You know how it goes. A quick glance down the opposition team-sheet, and that feeling of dread hits you instantly.

“Well, he’s bound to score…”

Nothing quite fires up the sense of foreboding in a Carlisle United fan like the presence of an ex-Blues player in the opposition.

And for very good reason. There are plenty of painful examples of a former Cumbrians star returning to haunt their former club.

Even in very recent times we've seen a host of United old boys find the Carlisle net: Josh Morris, Olufela Olomola, Cole Stockton, Patrick Brough, Jamie Devitt and so on.

Further back and such as Reggie Lambe, Shaun Miller, Mark Cullen, Jabo Ibehre, Paddy Madden, Karl Hawley, Nahki Wells, Glenn Murray and several more have ended up scoring against the Blues.

Carlisle will be hoping to avoid that fate again this weekend when they face a Sutton United team containing striker Richie Bennett (and, such is Carlisle’s habit for conceding against their old boys, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis got himself on the scoresheet on Saturday either).

Anyway – what follows can be taken purely as an attempt to reverse the jinx. If we mention all these examples now and in all their excruciating detail, surely it can’t happen again?


1. Steve Norris (1990)

This one ticked two time-honoured United boxes in one go. Not only was the scorer an ex-Blue, but the Cumbrians managed to lose to a team wretchedly out of form.

Steve Norris had started the 1990/1 season as a low-scoring Carlisle striker. A few weeks into the campaign and the Blies let him leave for Halifax Town in a deal that brought Tony Fyfe back to Brunton Park.

By the time Halifax arrived at United on October 13, the visitors were bottom of the Football League and had failed to score in any of their opening eight games of the season.


The natural consequence of this was a 3-0 home defeat for the Blues in which future United man Billy Barr opened the scoring for Halifax before Norris, inevitably, got in on the act.

He duly went on an incredible run, scoring 30 of the Shaymen’s 59 league goals that campaign, leaving Carlisle fans wondering if it was the same bloke. His exploits became so impressive that even Saint and Greavsie wanted a piece of the suddenly prolific Norris...

2. Damon Searle (2005)

Carlisle, by early April 2005, were on course for a Conference play-off place. Forest Green were firmly set on a bottom-three finish.

In Damon Searle, the visiting side contained an ex-Blues left-back who had not scored for getting on for 12 months, and whose career was not exactly littered with prolific stats.

Carlisle had won six of their previous seven games. Forest Green were winless in nine.

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before…

The second half. A routine claim for home keeper Matty Glennon. A shocking spill. And who else is there to pounce?

Damon sodding Searle.

A 1-0 defeat, laced with dark, howling inevitability. Classic Carlisle United.

News and Star: Damon Searle returns to haunt United in 2005 (photo: Jonathan Becker)Damon Searle returns to haunt United in 2005 (photo: Jonathan Becker)

3. Peter Beardsley (1984)

When Carlisle went to St James' Park in the spring of 1984 they still just about had designs on a return to England's top flight.

They were riding relatively highly in Division Two, though looking to arrest a five-game winless run which had put their hopes in per...ah, ok, you know what happens next.

What happens next is a 5-1 hiding in which Beardsley, who had thrilled Brunton Park crowds as a young player, provides the garnish.

After being involved in some of Newcastle's earlier goals, he popped up to slot home a fourth as the Geordies ran riot.

And just in case that wasn't enough, the illustrious ex-Blue smashed in a fifth before the end.

Thanks, Peter. That's gratitude for you. Pfft.

4. Lee Peacock (2003)

The big stage. An unlikely cup run. A glimpse of romance in hard times. And a former Blue waiting at the Millennium Stadium with a massive needle to sink into United's balloon.

Not just a former Blue, in fact, but a Cumbrian: Lee Peacock, one of the 1990s 'Brunton Babes' who had since gone on to bigger things.

Carlisle were floundering in the bottom tier in 2002/3 but had somehow negotiated their way to the LDV Vans Trophy final under Roddy Collins.

They were up against it, considering they faced Bristol City from the division above.

But still. All those 10 outfield players, and it just had to be the one with Carlisle connections to get the opening goal.

Here he is, the traitor (only kidding, Lee):

5. Francois Zoko (2012)

Oh, Francois. How could you?

The Ivorian had been one of the inspiring figures behind Carlisle's 2011/12 League One season which had seen Greg Abbott's side narrowly fail to reach the play-off places.

The mercurial attacker provided rich entertainment over his two years in Cumbria, and frankly October 2012 was far too soon for this crowd favourite to come back to Brunton Park and stick one in the United onion bag.

There was, though, no stopping Zoko when, now with Notts County, he got the run on Brad Potts, glided into the Blues' box and clipped his finish past Mark Gillespie amid a brutal 4-0 Magpies win.

There was a subdued, one-arm-raised celebration from Zoko, who thankfully atoned by missing a penalty against the Blues for Yeovil three-and-a-half years later. He never stopped loving us, really.

6. Adam Clayton (2011)

Carlisle gave Adam Clayton his start in first-team football.

On loan from Manchester City, he had made a positive impact in the Blues' 2009/10 season.

Then, on loan from Leeds to MK Dons, he had a rudely negative impact on the Blues' 2010/11 season.

This particular game saw past and future United connections everywhere, as Jabo Ibehre came off the bench for the hosts, Angelo Balanta headed MK level at 2-2 and then, in the very depths of added time, midfielder Clayton arrived to slam in a harsh winner.

Was it the only goal he scored in his time with MK Dons? Well, what do you think?

News and Star: Adam Clayton celebrates his late winner against United, the rotter (photo: Barbara Abbott)Adam Clayton celebrates his late winner against United, the rotter (photo: Barbara Abbott)

7. Brad Potts (2017)

The young midfielder had left Carlisle for Blackpool a couple of summers before. He had been one of their most promising home-grown players of recent times.

And yes, it was of course a cast-iron certainty that he'd come back to Brunton Park as soon as possible to score against his old club.

It happened at a stage when United's promotion challenge in League Two was entering difficult times. Potts, early in Blackpool's February visit, timed his run perfectly to force home a shot at the Warwick Road End.

His celebrations in front of fans in that end and in the Pioneer Stand did not exactly go down a storm. Yet a few months later and Potts was scoring at Wembley to send Blackpool up, against...

8. Jack Stacey (2017)

Well, this one took the absolute biscuit.

Back in the innocent spring days of 2016, an inexperieced Reading loanee Jack Stacey scored his first professional goal for Carlisle.

Lovely strike it was, too. We all liked young Jack.

Spool forward to 2017, and the last seconds of a play-off semi-final epic at Exeter. Carlisle have valiantly fought back to 2-2. The tie is locked. The clock is ticking...

They haven't got this close since. Cheers Jack.