“That’s nice to know – really nice to know,” says Andy Hart when we discuss an iconic photo of an iconic Carlisle United time, and the fact some supporters still know his name.

Hart features on the back row in United’s 1994/5 team group for a picture by photographer Stuart Roy Clarke ahead of the club’s first ever Wembley appearance. He may be the least well-known member of the squad of players fashioned into champions by Mick Wadsworth.

Hart, though, is still remembered by Blues devotees, and still has a story to tell – while his particular memories of a famous Brunton Park period will also be revived on Sunday, when he returns to take part in a reunion game involving Carlisle title-winners from 1994/5 and 2005/6, in aid of a former players' fund.

The left-back did not play a first-team game during his time as a defensive understudy, meaning Sunday’s nostalgia trip will be his first outing on United’s pitch. Now 46, he says: “I warmed up on it, had a kickabout on it, but never actually played on it, which was a big regret. It will be nice to get up there.”

Hart’s is one of the lesser-told United stories from the time of the “deckchair army” and those days when the club, after a moribund era, suddenly burst into colourful life. He was only at Carlisle for a season but left with a tale of teenage hope, frustration and reflection, and a subsequent football path in non-league which included one surreal day playing against two Manchester United legends.

Hart tells it in detail as he goes back, first, to 1994.


“I’d been at Huddersfield from 12 to 16, but by the time I was 18 I was playing semi-professional football for Maltby Main in Yorkshire, where I live,” he says. “Huddersfield had offered me YTS, but my mam wanted me to stay on at school, so they offered me extended schoolboys instead.

“Being at school and going into the club in holiday periods and stuff like that, I felt I was getting shoved out…it wasn’t working, so I ended up leaving and just playing men’s football.

“I’d only played a couple of games for my local side, and then a bloke who was a mate of the gaffer [Wadsworth], Russ Green, who owned a sports shop near me, said, ‘How do you fancy going on a trial up to Carlisle?’”

The opportunity at came unexpectedly, but Hart agreed to a week at Brunton Park. He travelled from Yorkshire with the Blues player-coach Joe Joyce, who lived near him, and the pair met assistant manager Mervyn Day at Wetherby before completing the journey to Cumbria.

“I was put with the academy side first,” Hart says. “I was a bit disappointed not to be with the first team, but just got my head down. I thought it was probably a bit of a test from the gaffer, or he felt he was just doing Russ a favour by me being there.”

Hart stayed in digs above the club shop outside Brunton Park, along with fellow young players, and then played in a reserve game at Chesterfield. The following day Hart was watching a youth cup game when Wadsworth asked him to be at his office the next morning.

News and Star: Andy Hart pictured after joining Carlisle United in 1994Andy Hart pictured after joining Carlisle United in 1994

“I wondered what had gone off. He had his unique way, did Mick. I were pretty scared of him. I thought I’d done something wrong. I went into his office on Thursday morning and he offered me a contract until the end of the season.

“At first I was a bit taken aback. I think the gaffer was thinking, ‘Why isn’t he jumping off the wall?’ But there were that many emotions going through my head. I was overwhelmed.

“When I stepped over the line on a pitch I didn’t think about anything else, but when I was back in the changing room I would overthink things a lot. My mind was spinning with questions like, ‘What am I gonna do, where am I gonna live, what about my mam and dad….?

“I was a bit in shock, really. But once I’d settled down, I couldn’t refuse it. It was what I always wanted to do from being a young kid. My dreams were coming true.”


Hart initially got to know fellow teenagers such as Rory Delap and Tony Hopper and, having changed with the youth players during his trial, was now part of the first-team group. “Initially, walking into the changing room and seeing players like David Currie, who I’d watched playing for Barnsley when I was a kid, was a bit intimidating.”

Hart’s early weeks were hindered by injury thanks to a robust challenge from Doncaster’s Mick Norbury in a reserve game, while adapting to life in Carlisle also had its challenges.

“The first few weeks were hard for definite,” he says. “I was living with the YTS lads, but they trained at different times to the first team. I was sharing with Lee Peacock to start with – he was a bit of a wild child, often going out with his mates.

