Most of Carlisle United’s first-team squad will get an early chance to impress in the Blues’ first pre-season friendly tonight.

The Cumbrians plan to give players 45 minutes each in their summer opener at Penrith (Leo Group Stadium, 7pm).

It is the first of six friendlies for Paul Simpson’s side and comes a month and five days before the 2024/25 League Two season gets under way.

New signings Aaron Hayden, Jude Smith, Terell Thomas, Cameron Harper, Ethan Robson and Charlie Wyke could all be involved for the first time since joining this summer.

The game sees United return to Penrith’s ground for what has been a traditional curtain-raiser in recent times – other than last year, when stadium renovations at Frenchfield Park saw the game shelved.

On the likely 45-minute split with players tonight, Carlisle’s joint assistant manager Billy Barr said: “I think it has to be that way, and then as you get further down the line, you’ll start doing 60-30 and 75-15s, and then a full 90 minutes.

“We've got enough games for everybody to have games, we've got enough games for people to take their opportunity to give the manager a problem.

Joint assistant manager Billy BarrJoint assistant manager Billy Barr (Image: Richard Parkes)

“It’s up to them to give [Paul Simpson] a nice problem by saying, ‘Yes – I want to play in that team. I've done all this through pre-season’.

“They’ll all get some game time at Penrith. At this stage it’s about building the fitness and getting the football ethos into it, without getting any injuries.”

It remains to be seen whether tonight’s squad will involve Georgie Kelly, the striker who has not been involved in all of the early pre-season sessions at Brunton Park.

As well as the senior players involved, manager Simpson could also give opportunities to some of the young players on third-year scholarship deals and who have been training with the first team – Sam Hetherington, Jake Allan, Josh O’Brien and Aran Fitzpatrick.

It will also see a first outing after injury for a number of United players including Josh Vela, Taylor Charters and Dan Butterworth.

The game against Darren Edmondson's Northern League Division One side comes at a time manager Simpson is continuing his own recovery from a knee operation, a predicament which kept the boss off the training ground in the early days of pre-season.

Barr, who has been overseeing things alongside fellow No2 Gavin Skelton, said: “We make contact daily, and the important thing is that he just gets right to come back and be back when he's right and ready.

“We'll take charge of everything [until then]. We're experienced enough to do the job. And when he [Simpson] does come back, you'll hopefully see a group of players that he's proud of in the first couple of weeks.”