John Gorman has described his old Carlisle United team-mate Joe Laidlaw as a “special player” who would be worth millions today.

Tributes have been paid to former Blues midfielder Laidlaw after the news he has passed away aged 71.

Laidlaw was a key member of the United side that won promotion to the top-flight in 1974 – and he was their leading scorer in the First Division with 12 goals.

Legendary left-back Gorman told the News & Star that Laidlaw was a star on and off the field in those unforgettable Brunton Park days.

“Joe was a real character, a special character,” he said.

“I would say he was a very under-rated player. The goals he scored for Carlisle… to get what he did in the top-flight is just ridiculous for a small team like Carlisle, especially when you consider he was mainly a winger.

“He was mainly right-footed, but he was always better on the left. He could do a bit of everything, but he was mainly an out-and-out threat in terms of scoring goals.

“He would definitely be worth a lot of money in today’s football. Look at people like Jack Grealish, who are worth a fortune in the Premier League. What would Joe have been worth?

News and Star: United's legendary 1974/5 line-up, including Joe Laidlaw, middle row fourth from right, and John Gorman, front row second from left (photo: PA)United's legendary 1974/5 line-up, including Joe Laidlaw, middle row fourth from right, and John Gorman, front row second from left (photo: PA)

“Anybody who could score goals like Joe did would be worth their weight in gold now.

“I remember him scoring against the big teams and he was just a good, all-round footballer.”

Laidlaw, who played for the Blues from 1972-6, made history when he scored one of the goals in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa in 1974 which saw Carlisle promoted to the top-flight for the first and only time in their history.

His goals for United in the First Division, meanwhile, included strikes against Everton, Manchester City and Ipswich Town.

Known for his bustling style and powerful shot, he was a favourite at Brunton Park after joining from Middlesbrough, while he later went on to play for Doncaster Rovers, Portsmouth, Hereford United and Mansfield Town.

Former England and Tottenham coach Gorman added: “He was always a guy we used to laugh with.

“He was wee bit plump and I remember certain managers trying to get him to lose weight, but it was a bit like Bobby Murdoch at Middlesbrough – whenever you tried to make him lose weight, he just lost that bit of power and strength.

“People would say, ‘He doesn’t look fit’, but he was. He could certainly last.

“He loved football and everybody loved Joe. He always had a smile on his face. You couldn’t get him down. That was just his character, even if things weren’t going well.

“It was a pleasure to be with him. We all remember each other and think the world of each other from those days at Carlisle – it was a special time.

“People up there don’t forget what we did. And Joe was a special player in those times.”