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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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History: Carlisle United FC

Carlisle United were formed when two city teams, Shaddongate United and Carlisle Red Rose, merged in 1903.

LDV Trophy photo
Steve Hayward and Tony Caig with the LDV Trophy in 1997

The newly formed team played at Milhome Bank and later at Devonshire Park, finally settling at Brunton Park in 1909.

Carlisle were elected to the Football League Third Division North in 1928 replacing Durham City. They won their first game, the side of Prout, Coulthard, Cook, Harrison, Ross, Pigg, Agar, Hutchison, McConnell, Ward and Watson, beating Accrington Stanley 3-2.

The Cumbrians - also nicknamed The Blues - spent one season in the old First Division, the 1974-75 season. They won their first three fixtures of the campaign to top the table but finished the season in bottom place and were relegated. A decline over the next 13 years saw them fall back into the Fourth Division by 1987.

1987-88: In the Fourth Division for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, their form continued to slump. They finished second from bottom but at least were never in any real danger of relegation because of Newport County's exceptionally awful form - which saw 19 points separate the two teams.

1988-89: Carlisle's league form was improved after three awful seasons and they finished 12th in Division Four. They reached the FA Cup third round, where their run was ended by defending league champions and eventual FA Cup winners, Liverpool. Seventeen-year-old defender Steve Harkness was sold to Liverpool at the end of the season. His place in the team was filled by Middlesbrough's Paul Proudlock.

1989-90: Carlisle's good progress continued into the new decade, but their play-off hopes were ended on the final day of the season by a 5-2 demolition at the hands of Maidstone United. This was a disappoining end to an encouraging season during which the Cumbrians had topped the Fourth Division on Christmas Say and for a while in January as well. In the end they missed out on the play-offs due to inferior goal difference.

1990-91: A promising start to the season suggested that the Cumbrians were finally on their way out of the Fourth Division, but a disastrous second half of the campaign saw them slump to 20th in the final table and cost manager Clive Middlemass his job in March. He was succeeded by Aidan McCaffrey, who was left needing a substantial overhaul to get Carlisle's fortunes back on track.

1991-92: Carlisle endured one of the worst seasons in their history as they finished bottom of the Fourth Division, but were lucky because the demise of Aldershot resulted in no relegation to the Conference taking place that year.

1992-93: Michael Knighton took Carlisle over just before the start of the season and within weeks had sacked manager Aidan McCaffrey following a terrible start to the new Division Three campaign. David McCreery was appointed player-manager and steered Carlisle to safety as they finished 18th.

1993-94: Before the season began, Michael Knighton announced his intention to deliver Premiership football to Carlisle by 2003. He re-organised the management team to appoint Mick Wadsworth as Director of Coaching, while David McCreery was given the role of head coach and 38-year-old goalkeeper Mervyn Day was named as assistant coach. This season was Carlisle's best in years, as the £121,000 record signing of striker David Reeves in October saw them acquire a much-needed prolific goalscorer. They won 10 of their final 14 league games to secure the final play-off place in Division Three, though their promotion dream was ended by Wycombe in the semi-finals.

1994-95: Carlisle finally achieved their first major success in 13 years by lifting the Division Three title. David Reeves scored 25 league goals to help The Blues achieve their long-awaited success which ended their eight-year ordeal in the league's basement division. They also reached the Autoglass Windscreens Trophy Final but missed out after conceding a sudden death extra time goal against Birmingham City.

1995-96: Mick Wadsworth's resignation as manager in December was a major blow, as was the mid-season sale of key players Paul Murray and Tony Gallimore. They finished the season clear of the relegation zone with more goals than 21st-placed York City, who had to replay a game against Brighton which had been cancelled due to crowd trouble. But a 3-1 victory for York sent Carlisle down, just one season after they had won promotion.

1996-97: Young players like Rory Delap, Matt Jansen and Lee Peacock were crucial as Carlisle bounced back from relegation to achieve promotion back to Division Two at the first time of asking. The promotion joy was accompanied by a penalty shoot-out triumph over Colchester United in the Auto Windscreens Trophy Final, in which Tony Caig pulled off some goalkeeping heroics.

