Carlisle United have paid tribute to former manager Clive Middlemass after news of his death at 77.

The ex-Blues boss passed away peacefully this morning, the club have said.

Middlemass was in charge at Brunton Park from 1987-91, while his playing career included a six-year spell with Workington Reds.

The Yorkshireman's time at Carlisle included their FA Cup third round meeting with Liverpool in 1989.

He also came close to leading the Blues to Fourth Division promotion in the 1989/90 season.

United chairman Andrew Jenkins, speaking on the club's website, said: "This is such sad news. Clive was a friend, we kept in touch, and he would often ring me before games to wish us luck.

News and Star: Middlemass, front centre, with United's 1988/9 squadMiddlemass, front centre, with United's 1988/9 squad

“That was as well as the annual phone call in the summer to talk about the season ahead and, again, for him to pass on his best wishes for the squad and the club.

“He was a knowledgeable man, and he would often talk to us about players he had on his radar. He scouted for other clubs, but he would keep us in the loop along the way.

“When we dismissed him in 1991 he was completely understanding, and he commented at the time that it was a place that would always have a special place in his heart.

“I try to remain friendly with all managers, whatever the circumstance, and that was certainly the case with Clive.

“He was so well respected, and the number of people who would phone to ask for his number, just so they could get some advice off him, was incredible.

“It goes without saying that our thoughts and condolences go to his family and friends. He will be missed.”

Middlemass was on Leeds United's books as a young player before joining Workington in 1963.

After more than 160 appearances for the Borough Park club, his playing career was halted when he was injured in a car crash.

He then moved into coaching at both Bristol Rovers and Bristol City, where he took a young Keith Curle - the future United manager - under his wing.

He went on to be appointed by struggling Carlisle in 1987 after the sacking of Harry Gregg in the wake of back-to-back relegations at Brunton Park.

United finished second bottom of the Fourth Division in his first season in charge before a mid-table finish in 1988/9.

News and Star: Middlemass was manager when Carlisle took on Liverpool in the FA Cup in 1989Middlemass was manager when Carlisle took on Liverpool in the FA Cup in 1989

That included their memorable cup run which brought Kenny Dalglish' star-studded Liverpool to Brunton Park in front of an 18,000 crowd in January 1989.

With signings like Nigel Saddington, Paul Fitzpatrick, Paul Proudlock and Keith Walwyn becoming favourites, Carlisle then spent much of the 1989/90 season firmly in the promotion race, including spells at the top of the table.

Their challenge, though, fell away late in the campaign as they missed out on the play-offs, and a less successful 1990/91 season, which saw Eric Gates as United's big summer signing, saw Middlemass sacked in March.

He went on to have coaching and scouting roles at a number of clubs including Darlington, Burnley, Preston, Derby and Everton.

He remained in regular contact with United officials and was consulted by the club over the appointment of Curle in 2014.

Former United star John Hapin, who is now the club's community sports trust manager, described Middlemass as a "total gentleman", adding: “He was well known around football because he was so highly regarded and respected, and it’s really sad to hear this news.”