There we were, complaining about Carlisle United’s performance, Beech’s tactics, Scunthorpe’s time-wasting, the usual things. We probably didn’t notice the group of young people having an absolutely wonderful time at Brunton Park.

But they were there: refugees; children who have arrived in Cumbria from various troubled parts of the world over the last year or so. They were welcomed to the stadium last Saturday by the club’s community sports trust.

United used their latest home fixture as a way of embracing people who have known genuinely arduous experiences in their young lives. They are with us now and it is our responsibility, says CST manager John Halpin, to do all we can to help them continue to feel that way.

“We had kids from Iraq, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Iran, Syria,” he says. “That’s the scope of where they have come from. They had just arrived in Carlisle before the pandemic.

“Their network is virtually zero. Their English isn’t great, their IT skills are poor. They’re just beginning to get back to school. We are trying to integrate them into the community.”

Last year, United’s CST received funding from the Football Foundation which they planned to use to launch a new inclusion programme. That word – inclusion – is central to everything the community sports trust does, whether it be walking football sessions, mental health initiatives, visits to schools, much more; it should be at the core of every club, in fact.

“Our thoughts were that there’s a lot of kids, adults and parents that don’t come to the ground for whatever reason,” says Halpin, the former Blues winger. “Rather than us just going back to the same kids constantly, we had the idea to go out and make the club more inclusive for everybody, try and invite them in to say, ‘There’s nothing to be scared of here – come in, watch the game, we’ll get to know each other and see what you think’.”

Halpin’s team spoke to the city and county councils when forming this intention, and liaised with M-Unit Carlisle; a community organisation that aims to provide opportunities in the city for people of colour.

This led a group aged from about eight to 15 to come to the stadium last weekend, including some refugees. “We had a few photographs, they all wanted to go on the pitch, we took them into the Neil Centre, played some football with them, had some lunch, had a little five-a-side competition to finish off, and then they all went to watch the match together," Halpin says.

“It was a simple day but very effective. Football’s easy, isn’t it – you just put a ball in front of them and away they go, no problem.”

Halpin has been overseeing United’s sensitive work in this sort of field for many years, and was humbled by how the young guests appreciated their day with the Blues.

“They were absolutely brilliant, so lovely, and so grateful for what they were getting,” he says. “They brought their food and shared it with us. You have to remember these kids had nothing when they came here.

“I try and think of some of our kids if they had to go in the opposite direction. The silver spoon brigade, as I call them. They wouldn’t cope. But these kids are so resilient. They were so delighted to be here.”

Even the simplicity of a game of football, such as that played by the young people at Brunton Park, cannot be taken for granted, Halpin says.

“One kid I was talking to came from Iraq. He said he wasn’t allowed to play organised football. He could only play on the streets with his friends.

“It doesn’t half hit home, and it does make you ask yourself what we have to complain about when we’ve got so much in comparison?

“They all loved playing football – and we’ve hopefully got one of the kids a trial at Dalston Black Reds. He could hardly speak a word of English but had enough, football-wise, to show that he knew what he was doing. He’s a bit of a player.”

Initiatives like this – the community sports trust have also welcomed young carers this season and will entertain other groups at home games – highlight the essential meaning of Carlisle United: the name, the place, the badge.

“The club realise that it’s so important we are involved in this sort of situation, because we can really help integrate these kids into the community,” Halpin says.

“It’s so simple, football. Everybody knows it, everybody likes it, and the club and the trust can hopefully plant that seed to give these kids the urge to want to come back and enjoy themselves with us again. We’ve told them – we’re here for you any time, not just Saturdays.

“We’re trying to open up to a bigger, wider audience and say, on the club’s behalf, ‘Come and join us’.”

Halpin says the club benefited from an interpreter as they tried to make the youngsters feel as welcome as possible – “I think she had to translate me more,” jokes the Scot – and all you can say, when listening to this account, is to hope it gave, and can continue to give, small benefit to difficult young lives.

“Some of them had never been to a football stadium before,” Halpin says. “You and I might not have felt there was a wow factor on Saturday, but when they looked at the stands, and the pitch, it was certainly there.

“I can’t overstate how brilliant and lovely they were. It just gave you such an uplift when you saw them enjoying themselves and smiling.”