Terrace chants eased pain of Carlisle Utd star Frank Simek
Last updated at 12:39, Monday, 11 July 2011
Frank Simek comes with a message of gratitude. Carlisle United’s American combatant brushes off the early pre-season sweat and explains why the most painful moment of his first campaign in Cumbria was also the most heartening.
Rewind to May 7. Simek, on target to complete every minute of Carlisle’s 2010/11 journey, takes an innocuous tumble in the 35th minute of the final match against Yeovil and dislocates his elbow.
After lengthy treatment, the right-back is gently pulled to his feet and guided gingerly to the touchline, where the substitute Tom Taiwo awaits.
On that slow stroll which marked the end of his maiden Blues term, the wincing Simek was a picture of pain. If he was physically unable to respond to the roof-lifting chant of “USA, USA” that tore around Brunton Park at this moment, he is happy to do so now.
“I did notice that chant, yeah,” says the 26-year-old, now fully healed and pouring himself into Greg Abbott’s early pre-season drills.
“I was kinda looped up on the gas they gave me at the time but I did hear it and it was very nice.
“It made that walk off a bit easier and made that arm hurt a little less.”
It is often in hard times when a player learns the degree to which he has been welcomed into a fanbase’s affections. That raucous end-of-season send-off told Simek he was now an integral part of the United scene.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling whenever anybody chants for you,” he says. “They don’t have to do that.
“It was disappointing that was the last they saw of me last season – limping off in a bit of pain – but I’ll be there this season and ready to go.
“I’m not always going to be the best player on the field but I will always go out there and give it a go. For the fans to give me that kind of respect when I came off that day was something pretty special.”
A personal tally of 55 completed games out of 56 explains, in part, Simek’s popularity.
It describes a general consistency of performance and fitness which swiftly earned the faith of his manager to the point where Abbott, this summer, is not bothering to recruit a rival right-back to push the ex-Sheffield Wednesday man for his place.
In some cases this would appear a careless gamble on one man’s form and fortitude. Physically, though, Simek has emphatically dealt with the whispers about his injury past which were swirling when he came to Carlisle last summer.
And to the question of whether the son of St Louis will be sufficiently motivated to hit his performance peak consistently, despite the absence of competition for his jersey, both manager and player himself offer confident answers.
“Whether there is somebody breathing down my neck or not, I’ll be going out there and giving it my all,” Simek says.
“It’s not like there is no one who could play right-back. If I’m not playing there are people who can fill that position. Either way, it’s not going to mean I’m going to go out there and take my foot off the pedal.”
These fledgling days of 2011/12’s build-up find Simek in assertive mood. One of the toiling mainstays of Carlisle’s previous campaign, the international defender repaired to the States for a timely summer breather.
He returns to Cumbria a married man after tying the knot with fiancée Kristen in his home state of Missouri, and wears his contentment quite plainly as he settles back into Carlisle life.
“Everybody was telling us to be prepared for something to go wrong, but nothing did,” he says of his nuptials. “We were lucky with the weather and the day went real good, real smooth.
“It was a good time and a great summer, but it goes by so fast. You blink and you’re back here, doing the pre-season runs. It’s good to see the guys again and I’m looking forward to getting going again.”
This time 12 months ago saw Simek cast as the new boy, feeling his way into new surroundings. Now he’s the established Carlisle campaigner, entrusted with the captaincy when Paul Thirlwell is unavailable, and ready to help a supposedly upgraded squad push on to better things than a 12th-placed finish and a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy triumph next term.
For the man himself, the goals are straightforward: run harder, achieve more.
“When I first signed for Carlisle, my main personal goal was to play a lot of football, and I managed to do that last year,” he says.
“I’m feeling good and ready to kick on again this season. If we can get the same kind of mentality that we had this time last year, we can all do that. Last season I was excited because I was new and didn’t know what to expect. This season I’m excited because I know what we have and I know the standards that we set.
“As a team we just have to continue to progress. We have made some good signings and improving in the league is going to be our main focus. The cups are obviously nice but we really need to push on in the league.”
One of those signings is particularly familiar to Simek. Jon-Paul McGovern was a Hillsborough colleague of the Carlisle right-back and comes highly-recommended.
“JP is a very tidy player, good on the ball, can pick out a pass and is a good crosser,” Simek says. “I didn’t play as much with him as I would have liked because of a few injuries but when we did I enjoyed playing with him. If he does play on the right hopefully we can strike up a good partnership.”
Other business for Simek, who has a year left on his contract, includes persuading Abbott to throw him an extended deal. Actions on the pitch, rather than manager’s-office talk, will be the American’s means of convincing his boss he should be on the premises for even longer.
He glances across to the training pitch as the interview closes. “There sure are a lot of poles being set up over there,” he observes. “Must mean a lot of running.” This is accompanied by a small grimace, as though this yeoman of the back four somehow fears the slog. He’s fooling nobody.
First published at 11:29, Monday, 11 July 2011
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk