Cumbrian reverend prays for Carlisle United's promotion battle
A Cumbrian reverend is helping Carlisle United footballers cope with the "intense pressures" of trying to achieve promotion to the Championship.
Reverend Alun Jones was appointed the club's chaplain seven years ago, with the aim of providing a supportive environment for the players and their supporters.
He believes there is a "growing force" for Christianity in sport - with many players turning towards faith for answers when they are under pressure in both their professional and home lives.
"I think my role is a chaplain at Carlisle United, which is a fantastic role and a very passionate role, is more to be in the background," he said.
"A bit like being a pressure release in certain situations because everyone at that club, players, manager, whatever, are human beings with everyday human events.
"You don't have to talk to them, you can just be there and they know you're there for them in a supportive environment and just being there is often what being a chaplain is all about."
Blessing the pitch
Currently sixth in League One, the club is hoping for promotion this season if they are successful in the play offs.
Before each game Mr Jones puts his score predictions where the hymn numbers would normally be placed at his church, St Herbert's Vicarage, on Blackwell Road, in Carlisle.
A regular at Brunton Park, he also prays for the players to not incur any injuries, for their good health and for them to score goals, as well as blessing the pitch, stands and inner sanctums of the club every week.
He also plays an important role for the club's supporters, often holding small memorial services and blessings at the ground.
Managing director of Carlisle United, John Nixon, said: "He provides moral support for our first team and youth players whenever they need it, and he regularly visits just to make sure they know he is available.
"It's an important role in our opinion because even if the players and staff don't use him during their time here, we think it is good for them to know there is someone to turn to if it is ever needed."
Mr Jones feels that sport and Christianity have similarities and for him, that is why his role at Carlisle United and at his church go hand in hand.
He said: "I think that there is a growing force for Christianity and for faith in sport.
"It can play a vital role I think, sport, in bringing that discipline and self respect to communities and I think they go hand in hand with the Christian message about being the best you can be, raising your self attainment.
"For me personally, god is finding them, god is showing them a way to live, not just within the disciplines of their sport, but in the society in which they live.
"It's a great meeting place and people are living out their spiritual and emotional lives in the context of sport, so that's where I shall be."