Despite dropping the footballing ladder to sign for League Two outfit Carlisle United over the summer, the energetic right wing-back has already taken to his new professional surroundings and has his sights set on climbing up the divisions once more.
Despite dropping the divisions to sign for fourth-tier outfit Carlisle United over the summer, the energetic right wing-back has already taken to his new Football League surroundings and has his sights set on climbing up the divisions once more in the future.
The 20-year-old, who penned a one-year deal at Brunton Park following his release from Spurs, has quickly made an impressive start to life with the Cumbrians this season as they seek promotion back to League One at the second time of asking.
Having switched London’s towering skyscrapers for Carlisle’s countryside culture, McQueen has relished life at his new club having made the step up from Under-21s to the senior game for the first time.
With 13 appearances in all competitions already under his belt this campaign, the defender earned rave reviews following his impressive display in Carlisle’s League Cup third round heroics at Anfield, after the minnows forced Premier League giants Liverpool to a decisive penalty shootout.
Despite suffering an agonising defeat that day, it was yet another stepping stone in the development of McQueen, who will be one day hoping to compete on stages like Anfield on a weekly basis.
He spoke exclusively to Shoot about his decision to join the Cumbrians earlier this summer, how he has found adapting to first-team football and that memorable cup tie on Merseyside.
You joined Carlisle on a one-year deal back in June. How are you enjoying life at your new club?
“I am really enjoying it. Personally, the fans have taken to me quite well and the coaching staff have been brilliant. They have helped me get to grips with everything. Also, I am playing games at the minute, which is always positive.”
Your debut for Carlisle came in the League Cup against Chesterfield. What was it like to finally make your professional bow?
“Yeah, it was crazy really! It was a great achievement for me personally. The fact that it went to extra-time as well made it even tougher because obviously it was so early on in the season and everyone was trying to get fit. But especially to get the win as well, that was special.”
The club went onto make headlines in the League Cup – taking Liverpool all the way to penalties at Anfield in the third round. Can you sum up that great experience?
“Playing at Anfield, in front of 40-odd thousand, it was pretty amazing! Especially having just come out of playing Under-21s football so soon, to do that was incredible for me. I mean it was a big change, but the team did so well getting that far. Also, to take Liverpool to penalties, no one really expected us to do that anyway. So I think we did ourselves proud.”
Playing back at a Premier League ground; has that given you an extra appetite to work your way back up the divisions?
“Yeah, definitely. I am not sure when, but that is definitely my aim to get up there at some point in my career. As I say, I am not sure when, but hopefully I will be back up there soon. It has sort of given me a glimpse of the lifestyle that I want, so it has showed me and inspired me to want it more now that I have had a taste of it.”
You were named in Team of the Week for your performance at Anfield. That must have been a flattering honour?
“Yeah, it was crazy because I actually didn’t see it at first! Later on that night, I had a load of friends messaging me and stuff. Then, the next day, they sent me pictures of the Team of the Week. So I was buzzing if I am being honest. Everyone was proud [of me], but it was pretty scary stuff as well! I mean as soon as the whistle goes, you forget about it, but walking out of the tunnel to stand under those lights, it was pretty scary.”
Last season, Carlisle finished just three places above the drop zone. What do you think the club can realistically achieve this campaign?
“Well obviously last season I wasn’t here, so I can’t really comment on how they did because I was still at Tottenham. But since I have joined, the manager has been great; the players that we have now are pretty brilliant. The squad is better than most of the teams that I have played against so far in the league. We are playing great football and I think once we gel completely, we’ll be up there. We are definitely aiming for the promotion places. I think we can definitely achieve that once everything all comes together.”
And for you personally; with it being your first full season in professional football, what would you like to achieve?
“I think my aim is to make about 30 appearances. I’d like to achieve that and I would certainly like to add some goals to my game. As many assists as possible would be good too! So that is pretty much my main goal at the minute. I think I am on about 13 appearances at the minute, so I have got a bit of time. But I would definitely like to get some goals!”
Your manager Keith Curle is a former England international. What sort of impact has he made on you since arriving at the club?
“Since I first met him; how he spoke to me, about the philosophy he had and how he wanted the team to play, it really took to me. He is part of the reason why I came to Carlisle. Since I have actually came and made the change up here, I think he has really looked after me well. On and off the field, he looks after me a lot.”
Onto another cup competition; you have been drawn away at Plymouth in the opening round of the FA Cup, meaning you’ll have to take on that gruesome 779-mile trip again. What was your reaction to the draw?
“Well yeah, it is a very, very long journey! But I think the fact that we have already been there this season and lost, that has given us more motivation to go down there and really show what we can do.”
How do you and the other players try and keep fresh, motivated and fight off fatigue during those long journeys?
“Well we have got loads of different stuff really. Some players listen to music, some of us play Blackjack and card games. There are always movies on, or we just sleep! They are the only things you can really do.”
You were on the bench for the last trip to Home Park; just how magnificent are the Carlisle fans in general, especially those who travelled down with you?
“The Carlisle fans are definitely the best that I have seen. Even travelling down to Plymouth, you can hear them during the game. Also I noticed it more at Liverpool because the capacity was obviously bigger. Although they were outnumbered, you could still hear them throughout the game more than the Liverpool fans. So I think they are pretty amazing. But also when you are walking around the town, everyone is always saying “Hi, how are you doing?” They go the extra mile for you as well, so it is really nice.”
You are still looking for your first professional goal – have you got a special celebration lined-up?
“I think it will depend on my goal. If I score a good goal, then I don’t know, I will probably just go pretty crazy! I’ll take any goal just to start it off though.”
You are a versatile player, playing on either flank as a full-back or anywhere along the line in midfield. What is your favourite and preferred position?
“I like right wing-back, which is where I have been playing most of the season so far. I think it suits me down to the ground really. I have good speed, dribbling and can cross, but like with everything you do in life, there’s always room for improvement. I’m currently working on developing my heading.”
Finally, you spent all your time at Tottenham before coming to Carlisle. What was it like learning your trade at such a big club?
“Yeah it was brilliant because you are obviously getting the best training and facilities there for you. It is all very much football related which helps you develop quicker. Mentally it was always challenging as well because you were always training against the best players around the league. But yeah it was refreshing because sometimes we got to watch the first-team train and sometimes trained with them to help see what you have to do to get to that level”
How did you feel when you found out Spurs were letting you go?
“I wasn’t disappointed [at getting released] because, looking back on it, this is better for me. I am out playing first-team football and getting recognised, whereas when I played Under-21s football that wasn’t happening. It is nice to be at a top club, but if and when you leave you don’t have any league matches to show then you’re better off lower down. Of course you still have time to be a great player, but I think it’s better if you are out in the league performing rather than playing Under-21s football.”