It said much about Carlisle United’s season, and the way it was saved, that Mark Howard should leave their annual awards night with more trophies than he could carry.

The experienced goalkeeper picked up five player of the season gongs to go with the one he’d already received from News & Star readers.

It turned out to be out-of-contract Howard's final involvement for the Blues, with his release confirmed by United shortly after his Instagram post this morning (below) when he said: "P45's in the post..."

News and Star:

The trophy haul was still, though, appropriate recognition for a man whose contribution could not be understated, Howard having joined as a free agent in October at a time Carlisle’s form and prospects were tanking.


Consistency and calm were in short supply. Howard brought both qualities in spades. Duly he was recognised with prizes by, in succession, supporters’ trust CUOSC, United’s supporters club London Branch, the club’s season ticket holders and his fellow players at Brunton Park.

News and Star: Coach Paul Gerrard, right, presents Howard with an awardCoach Paul Gerrard, right, presents Howard with an award

He also shared the Vesta Wealth-sponsored trophy for most man of the match awards with defender Rod McDonald.

READ MORE: Carlisle United's end-of-season awards dinner - as it happened!

It meant repeated trips to the stage at the Halston. The final time, for the players’ player award, saw coach Paul Gerrard speak glowingly about a fellow member of the keepers’ union.

"H [Howard] is the ultimate professional,” he said. “When the gaffer asked me to come in and join in and try to make a difference, [I saw] the professionalism of this guy is unbelievable. I can't tell you how much this guy is a really top professional. He deserves this award."

News and Star: Mark Howard with his trophy haulMark Howard with his trophy haul

A moment later, Dynel Simeu also spoke about how Howard had been a guiding influence to young players such as himself. The winner himself appeared taken aback by all the attention.

“"I've not had any personal accolades like this in my career,” he said. “I'm deeply honoured people have voted for me.

“I've loved playing for this team, we've had some ups and downs, but we've stuck together through thick and thin which is testament to us all as people."

The only awards Howard did not win, pretty much, were those for which he did not qualify. Such as youth team player of the season.

That one went to the 18-year-old defender who has made such as positive late breakthrough into United’s first team – Jack Ellis.

News and Star: Youth team player of the season Jack EllisYouth team player of the season Jack Ellis

He, said Under-18 boss Mark Birch, was the unanimous choice for the award of the club’s academy coaches. Ellis, he said, deserved recognition “not just for football reasons, but as an all-round person, the way he conducts himself around the club and with his education."

Ellis himself spoke of the “real honour” of making his debut for the club where he has been since he was nine or ten. All in the audience looked forward to a young career growing at Brunton Park – and also applauded the entire youth team forward to receive medals after finishing second in the league.

The London Branch ‘champagne moment’ went to Morgan Feeney, whose name appeared to be sung every five minutes by his raucous team-mates. The defender’s injury-time winner at Oldham was certainly fitting of that accolade.

“It was a bit mad - Cal swung it in, it was just there to go and head, I threw my head on it and it went in,” was the centre-half’s description of that goal at Boundary Park.

News and Star: Goal of the season winner Lewis AlessandraGoal of the season winner Lewis Alessandra

Goal of the season was subject to a vote by guests at the Halston. Joe Riley’s fizzer at Swindon came third, Feeney at Oldham was second, but the sweeping team move finished by Lewis Alessandra against Stevenage was a worthy winner.

“It was a team goal, not mine,” said the modest scorer.

Carlisle United’s Ladies team reflected on a tough season, with manager Tracy Gannon reflecting on the loss of players to injury and the need to nurture a number of young players who have stepped up.

Their star player of 2021/22 was Ciara Bland, who was described as someone who dominates the middle of the park, and whose shirt and shorts are routinely the dirtiest at the end of a game.

News and Star: Ladies' team star player Ciara Bland, centre, with Tracy Gannon and Jamie DevittLadies' team star player Ciara Bland, centre, with Tracy Gannon and Jamie Devitt

"We've had a lot of highs and lows but we're here again, we'll go again next year with the support of everyone,” she said.

Two true stalwarts of the Blues also received well-deserved recognition. Long-serving steward Ian Gray – in his 50th year at Brunton Park – received the first special award of the evening, with safety officer Tim Wordsworth saying: “If I had a hundred stewards like this man, my job would be much easier.”

Next up was Barrie Mossop, whose dedication to the Blues, both in their academy and as one of their main ballboy organisers for more than 20 years, saw him cheered to the stage for a special award.

Mossop’s “so many years of service” were hailed by Paul Simpson, who recalled the time and care Mossop showed to his son Dominic when he was a young academy player and ballboy.

News and Star: Barrie Mossop, who received a special awardBarrie Mossop, who received a special award

Simpson himself received an accolade, and there was a twinkle in the eye of host Ian Milburn when he announced there would be a “manager of the season award” and that it was a “close-run thing for third and second” (cc Chris Beech and Keith Millen) before Simpson’s wife Jacqui stepped up to accept a bottle of something bubbly on behalf of the man who has rescued his home-city club.

It was Howard, though, who left the Halston - and the club, it turns out - with the greatest appreciation and the most glassware; a man who, in different ways and at a time of acute need, also saved the Blues.

READ MORE: Carlisle United chief: decisions that saved our season 'were not welcome in some quarters'