“The first team was flying so the gaffer was always giving us time off, never training on afternoons. So I was either going to the gym on my own, up to the leisure centre, or having a walk into town, finding my bearings. A lot of that time was spent on my own.

“I’d never been away from home before. It was hard, but I was enjoying my time training and playing. I just wanted to keep doing that. A lot of the lads would go out playing golf but I wasn’t in that environment yet.

“But Rory really took me under his wing – I did a lot of things with him and Tony.”

Hart played regular reserve football with players such as Delap, Hopper, Jamie Robinson, Tony Elliott, Jeff Thorpe and Ian Arnold and tried to impress – and get the measure of – Wadsworth.

“Joe and Merv were fantastic. Mick…he was hard,” he says. “Me and the gaffer had a few run-ins.

“If I look back now, I’ve got a lot of regrets. I wish I’d handled things differently. I was an 18-year-old lad and I didn’t realise the life lessons he was trying to teach me. I’d never experienced that type of thing before.”

News and Star: Andy Hart pictured in action for United's reserves in 1994/5Andy Hart pictured in action for United's reserves in 1994/5

Hart does not say exactly what Wadsworth would do to “test” him, keen that the director of coaching is not portrayed in a negative light. “I think he was just trying to see how much I wanted it,” he adds. "I think that’s part and parcel of coaching in football. He didn’t do anything bad. He just made it hard sometimes. He was an old-school manager and I wasn’t used to that.”

Hart sought to push his first-team claims but did not feature in the matchday squad during a 1994/5 season when United won Division Three and swept to the Auto-Windscreens Shield final. “Gally [first-choice left-back Tony Gallimore] was a top lad, and never used to get injured. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to get close to the first team at that time.

“I was doing everything in my power, don’t get me wrong. There were a few of us like that, and you do get frustrated. But all in all I thought that year was just a learning curve of me proving to the gaffer I deserved another year.

“Joe used to speak to me a lot when we travelled up, and Merv just said, ‘Keep working hard’. That was good coming from them. It’s important you learn that in football – it’s not going to be given to you. But the team were flying, Gally wasn’t getting injured, gaffer was virtually playing the same team with the same subs and there was no need to change it, which was understandable.”

Hart, from his position in the ranks, still experienced the huge swell of popularity that Wadsworth’s team generated. “In that respect,” he says, “it was probably one of the best years of my life.

“It was the same wherever we went…if we went out to a nightclub on a Wednesday, with the first team, you were treated like superstars. I remember us having an open day at the club, and the amount of fans that turned up….I was taken aback by it.

“I didn’t think people realised who I was, but they did. Some of them asked for my autograph. It was brilliant. We were just on a crest of a wave – every day at training was a buzz.”

It was a squad of memorable figures, from goalscorer Reeves to defensive linchpins Derek Mountfield and Dean Walling, to the jinking Rod Thomas and the laconic Currie, whose craft on the pitch was aligned with the enjoyment of a pint off it.

Hart chuckles. “The number of times I’d come in on a Monday or Tuesday morning and hear David say, ‘Gaffer, I’m not bothered about training today,’ and he [Wadsworth] would be, ‘No problem David, you just chill out, or get a rub…’ But to be fair to him, he always produced on a Saturday or a Tuesday. It was a different era back then, I suppose.”

Hart says it is a “big regret” that he never got on the bench, Wadsworth tending to prefer the likes of Robinson and Thorpe. He was also disappointed not to be included in the travelling party to Wembley when United reached the Twin Towers in the Auto-Windscreens, going on to play against Birmingham City in front of 76,663 fans amid a stirring and special atmosphere.

News and Star: United famously reached Wembley in 1995, but Hart was not included in the travelling partyUnited famously reached Wembley in 1995, but Hart was not included in the travelling party

“I think there were only two of us [not involved]. We got our suits and everything measured up, but we didn’t travel with the team. That was a bit hard. I still went down, with my mam and dad. It would have been nice to spend more of the weekend with [the team].

