Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Former All White Max Crocombe rebuilding career at Carlisle

Max Crocombe of Oxford United shouts instructions during the Capital One Cup second round match against West Bromwich Albion. Photo/Getty Images
Max Crocombe of Oxford United shouts instructions during the Capital One Cup second round match against West Bromwich Albion. Photo/Getty Images

In a north-western corner of England, Max Crocombe is slowly rebuilding his career.

After a frustrating spell at Oxford United, where he barely got a look in over the last three seasons, the New Zealand age-group representative has found much happier pastures at Carlisle United.

He is the reserve goalkeeper at Brunton Park and has so far been restricted to four Cup appearances, but is enjoying the change of scenery.

The Blues made a great start to the season and are currently fourth in the League Two table ahead of the fixtures this weekend.

"I feel like things are moving in the right direction," Crocombe told the New Zealand Herald. "It's a great club, there's a good feeling here and the manager has been very good to me, since I came in."

Crocombe signed for Carlisle last August, after a six-year stint at Oxford.

He joined the Oxford youth set up in 2010 and inked a professional deal two years later.

After making his first-team debut in January 2013, Crocombe kept three consecutive clean sheets at the end of that season.

But he didn't make another appearance at league level and only played two other matches in the Capital One Cup in August 2014.

"It was certainly frustrating," said Crocombe. "When you come up from the youth team, you don't have much first-team experience, so that is always holding you back.

"I was sent out for some loan spells to get that experience and thought I did quite well, but the opportunities didn't really open up for me. I wasn't really getting a chance there, so it was best to move on."

Crocombe has certainly served his apprenticeship over the last few years.

During his time at Oxford, he had a two-month spell at Nuneaton Town (in the sixth tier of England football), followed by a year at Barnet in League Two.

His final loan stint was at Southport FC in the National League (the fifth tier in England).

"They were all good experiences and you learn a lot about yourself and your game," said Crocombe. "I've taken a roundabout route to end up here [in Carlisle] but all these things happen for a reason."

Located on the northern edge of the Lake district, Carlisle is the biggest city in Cumbria, with an impressive castle and cathedral.

It's a relaxed place, currently buzzing over the exploits of their football team, who recorded a club record eight successive wins at the start of this season and reached the top of the league in December for the first time since 2010.

The only challenge is the travel, as Carlisle sits very close to the Scottish border and is more than 500km from London, meaning a lot of lengthy away trips.

"There is a lot of travelling when you are so far north," said Crocombe. "I remember for one game we left at 9am in the morning and arrived in the early evening. But that's part of football."

Crocombe, who was part of the All Whites squad at the Nations Cup in Papua New Guinea last year, has since slipped down the pecking order.

"I was gutted not to be involved in the recent games," said Crocombe. "But Anthony [Hudson] has been great with his communication.

"He just wants me to be playing more than I have been and then I'll have a chance."

- NZ Herald

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