An alternative look at Carlisle United in 2023…


Forget your eyes-bulging, arms-outstetched, face-contorted antics after a goal. What we really want is a man from the north east telling several thousand people to sling their hooks, and by sling their hooks we mean **** off.

Enter Jon Mellish who, in perhaps the most important penalty shoot-out he’ll ever be involved in, blasted the ball into Stockport County’s net as though he was just getting some chores out of the way, and then told their supporters exactly where to go, before turning and telling them where to go again, just in case they hadn’t got the message (they had).

News and Star: Don't make me tell you again...Don't make me tell you again... (Image: Carlisle United YouTube)


There have been times in Carlisle United’s history when it felt like drinking 526 shots of Jagermeister was the only possible way to blur the edges.

Things were different when the Blues went to Rochdale in January on the crest of a League Two wave. Instead of drowning sorrows, thirsty United fans in the Cask and Feather broke a record for the number of shots bought and consumed before cheering on Simmo's high-flying heroes at Spotland. Was this a greater achievement than promotion? If you need to ask, you know.

News and Star: PeevePeeve (Image: Submitted)


Paul Simpson and Pete Wild have a combined age of 96. Both are fully grown men who are good at their jobs. All the more reason, then, to enjoy the sight of them going at it with barbs, jabs and thinly-veiled parochial schoolyard enmity.

In January, Paul felt Pete’s post-match verdict was “ridiculous” and in April ventured that there was “no love lost”. Pete responded with “facts [that] do not look great for you” and other such things. If Carlisle v Barrow isn’t a proper rivalry, nobody told these two.

News and Star: These two...These two... (Image: Ben Holmes)


Step forward Gary Rowett and a bloke commentating on the BBC at the Wimbledon tennis championships. The subject of their furrow-browed derision: a piece of multi-coloured fabric.

In 2023 Carlisle’s ‘fruit salad’ away strip achieved the dream double of selling by the shipload and annoying lots of humourless people. Rowett, then the Millwall manager, said the kit was the worst he’d seen because it had 15 colours (it has three; four at a push): exactly the number of points the Lions had gained this season before Rowett got the sack.

News and Star: The fruit salad: annoying the right people since 2023The fruit salad: annoying the right people since 2023 (Image: News & Star)


“The two legs will be two big crowds, and when we go to Wembley it’ll be even bigger…”

So said Bradford City’s Brad Halliday, before scoring an own-goal to help his side lose to Carlisle in the play-off semi-finals. The crowd at Wembley was indeed bigger, and Carlisle enjoyed it very much, thank you, Brad. Get that crystal ball in for a service, pal.

News and Star: Mind that second leg, BradMind that second leg, Brad (Image: Ben Holmes)


Carlisle United versus Stevenage is a fixture that evokes plenty of things down the years. In March, it was a fixture that evoked lots of standing around, pushing, falling and just about anything that did not involve the inflated leather sphere.

The ball, according to Paul Simpson, was in play for just 41 minutes during the 0-0 draw at Brunton Park. It presumably spent the other 49 in counselling.

News and Star: Alarming scenes as the ball is witnessed close to the pitch during Carlisle v StevenageAlarming scenes as the ball is witnessed close to the pitch during Carlisle v Stevenage (Image: Ben Holmes)


If you are a large piece of metalwork, you’re not safe. If you are an attacking midfielder who has just scored a hat-trick, be warned. If you are not even involved in the game, you're still in his sights.

For Tomas Holy, a 6ft 9in goalkeeper, is coming for you. He wants to lift you into his arms, hold you close and have a right good snuggle. There is no point in resisting. (And, after recent games, he could probably now do with a hug himself)

News and Star: Big Tomas: loves a cuddleBig Tomas: loves a cuddle (Image: Richard Parkes)


Forget your considered press conference answers, hot-tempered post-match interviews and even phrases like ‘Own the North’. Instead, let’s have some raw west Cumbrian in the sacred corridors of Wembley Stadium.

So, Taylor Charters, how would you some up the gravity, emotion and philosophical meaning of scoring the goal that has sent Carlisle United into League One at such a famous setting? “Not bad, eh.”


Although Her Majesty passed in 2022, Queen Elizabeth II still wins this one hands down. As for her successor – well...

Thanks to KC3 and his May coronation, Blues fans had to make a 660-mile round trip for a 12.30pm kick-off at Sutton in south east London on Bank Holiday Monday. Thanks, boss. William, we’re watching you.

News and Star: Carlisle fans at Sutton by 12.30pm: God Save the KingCarlisle fans at Sutton by 12.30pm: God Save the King (Image: Richard Parkes)


The EFL Trophy in its various sponsored incarnations since 2016 has been akin to a hopeful high-jumper who keeps on clipping the bar.

Would the record go one day? Finally, yes, as 716 watched Carlisle take on Harrogate – Brunton Park’s lowest-ever home attendance by quite a margin. “Rejuvenation” complete.

