Luke Joyce says he is relishing the Boxing Day clash at Accrington Stanley as he returns to his former club.

The former Reds skipper is back at the Wham Stadium with his new club Carlisle, who he joined in the summer after an agonising decision to leave Stanley.

Joyce, 28, spent six years at Stanley, joining in 2009, but made the switch to Brunton Park, where he spent a short spell earlier in his career.

“Everyone knew how hard it was to leave Accrington and Carlisle was one of the few teams I would have joined due to my past association with them,” said Joyce.

“I am really excited about coming back – it will be nice to come back and see many familiar faces. I hope I get a good reception as I loved my time at Accrington. It was the first game I looked for when the fixtures came out and I am expecting a good game.”

Carlisle are one of the in-form team in League Two in fifth place and they are one point ahead of the Reds, although Stanley do have two games in hand. The Cumbrians are unbeaten in six, with four wins.

“We have picked up recently and we have had to have a good run to get our noses ahead of Accrington as they have had a really good start to the season, kept it going and been consistent.

“In an ideal world, I would like both us and Accrington to be in top three by the end of season and there is no reason why we both can’t be there.”

‘Joycey’ admits he expected Stanley to do well this season.

“You only have to look at the players they have – the likes of Josh (Windass), Crooksy (Matt Crooks), Piero (Mingoia), Billy Kee and Sean McConville – they have the players to be successful and they play good football.

“I have a lot of time for John (Coleman) and Jimmy (Bell). They have always been great with me and I would like to think I still have a good relationship with them.

“They have done what they always do – got a group of players together, who work for each other, play good football and have a strong work ethic.

“If you look at the recent form of both teams, both have been doing well so it should be an exciting match.”