AMSTERDAM — New Carlisle United recruit Frank Simek reports that he has put fitness woes far behind him and is eager to restore his England rep as a celebrated right back.
Simply put, the St. Louis native is enjoying the game far more than he has for a long time. A bad ankle injury in December 2007 set off a string of disappointments that cost him a place in the US National Team frame and his job in the English Championship, if not also a move to the Premier League.
After running out of contract with Sheffield Wednesday in June, Simek arrives at Brunton Park ready to get back in the game in League One, England’s third tier.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Simek told MLSsoccer.com ahead of Saturday's preseason friendly with Newcastle. "I've had a start-stop last couple of years. I'm hoping to put that behind me, play some football and start enjoying myself."
Making Greg Abbott's Blues lineup card is Simek's sole focus these days, in large part because the injuries that shelved him for more than a year in total are no longer an issue.
"That's in the past," he stated. "I'm looking forward to this season and to playing football again. I haven't been thinking about that [on the field] in a long time. I haven't played regular first-team football for a while. I want to have a good preseason, be in the team the first day and help the team win. I'm looking one step at a time right now."
Abbott has not been shy in boasting about his American summer signing. Just after sealing the capture, the manager told the media that he fully expected two results from Simek's arrival: Carlisle making a promotion push and the defender reclaiming the form that made him an Everton target before the ankle injury.
As to point one, the 25-year-old likes the club's chances of playing for a top-six finish and the chance at riding the elevator up that comes with it. Last term, Carlisle finished 13th in league play, but made it to the FA Cup third round and enjoyed a runners-up finish in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
"Look at what the boys did last year," said Simek. "They had a really good cup run. If they didn't have that cup run, they could have finished higher in the league. If we can improve our league standing, it'll be a success. Hopefully, we can get off to a good start and kick off from there."
While lower league English ball is generally considered direct kick-and-rush soccer, Simek warns that these Cumbrians can work the carpet a little.
"In training and the games we've had, we like to get it down and play," he declared. "If we have to go long, we have to go long, but there's some good footballers in the side and we're more than capable of playing the passing game, as well."
This blended style suits Simek, known for his solid two-way skills on the right side, exactly the type of play Abbott wants from him. If Simek can return to his previous form, he knows a USMNT recall will likely come. But for now that’s a bit down his to-do list.
"That's going to come if I do well at Carlisle, but I'm not really thinking about that," he said. "It's kinda down the line."
At one point, Simek, who was on the US side that won the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, was considered a possibility at right back in the US squad that went to South Africa. And although he didn’t make it, he got a real kick out of his nation’s World Cup showing.
"They played well and got good results," he beams. "Obviously, the Ghana game was disappointing, but they were a strong team. We won our group, which wasn't easy. I thought the guys did really well."
Simek and Carlisle open their competitive slate at home to Brentford on Aug. 7.