The day passed with barely a mention, and no fanfare at all – which, given the circumstances, felt oddly fitting. Carlisle United’s 1996/7 team sometimes appears to sit in the shadow of the colourful side that preceded them two years before.

And so, when April 11, 2022 went by quietly, maybe that was just the way it had to be. The 25th anniversary of the day Mervyn Day’s Blues secured promotion to the third tier slipped gently into history, and that was that.

There may be a proper rush of nostalgia next Wednesday, when the more dramatic and historic of that team’s accomplishments – a first-ever victory for United at Wembley – hits the 25-year mark.

All the same. Let us also ring a belated bell for that side and their campaign as a whole, something that probably deserves to linger in the sun just a little longer than it’s been allowed all these years.

News and Star: Owen Archdeacon was one of the stars of the 1996/7 season at UnitedOwen Archdeacon was one of the stars of the 1996/7 season at United

If football and indeed life is about timing, then the boys of 96/7 had an amount of misfortune when it came to that spotlight. By that season, Carlisle had already passed through that era's moment of great renewal.

The Division Three title-winners of 1994/5 had broken records for points. They had also represented United beneath the sacred Twin Towers for the very first time; a great Cumbrian yearning finally satisfied. It is hard to overstate the sense of rejuvenation felt around the club and city when Mick Wadsworth’s deckchair army were marching.

Come 1996/7, there had been an anti-climactic relegation back to the fourth tier but, even as Mervyn Day picked up and reshaped the team, winning was not the enormously pleasant surprise it had been at Brunton Park in 94/5.

Day’s team, no matter its undoubted excellence, as well as its nuances and charms, could not hope to capture the imagination, or indeed ride the United zeitgeist, in the same way as Wadsworth's champions.

News and Star: United's 1996/7 side won at Wembley for the first time in the club's historyUnited's 1996/7 side won at Wembley for the first time in the club's history

For one thing, they finished third, not first. Even when they went a step further and won the Auto-Windscreens Shield at Wembley, there were 30,000 fewer people in the great stadium.

The day they wrapped up promotion, April 11, it was with a stodgy 0-0 draw at Mansfield Town: very much a case of result over spectacle on live TV at a time when broadcasters were allowed to put lower-league clubs other than Salford City on the box.

Yet for these understated aspects, there was still an undeniable distinction about that team – and, as much as anything, when you’ve had only nine promotions since joining the Football League in 1928, that’s far too few for any to be skimmed over.

United's 96/7 vintage was, after all, a unit that blended canny experience with developing, maturing youth; one which saw, in some ways, certain players more rounded than they had been even in the brilliant adventure of 94/5.

News and Star: WIll Varty, left, and Lee Peacock were among the home-grown players who made their mark in 1996/7WIll Varty, left, and Lee Peacock were among the home-grown players who made their mark in 1996/7

In Tony Caig, Dean Walling, Steve Hayward, Warren Aspinall and Paul Conway, for instance, there were two further seasons in the bank, and levels of performance and authority that reflected this. In Will Varty, Rory Delap, Lee Peacock, Tony Hopper and Matt Jansen, there were home-grown players readier to make a mark on things than had been possible before.

There was the outstanding arrival of, on the left, Owen Archdeacon and, in central defence, one of United’s truly iconic overseas players in Stephane Pounewatchy. There was attacking culture in Allan Smart after the inspirational energy of David Reeves.

There was also, from Day, a telling piece of strategic management which recognised that United were best served by a 3-5-2 formation; a system which did not lend itself to buccaneering football but which certainly accommodated the varied defensive traits of Varty, Walling and Pounewatchy, not least allowing the latter to make those crowd-pleasing surges up the pitch.

News and Star: Rory Delap shone for the Blues in 1996/7Rory Delap shone for the Blues in 1996/7

It also harnessed the athletic prowess of Delap down the right. It enabled Hayward to apply leadership and proactive play in midfield. It did not turn Carlisle into a goals machine – but it did help them win.

That campaign’s return of 67 scored was respectable but far from record-breaking for a United promotion team. There was not a 20-goal marksman as other top Blues sides have known.

Defensively, though, their total of 44 against is the fourth best of all the Carlisle teams to have gone up a division. Again – this doesn’t make the glamour cut. It says, though, that a good side knew how to get the job done.

And there were still many days and nights to savour: Delap slamming in an opening day winner at Doncaster. Hayward and the soon-to-be-gone Reeves turning defeat to victory at Hartlepool. Aspinall dribbling the length of Brighton’s pitch to score on of the great United individual goals. Peacock and Smart outsmarting Cambridge (also on live TV). Jansen nodding a last-gasp winner at Hull.

In the Auto-Windscreens: Walling’s goalline heroism at Stockport, then Caig’s saves and Hayward’s winner in the final. In the FA Cup, a boisterous win over Tranmere and their red-carded boss, John Aldridge, and a packed-house encounter with Sheffield Wednesday.

Other occasions, plenty of them, when one of those young or older pros showed the nerve to come through: the many narrow victories that are always parts of the promotion jigsaw.

The poignancy of that season also catches the heart, bearing in mind the way things crumbled in 1997/8 – the side coming apart, a fine manager in Day controversially ousted, all the turmoil and torment awaiting the club and its fans.

If promotion that spring felt just a little expected and normal…well, it doesn’t take a lengthy look at the 25 years since to conclude that, maybe, we should have enjoyed it just a little more at the time.

So maybe now, this milestone point later, we should bring Mervyn’s men out of the shadows, and give them the kind of mention and ovation they haven't all that often received.