“But there was just a buzz for months and months leading up to it. It was fantastic walking around Carlisle and seeing ‘Wembley this’ and ‘Wembley that’. It was good for the club and it boosted everybody’s performance. And we made history.”


Hart was aware of Michael Knighton, the club’s enigmatic owner, because he was a supporter of Manchester United, who Knighton had tried to take over three years before buying the Blues. His dealings with the chairman, though, were sparse. The training ground and reserve pitches were his main domains – and also where his time at Carlisle eventually came a cropper.

“I remember playing at Scarborough on a really muddy, sticky pitch,” he says. “About 50-60 minutes into the game I tried twisting and my legs got stuck. I felt something in my back go. I was in excruciating pain straight away.

News and Star: Hart in reserve action on the training pitch behind at Brunton Park's old Scratching Pen standHart in reserve action on the training pitch behind at Brunton Park's old Scratching Pen stand

“All the way travelling home on the minibus I was in agony. That put me out for a couple of months and I never fully recovered after that. I was in a lot of pain, training and playing, even after a couple of months out, having massages and stuff like that.

“It was getting to the back end of the season and I was getting frustrated with myself and angry at not being able to give 100 per cent in training and matches. I felt I was letting myself and my team-mates down. It was hard for me. But they just couldn’t get to the bottom of what the problem was with my back.”

Come May, Hart was not initially included in the group of players scheduled for an end-of-season trip to Fuengirola, but says a number of first-teamers buttonholed Knighton to ensure he would join them after all. On the last night of the Spanish holiday, Wadsworth asked for a word.

“I thought, ‘Oh, this is it – the conversation.’ I was really nervous. I remember being in David Reeves’s room, I think Rich Prokas and Thorpey were there too, and they were saying ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine’.

“My heart was pounding like mad. To be fair to the gaffer, he was straight as hell. He gave me his reasons [for releasing me] and I accepted it. He said the chairman had told him that if he wanted to spend some money for next season he was gonna have to cut some of the squad.

“I was one of the unlucky ones who was gonna get cut, through not being involved in the squad and not being involved for the last couple of months due to injury, which I couldn’t really argue with.

News and Star: Mick Wadsworth, left, signed and later released Andy HartMick Wadsworth, left, signed and later released Andy Hart

“I found it hard to hold back the tears. I thanked him for the opportunity and said the same to Merv and Joe, who were there when he was telling me.

“Once I left the room I cried my eyes out. I was frustrated and angry – but with myself, not with the gaffer or anybody else. I just felt like my dream had been taken away through an injury. It spoiled my last night. I still went out with the lads and a lot of them were gutted for me.

“I totally respect the gaffer’s reasons behind it. I think if we hadn’t got promoted I probably would have got another year. But that was being selfish on my part. If it was meant to be it was meant to be. It wasn’t meant to be.”

Hart now tried to get his head around the need to leave Carlisle and, as Wadsworth offered to help arrange moves to non-league teams, Hart preferred to return home to sort his back out.

“I went to see a few specialists and they found I had a chip in one of my discs and it was sticking into the spinal cord,” he says. “That was giving me the pain. I ended up having a lot of treatment and it was four or five months before I got back to actually training.

“I was still in some discomfort but I could play through the pain, through wearing thermal shorts to keep bottom of my back warm.”

Hart played semi-professional football and had a successful spell with Pontefract Collieries, but says “it took me a good two-and-a-half years to play football without any pain.”

This was hard for an aspiring young player who still had hopes of returning to the professional game. The fact so much of his formative time in the sport was hindered in this way niggled at Hart. “All I wanted to do was play football. I had a lot of arguments with my mam and dad in this period. I was an angry kid back then and I made a lot of bad choices.

“I wouldn’t say I was a rebel, but I went off the rails a bit. I was angry with people. I just felt at home on a football pitch. I know it’s hard to explain but I was a different person on a pitch to off it. It was nice being on a football pitch, and not being on a pitch was hard.”


