Nick Anderton is targeting a return to football after coming through a gruelling cancer fight.

The former Carlisle United captain, 27, retired earlier this year amid his health battle.

But Anderton, who was United’s special guest at Saturday’s game against another of his former clubs Bristol Rovers, is starting to contemplate the future again after he was declared cancer-free in September.

And he says his wish is for a role back in the game he loves.

“As a rough idea, I’d love to be back involved in football,” he said.

“Whether that be in a coaching capacity, or on the side of going into clubs and with different groups – youth, under-23s, first teams – having a chat about my experience in the game, talking about my journey, whether that could be an avenue.

“I’m doing my badges so I’ve got the qualifications if that was something I decided to do.

News and Star: Anderton pictured in Carlisle United's Legends LoungeAnderton pictured in Carlisle United's Legends Lounge (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“Football’s all I know and going back into clubs with ex-colleagues, watching a bit of training, spending time, gives me the buzz to get back into that world.”

Anderton was a guest in United’s Foxy’s Restaurant, Legends Lounge and RAW Lounge before Saturday’s game and the former defender gave a talk on his recent experiences with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

The condition, which affected a thighbone, led him to announce his retirement in April.

Anderton underwent a long period of chemotherapy but shared the positive news in September that the treatment had worked.

“Those scans showed no sign of active disease,” he said. “I had a couple of extra ones six weeks ago that also showed no sign of concern, then I’ll have some again in January.

“Hopefully it will be the same, and I can keep moving football and I can get back to some kind of normality.”

Anderton was recently invited by his former Carlisle manager Chris Beech to give a talk to players at AFC Fylde, where Beech is interim head coach.

“Beechy just asked me, sprung it on me, I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m really glad I did,” said Anderton.

“I was back around that environment, having a chat to the players, just about my experiences in football and life over the last couple of years.

News and Star: Chris Beech, the former Carlisle boss, recently invited Anderton to give a talk to AFC Fylde playersChris Beech, the former Carlisle boss, recently invited Anderton to give a talk to AFC Fylde players (Image: PA)

“It got stuff off my chest, and if anyone can relate to that in a football environment I’m happy.

“Being back in that environment made me realise how much I miss it.”

Anderton attended Bristol Rovers’ game at Reading last week before his trip to Brunton Park for the first time since he left the Blues in 2021.

“Being back on the training ground, and going to games, feeling the adrenaline, the atmosphere, makes me realise how much I miss that,” he said.

“That was one of the best feelings, the adrenaline on Saturday for games, the competitiveness.

“I went from getting promoted in my last season [with Bristol Rovers] to nothing – it went from a complete high to a complete low. Somewhere in between I’d be quite happy with now…”

Anderton said he was delighted to be back at Brunton Park to see some familiar faces and also meet United supporters, many of whom showed him plenty of love and support during his health battle.

News and Star: Nick Anderton pictured at home in April as he prepared to announce his retirement. After a long period of chemotherapy, he announced in September that he was cancer freeNick Anderton pictured at home in April as he prepared to announce his retirement. After a long period of chemotherapy, he announced in September that he was cancer free (Image: Jon Colman)

Speaking to the News & Star a couple of hours before kick-off, he said: “It’s brilliant. I’m really looking forward to watching the game and catching up with a lot of people from my time here, and the fans.

“It’s quite a while since I’ve been here. I’m excited to be here with the fans back, because in my time here I only really saw them for four or five games before Covid came. I never got to experience it properly. I’m looking forward to a competitive game and I’m sat firmly on the fence!”

Anderton wanted to share his appreciation for the backing he got from Carlisle and their fans, as well as supporters and clubs across the game, as he battled cancer.

“I was totally blown away with the love and support from my ex-clubs and the footballing community,” he said.

“At Carlisle, I had a lot of support from colleagues, from people I know and from fans on social media. Each and every message of support was greatly appreciated.

“There were some dark days [during the treatment] when I’d go on social media and I’d have a message off a fan asking how I’m getting on, showing concern. Those messages came at a time I needed a bit of positivity. It was a massive help for me, and my whole family appreciated that support.”

Anderton, whose former clubs also include Barrow, Accrington Stanley, Blackpool and Preston North End, said he will always have affection for United from his period with the club from 2020 to 2021, which was mostly spent as captain.

“I’ve got good memories from my time here,” he said. “I’m gutted the majority of it was in the Covid season [2020/21] so I never got to properly experience the crowd.

“I was gutted how that season petered out, we had a good squad and team and were top in January, then fizzled out to tenth. It was tough, I don’t think we played for four or five weeks with postponements, and it was disappointing how it ended. But I had a good time with good people. It’s a proper club.

News and Star: Anderton pictured in action for Carlisle in 2021Anderton pictured in action for Carlisle in 2021

“I was absolutely delighted to watch the boys get promoted last season, for the club and the fans to have that day, and Taylor Charters scoring the winner – still a young lad, but a really young lad when I was here – was lovely to see.

“With the celebrations and everything, I bet the place was buzzing.”

Anderton, who was accompanied by partner Isabel at Saturday’s game, said he has been gradually rediscovering some normality in his life and hopes that can continue.

“I’ve had a couple of holidays, been out for some nice meals, been to see friends, and watching football. Just little normal things,” he said.

“I’m looking a bit more normal [his hair has regrown after chemo] and feeling a bit more normal.

“I just need to get the rehab done for my leg now,” he said.

“I need to do a lot of strength work for it to be equal to my good leg. I’ll never be able to do too much strenuously, after having a knee replacement and losing part of my thighbone, but once I can exercise properly I’ll feel better mentally too. It’s always been a release for me, exercising, and I miss that.

“Beyond that, hopefully my health stays ok and I can look forward to the next chapter.”