1997-98: Mervyn Day was sacked just six games into Carlisle's Division Two campaign and chairman Michael Knighton installed himself as manager. They were still in the relegation zone come Christmas but did manage to climb clear. However, nine defeats from their final 10 games condemned Carlisle to relegation in 23rd place, with 17 goals from striker Ian Stevens not being quite enough to attain survival.

1998-99: Carlisle entered the final game of the season needing to beat Plymouth Argyle at Brunton Park to avoid relegation and possibly extinction and the score was still 1-1 with 90 minutes showing on the clock. The referee allowed four minutes of stoppage time and during the final minute Carlisle were awarded a corner. Goalkeeper Jimmy Glass, signed in an emergency loan deal after the transfer deadline, drove home a last-gasp winner which preserved Carlisle's Football League status and sent down Scarborough.

1999-00: Once again, Carlisle narrowly avoided relegation in second from bottom place in Division Three. They lost their final game of the season 1-0 to Brighton but were kept up by Chester City's defeat at the hands of Peterborough United.

2000-01: Ian Atkins, one of the most successful managers in the lower leagues, was appointed and there was much hope that he could be the man to achieve promotion. But things didn't work out and they finished 22nd - just one place higher than in the previous two campaigns. Atkins quit at the end of the season and was succeeded by Roddy Collins.

2001-02: After three seasons of close shaves, Carlisle enjoyed the relative luxury of attaining a safe final position of 17th - which saw them finish 16 points clear of the relegation zone.

2002-03: For the fourth time in five seasons, Carlisle narrowly avoided relegation. This time 22nd place was just one place above the drop zone, as this was the first season in which two clubs were relegated to the Conference instead of just one.

2003-04: The writing was on the wall after they lost 18 of their first 21 Division Three games. Manager Paul Simpson did all he could to salvage something from the next 25 fixtures but couldn't quite achieve safety - 40 points from a possible 75 were effectively rendered meaningless due to Carlisle's appalling first half of the season. Had they performed as well during the first half of the campaign as they did during the second, then they would have featured in the push for a play-off place.

2004-05: Carlisle returned to the Football League at the first time of asking by winning the Conference National promotion play-offs.

2005-06: Carlisle's excellent form under Paul Simpson continued as they returned to the Football League with a bang, clinching the League Two title. Simpson then departed for Preston North End and was succeeded by Neil McDonald.

2006-07: Carlisle became the first visiting team to win a League One match at the Keepmoat Stadium, the new home of Doncaster Rovers after a 2-1 win on February 3. The win was part of a sequence of games in which the club - mired in mid-table - staged a late run for a play-off place, they finally finished the season 8th, their highest league place for 20 years with the added bonus of returning their highest average league crowds for 30 years.

2007-08: Carlisle started the season with a 1-1 draw at newly promoted Walsall but manager Neil McDonald was sacked on the Monday after the match. Greg Abbott took over as caretaker manager with Cheltenham Town manager John Ward taking over on a permanent basis in October 2007, with both clubs agreeing a six figure compensation package. Ward signed a four year deal.

Ward took Carlisle to the top of League One on October 28 and they were still looking likely for automatic promotion at the beginning of April as they occupied second place but could only manage a draw on the final day of the season and finished fourth. On May 12, 2007, Carlisle United played Leeds United in the League One play-off first leg at Elland Road and won 2-1 with Danny Graham and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson scoring the goals. Dougie Freedman scored a controversial injury time goal (in the 96th minute; only 4 minutes were shown on the fourth official's board) for Leeds to set up an enthralling second leg.

In the Brunton Park return, Leeds took an early first half lead through a Jonny Howson goal, and then Howson scored his second with only seconds to spare to put the match at 3-2 on aggregate to Leeds, meaning Carlisle would spend another season in the third tier of English football. Leeds were beaten by Doncaster in the pla-off final.

Record Victory: 8-0 v Hartlepool, Divison 3(N), Sep 1, 1928
Record Defeat: 1-11 v Hull City, Division 3(N), Jan 14, 1939
Most League Points (2 for a win): 62, Division 3(N), 1950-51
Most League Points (3 for a win): 91, Division 3, 1994-95
Record Transfer Fee Paid: £140,000 to Blackburn Rovers for Joe Garner, August 10, 2007 (rising to £150,000 on promotion)
Record Transfer Fee Recieved: £1,000,000 from Crystal Palace for Matt Jansen, February 1998

If you want to find out how to get to Brunton Park, go here

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