A rough guide to... Carlisle United

Cod Almighty | Article

by Rich Mills

1 August 2016

After the deluge of Storm Desmond, Carlisle are heading for fairer fortunes

How are you?

Carlisle is miles away; miles away from everywhere, really, apart from Scotland. In fact, Gretna Green is only a short drive from Carlisle up the M6. Handy if you want to get hitched or pick up some shortbread as a souvenir after the game.

The city itself is about the same size as Grimsby and has been a major outpost since the Romans did a Trump and built a wall to keep out immigrant Scots intent on stealing our jobs and benefits.

Persons of note associated with the city are few and far between (unless one counts the singer of Spooky Tooth). As Melvyn Bragg is one of them, let's hope we treat them to a real South Bank (of the Humber) Show.

What have you been up to?

Being the only professional club in Cumbria means that real rivals are thin on the ground. Neither Barrow nor Workington have been League clubs since the 1970s, so any fixtures between the two are nothing more pre-season kickabouts. Near neighbours Gretna competed in the Scottish League before being liquidated a few years ago. These days, Blues fans claim Hartlepool and Middlesbrough as rivals and games against the Monkey Hangers see decent crowds, but it's not a real rivalry; nothing to get upset about.

Grimsby and Carlisle haven't met in league or cup since 2007, but historically we have an edge over United, winning 21 and losing just 9 of a total of 40 matches. Where Carlisle do have an edge over Town is that they have only spent a single season out of the League, bouncing straight back up in 2005 with a 1-0 win over Stevenage in the Conference play-off final. The stand-in for Wembley that season was, er, Stoke's Britannia Stadium. The Cumbrians have been to Wembley though, managing to win the Football League Trophy twice in the six finals they have contested.

Former Mariners who have represented Carlisle include Paul Raven, Tony Gallimore, Phil Bonnyman, Lee Peacock, Scott McGarvey and Danny Butterfield. Livvo played a handful of games there before retiring knacked and Dave Moore also played a few games there after leaving us in 1983.

What kind of a season did you have?

Carlisle hit the headlines quite often during the 2015-16 season but not for footballing reasons. No, last year Brunton Park and much of the rest of the city suffered from some quite severe flooding thanks to Storm Desmond. Some games were moved to Deepdale and Ewood Park rather than disrupting the fixture list too much. Despite all that, they finished the season in 10th: a big improvement on previous seasons.

How are you feeling?

Fittingly for a city often under siege (twice in 1745 – how unlucky is that?) manager Keith Curle has installed something of a siege mentality in his charges. Home and away they're hard to beat and at the time of writing, they have lost just one game this season in all competitions.

Last season's 10th-place finish was Curle's first full season in charge and the former England cap clearly knows how to make Carlisle tick. After being sacked by Notts County for actually doing quite well, being shafted by Mansfield, and failing in an impossible situation at Torquay, it's good to see Curle prosper. Can he keep them in the play-off positions?

Their current squad contains just one former Mariner in winger Jamie Devitt but at Blundell Park this season we have three players who've turned out for the Blues: Josh Gowling, James Berrett and Brandon Comley.

Where are you from?

The Cumbrians' home and away kits this year look pretty decent. Take away the sponsor's logo and underneath they're nice, plain, understated shirts. But it hasn't always been like this, especially when Carlisle haulage firm Eddie Stobart sponsored the club. Check out the 1995 to 1997 away shirt; it's what the phrase 'kit crime' was coined for.

Brunton Park can hold 18,000 and is therefore the largest stadium in England which isn't all-seated. The thing is, the Cumbrians clearly don't need that big a ground as it's not often they get more than 5,000 pitching up on a Saturday. Recent plans for a new, all-seater stadium were therefore for a much smaller capacity. No, I don't know if they planned to build it on a hill.

You must be sick of folk highlighting the long journeys for your opponents?

Yes, Carlisle and Plymouth are miles from each other. But there are clubs nearer both; Carlisle is nearer to Grimsby than Cheltenham or Crawley for example. What never gets highlighted by those pundits is the fact that clubs like Plymouth and Carlisle are really out on a limb, and while a club might occasionally have a long trek to these distant outposts of the league, the Pilgrims and the Cumbrians get it every other week. But both are continuing to make it work and this season seem to be prospering. Good work, fellas.

The front page image of Carlisle after Storm Desmond has been cropped from a picture which is © copyright Rose and Trev Clough and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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