Hart reached his early twenties with his professional dreams less secure than ever. “I thought my chance had gone. A lot of teams wouldn’t touch you. I ended up going to Selby Town and ended up playing with them for 12 seasons.”

Hart steadily made his peace with this level of football a few rungs down from the Football League. He became a fixture at Selby where, in 1999, his long stint with the Yorkshire club gave him one sunny afternoon he will never forget.

“Yeah – I played against David Beckham and Paul Scholes,” he says.

This unlikely happening came the summer after Manchester United had won the treble, including the Champions League victory over Bayern Munich in Barcelona. The Red Devils’ friendly at Selby was officially a reserve fixture for the visitors, but two of their stars, who had started pre-season later than some others, just happened to be involved.

“I was at home on the Friday night and the chairman rung me,” Hart recalls. “He said, ‘How do you fancy marking Beckham tomorrow?!’ I said, ‘Get lost, are you winding me up?’ He said, ‘I’m telling you, I’ve just had a phonecall from their press officer and they’re saying Beckham’s coming tomorrow morning’.

“At that time Beckham were a flipping superstar. They’d just won the treble, and he was all over every paper. I was working on the Saturday morning and there were a few Man U fans at work. I said, ‘Come and watch us today, Beckham’s playing’. They didn’t believe me. I thought I was going to look a right idiot if he didn’t turn up.

“But I drove through Selby after I’d finished work, got into the centre of town and there were people everywhere, thousands and thousands. We’d normally get a couple of hundred at a game, tops. I pulled into the car park, was just walking into the ground and I saw an Aston Martin pulling onto the car park.

“Beckham got out of it with all his security, and they took him through one of the back exits. My daughter was there, she was only four or five, and she went up to him and got an autograph.

“A little while later my Mam pulled into the car park and this bloke in a big Jag pulled in and nearly took my Mam out. She set off to go in effing and blinding at the driver – and it was Sir Alex Ferguson.”

The great manager, having avoided the hairdryer treatment from Hart’s mum, later collared the player himself. “Sir Alex came into our changing room before the game, spoke to our gaffer, and says, ‘Who’s left-back, who’s gonna be marking Beckham?’

News and Star: Hart's collection of cuttings from his career include the day he took on David Beckham and Manchester United whilst with Selby TownameHart's collection of cuttings from his career include the day he took on David Beckham and Manchester United whilst with Selby Towname

“He pointed me out. He said, ‘Can I have a quiet word with you..?’ He took me into the shower cubicle and said, ‘Look, you do know you’re marking a £55m player here…don’t be doing anything stupid’.

“I looked and asked what he meant. He said, ‘Use your noggin, lad’.

“I did love a tackle. It was my game. I liked to go in strong and be physical. I was like a Stuart Pearce type of player. I based my game on being like that. I never changed for anybody. But I couldn’t get near Beckham. He was one, two touch, and every time I got near him he passed it or sprayed his balls.

“It was a good experience. But I couldn’t get near him to tackle him, so it didn’t make any difference.”

Hart captained Selby, and Scholes was his opposite number. ‘On the way out onto the pitch I said to him, ‘This is a big comedown for you, eh?’ and he just smiled at me. He was brilliant, so down to earth.”

News and Star: Hart pictured in a local newspaper with Paul Scholes before the Selby-Man Utd friendly in 1999Hart pictured in a local newspaper with Paul Scholes before the Selby-Man Utd friendly in 1999

That was a rare dance with the stars in an extended spell at Selby. Hart found it a family club where his mum would help behind the bar and his daughter was always made welcome. It became his footballing home.

“Then I snapped my cruciate, when I was about 32-33. That finished my career at Selby,” he says.

Hart planned to retire, but was later contacted by a good friend, the former Bradford City player Wayne Benn, who’d been appointed manager at Hart’s local team Hemsworth Miners Welfare.

“I’d never played for my home town club. I said, ‘Ok’, went down and felt alright. About 15 minutes into this friendly, I went into a tackle and thought. ‘Oh god, that’s it. My knee’s gone again’.