News and Star: The new format is intended to rejuvenate this competition (Shaun Harvey, 2016)The new format is intended to rejuvenate this competition (Shaun Harvey, 2016) (Image: Ben Holmes)


Not sodding Harrogate, at long last, thanks to that Trophy game and a 2-0 Carlisle victory which made you question everything you thought you knew about the world. Heavens, they even sold the Blues a striker before the end of the year.

Instead, the nuisance torch passed to Leyton Orient, who defeated Carlisle three times in 2023 and are just getting a little bit annoying if we’re going to be honest about it.

News and Star: Ok, Orient. You've had your fun. Now please go awayOk, Orient. You've had your fun. Now please go away (Image: Barbara Abbott)


A rather more one-sided one, this, also involving Paul Simpson and one of his former players.

Morgan Feeney, who irked Simmo with comments about “ambition” when he left Carlisle for Shrewsbury, was particularly hot-headed as he jabbed his finger at the Blues boss and mouthed some unpleasantries after United’s 2-0 win against the Shrews in September. Only one man came out smiling from that set-to. It wasn't the bloke in red.

News and Star: You come at the king, you best not miss...You come at the king, you best not miss... (Image: Barbara Abbott)


2023 has been a vintage 12 months for support both at home and away. Brunton Park crowds reached a 15-year high whilst, on the road, there were major followings pretty much everywhere, from Bradford to Wimbledon to Bolton to Wembley.

All highly impressive. Yet there was something extra noble, not to say lunatic, about the sight and sound of 556 Cumbrians at Reading on a damp Tuesday night, singing all game long in the face of a 5-1 thrashing. A salute to them all.

News and Star: Blues fans at Reading: above and beyondBlues fans at Reading: above and beyond (Image: Richard Parkes)


Sadly there’s always a prize to be given out in this category, and this year it can be bestowed on the wise owls who let off a firework in the Warwick Road End and those who damaged a flag bearing the words ‘Simmo’s Blue Army’.

Seriously, guys. Read the room.

News and Star: There are no words. Well, there are some, but we can't publish themThere are no words. Well, there are some, but we can't publish them (Image: News & Star)


The transfer of United’s debt to Edinburgh Woollen Mill to Purepay Retail Limited was described by Blues co-owner John Nixon in 2021 in the above terms, and also as “probably as good an outcome as we could have expected to see”.

Which makes you wonder about the other possible outcomes, given what happened next: rising interest, minimal communication and a costly and concerning wait until the Piataks finally swept in and sorted it out. Straightforward is one word; others are available.

News and Star: Pure and simple? Well, not really...Pure and simple? Well, not really... (Image: Richard Parkes)


At Crawley Town in February, the period from minute 15 to minute 38 brought four Carlisle goals as United galloped their way towards a 5-2 victory.

It would have made us feel sorry for the home club who had described the Blues as ‘Cumbrains’ earlier in the season, had we not been laughing so much and so incredibly, incredibly hard.

News and Star: Crawley 2, Cumbrains 5Crawley 2, Cumbrains 5 (Image: Richard Parkes)


Salford, Sutton, Bradford, Bradford and Stockport. The final sequence of games that resulted in promotion for the Blues.

How many of those five games did United win over 90 minutes? One. And frankly, as Barry Davies would have put it, who cares?

News and Star: One win in five, one promotion in oneOne win in five, one promotion in one (Image: Richard Parkes)


We used to quite like you, Elliot Watt. That lovely left foot, that goal at Mansfield...

Then you felt Jon Mellish’s palms on your chest and you went down like a character in a Tarantino shootout scene. Karma, thankfully, took only a few weeks in coming (see Celebration of the Year).

News and Star: And the Academy award goes to...And the Academy award goes to... (Image: Barbara Abbott)


In September, we were told that some Turkish people were making a bid for Carlisle. We were not told who these people were, who was representing them, or anything else for that matter, other than a headline.

Not journalism’s finest hour, particularly. And not, presumably, something that kept the Piataks awake all night.

News and Star: So long, Turkish consortium. It was nice not knowing youSo long, Turkish consortium. It was nice not knowing you (Image: PA)


Give something a fancy title and, hey presto, immediate gravitas is conferred. Such as the ‘Supercomputer’ – that data-modelling staple of quiet news days.

Full of intricate predictive calculations, all these things seem to do is forecast that teams doing well will go on to do well, and teams doing badly will continue to struggle. So, will we continue to give these 'Supercomputers' the credibility they clearly don’t deserve? If it's a slow day, absolutely yes.

News and Star: The supercomputer, possiblyThe supercomputer, possibly (Image: PA)


Tom Nield, your assistants and those in the VAR truck. Got away with one there, didn't you?

In a parallel universe, Carlisle lost May’s play-off final to Stockport 1-0 and the days and weeks after it brought recrimination and bitterness at the officials’ failure to award a penalty when Jon Mellish’s goalbound shot was stopped by a County arm. Thanks to Omari Patrick and Mr Not Bad Eh from Maryport, we don’t talk much about that now.

News and Star: All is forgiven...All is forgiven... (Image: PA)


From Charters to Simmo to Moxon to Holy to 'Own The North' and plenty else, there have been some fine displays from the Flags for United gang. But there can only be one winner...