of Lincoln, are “the days you work for”. What, though, about the lesser ones, such as the 3-0 loss at Tranmere when fans chanted for his head?

“It was difficult, absolutely difficult,” he says. “But – and I mean this – I couldn’t wait to get out of my bed on the Monday morning. I could hardly sleep; I was gonna have a meeting with the players and I was excited by it. It was quite a direct, emotional meeting and I think, after any disappointments and lows, one thing the players want to see is who’s still driving them, wanting more. The day after that we had the best training session since I’d come to the club.

“It’s hard at times, but you’ve got to get out of your bed. You’ll hear it a lot – who motivates the manager? That’s the hardest part. Management’s great when you’re winning but you’ve got to show strength when you’re not.”

Pressley, when talking further about the stresses of the job, recalls situations where he has been talking to his family but his mind has been elsewhere – “you’re with them, but you’re not…my kids are speaking to me and I’m in another world”.

Can he truly switch off during a season? “I find it difficult. I don’t really have too many other obsessions or things that I really enjoy to do. Go for a meal and a few drinks with my wife, and friends. But not a lot. If I’m home on a Saturday and travelling back up on the train on a Sunday night, I’m doing the analysis of the game back again. It’s 24/7.

“But one of the things we’re introducing this year is that we work in cycles. After the Crawley game, it’s the end of the first cycle of training weeks, and we’ll give everybody in the club four days off. I say, 'forget football for four days' and nobody hears my voice for that period. I’m quite happy if the players want to go away for a few days, abroad. Then as soon as they come back, it’s six weeks’ relentless work again. It also allows me that time when I can spend it with my family, and hopefully recharge a bit.”

Pressley finds it easy to summon the managerial episode that hurt the most. “Losing my job at Coventry," he says. "Because I actually felt at the time we were turning the corner. I can’t tell you how hard we worked for two years, in ridiculously challenging circumstances. I turned down the chance to go to the Championship, because the job became my life, and I wanted to see it through. The young players, the Maddisons, were beginning to emerge, and I was so attached to the club. It was my first sacking and it knocked me for six.”

He is less desolate when his time in Cyprus is mentioned – his most recent position before Carlisle. He kept Pafos in the top-flight but was dismissed the following season. “It was unique,” he smiles. “And difficult.

“As a manager, it was difficult to get control, because the players could go direct to the owners – who also decided who came in. When I arrived, the level of professionalism in the place, the filth around the training ground…so many things, from not having enough footballs or equipment, to not even having a tactics board. Things you think are normal, yet they were a top division club.

“Over there, everything tends to be coming tomorrow. It was also a squad of multi-nationals and you had to find a way to manage. It was good in that sense. Discipline had to be installed not through fines, because there were times the players weren’t getting paid, but through creating an environment of respect. Yet it was hugely challenging. The body fat levels of some of the players recruited…ridiculous.

“I would work abroad again, 100 per cent. I was offered another job in Cyprus, about three weeks after I returned, but I turned it down, because I couldn’t work in that environment again. But I liked the experience in general. Another thing was coaching in the sunshine every day. In January, when I arrived, it was shorts and t-shirt.”

Pressley insists that, in most other ways, Carlisle is a blessed contrast. “I know supporters always have their gripes about certain things, but one thing they need to understand is it’s a very well-run club,” he says. “It’s maybe not got the finance we sometimes all crave, but the club stands for good values.

“We’re not signing players we can’t afford and them going without months of pay. Things like the Josh Dixon contract [offered despite a cruciate knee ligament injury to the teenage midfielder] – good values. Yes, there are challenges, but a lot of what I think are the fundamentals are done well here.”

Pressley also seeks to be approachable – something he learned from the very best. “At the end of my year as an assistant coach at Falkirk, me and my staff went down to visit Sir Alex [Ferguson] at Manchester United for three days. He gave us free rein, and what resonated with me was the respect he gave everybody in his club, down to the dinner lady. He treated them like they were his family. It stuck with me. It’s about people. We’re all in here to achieve the same thing.”

Pressley says he has asked his players to state United’s realistic targets for 2019/20, because “ultimately they need to drive the ship”. He also asked them to supply “a lot of words we could use [for] what we’d expect of each other every day. I reminded them that these words have to apply when we lose, and when you are left out of the team. They have to apply at all times.”

Carlisle’s manager believes the influx of foreign coaches at the top levels has made climbing through the lower leagues more challenging for bosses. “It’s become a really difficult game for us all," he says. "This is why we [managers] need to respect each other more. I think the industry has lost a little bit of that, because it’s so cut-throat.”

What in particular does he mean? “People after your job when you’re in your job.”

Has Pressley experienced this? “Of course. I would never attend a game if I felt a manager was under pressure. It’s wrong. We have to respect each other greatly. It’s a hard enough industry where we get it from all angles but within us, as managers and coaches, we must have a code of conduct.”

This, he believes, needs to go in hand with greater patience from clubs in general. Only a small handful of League Two managers have been in post for more than two years. “A few months ago I received a study of success in Europe, all the leagues, and the constant was continuity. Continuity of manager, of playing staff, of management staff.

“Even if you look at League One – really, the lowest-resourced club that nearly gained promotion was Walsall. But it was four years under Dean Smith, of highs and lows, but stability of playing and management staff, eventually developing and nearly getting what was impossible on their budget. But nobody wants to know about that.”

Although Carlisle, historically, have been less trigger-happy than other clubs, Pressley will still be defying trends if he makes this a reign of several years. Can he fill many of those little green books with Carlisle notes? The “drug” compels him to try.

“I want to be a success wherever I go,” he says. “I’m passionate about the job and a little bit of a perfectionist. I have that burning ambition to manage at the top and to do that I first need to make Carlisle a success.

“In football, everybody looks at everything as success and failure. But I look at it as an apprenticeship. In life now we don’t want to do apprenticeships any more. We only want to get to the top immediately. I’ve had many challenges, made many mistakes and learned many lessons, but they’ve been invaluable. I want all that work to be for something.”