“I came off and told Benno I was done. I couldn’t keep going through this. My son was three or four at the time, and I wanted to be able to have a kick about with him, not be one of those dads who can’t.

“Anyway, it didn’t turn out to be that bad – I think it was just my reaction to being tackled and feeling that knee again.”

Hart played over-35s football next but found the standard too easy, and rejoined Hemsworth – where eventually he was invited to join the coaching set-up. After a successful period, he was invited to follow manager Benn to Ossett United, but work commitments ruled the move out.

“I ended up being assistant manager, with one of the lads who played at Hemsworth, when Benno left. We took it ‘til the end of the season. I was hoping we might get offered it permanently, but they didn’t want to. They wanted to get another manager involved, but me be on the coaching side still.

“I wasn’t bothered about that. I either wanted to be an assistant or joint assistant, didn’t want to be back a coach again, so we went our separate ways.”

News and Star: 46-year-old Andy Hart, after a long non-league career and a coaching spell, is still playing over-35s football46-year-old Andy Hart, after a long non-league career and a coaching spell, is still playing over-35s football

It was another time when Hart felt his days in football were over, only for circumstances, and the old addiction to the game, once more to pull him back.

“Our lass at the time was saying, ‘Thank God you’ve finally packed in football, we can start doing stuff on a Saturday’.

“That was just before [Covid] lockdown started [in 2020] In lockdown itself we were doing plenty of walking and I bumped into one of my old mates, who asked what I was doing football-wise. I said I’d packed in. Our lass said, ‘He’s gonna be coming shopping with me on Saturdays now’. I thought, ‘Oh, Jesus…’

“We were sat in the garden one day, and another lad who I know that runs over-35s at Hemsworth rung me and asked if I could go down and play. Our lass heard and said, ‘You’re chuffing not, we’ve got our Saturdays back’. But he asked to put her on the phone and persuaded her to agree to let me do one season.

“I’ve ended up doing two seasons since then and we’ve just got to a cup final. I’m 46 now and still love it, still get that buzz on a Saturday. Although I do think this will be my last season…”


Hart has spent the last 27 years working for Superdrug, where he is a stock controller. It is not the career he had aspired to at Carlisle but he says that, after those tough times and all that young soul-searching, he is comfortable with the direction in which fate pointed him.

“I’ve got perspective on life,” he says. “I definitely feel I’m a better man for going through those things I went through.

“I’ve got a lot of regrets, I can’t deny that. I wish I’d done things differently in certain situations. I’ve spoken to the gaffer [Wadsworth] since then and I’ve talked about that. I was a young lad, I let my emotions get the better of me a few times. But I wouldn’t change anything.

“I love my life. I wish I’d had a longer pro career, definitely, but I love my kids to bits and the way my life is. Would that have happened if things had been differently up there? It’s hard to say, isn’t it…”

News and Star: Hart is due to return to Brunton Park with many of his former 1994/5 team-mates this Sunday for a reunion game in aid of a former players' fund (photo: Stuart Roy Clarke)Hart is due to return to Brunton Park with many of his former 1994/5 team-mates this Sunday for a reunion game in aid of a former players' fund (photo: Stuart Roy Clarke)

Hart has kept in touch with one of two of his Carlisle contemporaries, such as Delap, and was touched when another, Paul Murray, invited him to last October’s 1994/5 reunion dinner at Harraby Catholic Club. An untimely Covid infection kept him from that, but he intends to be there this weekend – where a further boy of the nineties, Tony Hopper, will be remembered.

“It was a travesty what happened to Tony,” says Hart of the popular Cumbrian who died in 2018 from motor neurone disease. “He was a top lad.”

We talk again about his place on that famous team picture, each player clad in the green, red and white kit that defined the era. “I’ve still got that photo downstairs,” he says. “And I got my deckchair kit signed by all the players and gave it to Hemsworth Miners Welfare. It’s framed and up in the clubhouse.

“I was proud to be part of it, and if some people still remember me, well, that’s really nice. I honestly loved my time up there. I just wish it had lasted longer.”