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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Brad Potts happy to play any position for Carlisle Utd

Greg Abbott can now cross one more thing off the list where Brad Potts’ progress is concerned. How does the teenager cope with disappointment, with having a stinker that a few thousand people can see?

af potts prest2
Attracting interest: Brad Potts has been watched by Sunderland

Pretty well, as it goes. It risked being overlooked in the eventful business of Tuesday night but Potts’ display at Preston was his first start since the regrettable afternoon against Notts County on October 13.

On that hollow day the 18-year-old looked like a boy: outmanoeuvred and beaten by the Magpies’ dangerous, left-sided players. Thrown back into the team a few short weeks later and United’s most versatile young player was back on his promising path.

Deepdale, Preston, is rarely a place for a shrinking violet when Carlisle pay a visit. Nor are contests with Graham Westley teams often suitable for a player who holds back from the battle, or shows himself incapable of playing with pace and drive.

In the holding midfield position which seems to suit Potts a shade more than his earlier right-back berth, the young man delivered some emphatic answers to questions which may have lingered since the Notts debacle.

His ability was known and presumed to have survived that hard day at the hands of Alan Judge and Francois Zoko. But what about the damage to his confidence, the assault on his character? If anything these are more important queries when a player is so early into his professional life. With this in mind his starring performance in Lancashire may have been his most encouraging yet.

Ask the judges who know him most and they will tell you that Potts is a commanding midfielder in the making, rather than a full-back, however useful he has also looked there, the Notts game apart. He will become neither, though, without a willingness to deal with the worst of times and come out smiling.

Happily there was an ear-to-ear grin on his face as he left Deepdale two nights ago, even as the pain of Preston’s 94th minute equaliser sank in. On a personal level Potts had made a certain statement and referred comfortably to the Notts game as a tough but probably necessary learning experience.

“I know I had a bad game that day,” he said. “You probably do learn more from a game like that, because your weaknesses do get pointed out and you have to try and improve.

“I knew I had to bounce back and I thought I did alright [against Preston], so I’m happy with that.”

His manager certainly was. No sight was more regular at North End’s ground on Tuesday than United’s blond-haired holding midfielder bustling around into tackles, gobbling up the second ball and helping the Blues turn defence into attack.

In a period when Abbott has spoken of his reliance on “men” to get Carlisle’s motor running this difficult autumn, it also speaks well of Potts that he earned the boss’s trust for one of the feistier games on the calendar.

“Brad got better as the game went on, made some fantastic tackles and used the ball well,” the United manager said. “He will grow with that. Preston is a tough, tough place to go and we needed our men. Brad was part of that and we think he will be a good player.”

Occupying the deep-lying position normally filled by Paul Thirlwell for United, Potts was mobile enough to drive forward as well as back as Carlisle tried to get on top of their hosts.

In the defensive aspect of his game at least, he took into battle some wisdom from the injured man whose place he has taken, at least temporarily.

“Before the game he [Thirlwell] gave me loads of information,” Potts said. “He just helps me along all the time, which is really good.”

A clamour will surely now grow for Potts to be retained in exactly the same place for this weekend’s trip to Brentford and beyond, as long as he can string a consistent run together.

Abbott’s way with his bright young graduates this campaign has been to dip them in and out of the first-team scene, exposing them to the heat one week and then withdrawing them the next.

With Carlisle’s injuries as they are, though, and with the obvious ability of such as Potts and Dave Symington now showing up quite regularly, there will come a day soon when the manager concludes that his team cannot reasonably do without these able teenagers, who are a tribute to their development in Eric Kinder’s youth ranks.

Potts, naturally, hopes that what he did in Lancashire will lead to more of the same in London, where Carlisle will attempt to wipe last season’s televised 4-0 hammering from the recent memory.

“It was great playing in the holding midfield role,” he said. “I’ve always wanted my chance there and when he [Abbott] said I was playing there in training on Monday, I just wanted to prove to him that I can play there every week.

“I thought we worked well together as a midfield three. They [Liam Noble and James Berrett] were helping me out with the wingers and passing people on. I really enjoyed it.

“When Preston scored it was a bit devastating, after all the hard work we put into the game. They kept going and got the goal in the end. But we’ll do the same at Brentford, take the good things we did into the game and try and perform as well.

“I was happy to play 90 minutes and it’s good to get this experience from playing games, and being involved with the first-team. I like playing holding midfield but as long as I’m in the team I’ll take any position.”

Spoken like a seasoned pro, which he will eventually become if evidence like Tuesday’s is a guide. With all young players you have prepare for another reality check, which will either come at Griffin Park this Saturday or at some other place, further down the line.

But nor would you ever wish to temper the enthusiasm Potts displays, now his last game is a cracker, not a stinker. “I’m really loving what I’m doing at the minute,” he said, with that ever-broadening smile. “Really enjoying my football.”

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