The memories will come flooding back for Paul Simpson when he takes Carlisle United to Blackpool – although not necessarily of the stadium.

Bloomfield Road, Saturday’s venue for the Blues, is a much more modern place than when Simmo played for the Seasiders in a two-year spell from 2000 to 2002.

Simpson says his time with this weekend’s opponents was a memorable period in his playing career.

But he says the ground itself was not the greatest selling point for Blackpool two decades ago...

“It was the worst ground ever!” he said.

“I remember Steve McMahon [then Blackpool manager] rang me on the Thursday, when I was driving back from Wolverhampton after cancelling my contract.

“I said I would come up and meet him tomorrow. He said, ‘No, don’t do that, just sign your paperwork remotely and come in on non-contract, because I don’t want you to see the stadium before you sign’.

“I said ‘Why’s that?’ He said, ‘You won’t sign. If you see this stadium you won’t sign’.

News and Star: Bloomfield Road was undergoing big change during Simpson's time at Blackpool from 2000 to 2002Bloomfield Road was undergoing big change during Simpson's time at Blackpool from 2000 to 2002 (Image: PA)

“When I turned up for the game – I literally went in and made my debut on the Saturday – the stadium was horrendous.

“But I look at it now and it is a brilliant stadium – really nice, the way they’ve done it. I used to do a lot of the radio commentary when they were in the Premier League so I’ve seen it develop over the years.

“It’s [also] a different place now to the bad feeling that was in and around it when the Oystons [were in charge], towards the end….

“It’s a good place to be, a good football club. But this weekend is about making it a good football place for us and not for Blackpool.”

Simpson credits Blackpool with reviving his career at a point it appeared to be on the wane.

He went on to have some great times with the Tangerines, including a play-off final victory in which he scored (watch below), and a second appearance at the Millennium Stadium in an LDV Vans Trophy final success.

News and Star: Paul Simpson scores for Blackpool against Leyton Orient in the 2001 play-off final in CardiffPaul Simpson scores for Blackpool against Leyton Orient in the 2001 play-off final in Cardiff (Image: Rob Lock)

“I loved it there. It was a great time,” he said.

“I was actually very close to retiring, I’d made the decision to terminate my contract at Wolves and give up, and Steve McMahon rung and said, ‘Just come and give it a go’.

“With the way he looked after me, and my football was good, I ended up playing 55 games that season when I was going to retire, and scored a lot of goals. And we got to the play-off final.”

Simpson etched his name into Blackpool history with their third goal in the Division Three play-off final against Leyton Orient, a game they went on to win 4-2.

The following season they made it back to the Cardiff stadium, Simpson this time a substitute in a 4-1 win over Cambridge United to lift the LDV Vans Trophy.

“My second year…that was probably a sign I probably wasn’t going to be good enough for League One, my legs were starting to go, and I got a move to Rochdale,” he said.

News and Star: Simpson takes on Carlisle United with Blackpool in 2000Simpson takes on Carlisle United with Blackpool in 2000 (Image: Rob Lock)

“But it was a brilliant experience at Blackpool. The fans really took to me there and we had a real successful [first] year.

“The following year we got to the Football League Trophy final where I came on as a sub, but I knew I was already leaving to go to Rochdale then. So I literally played in that game, shook everybody’s hands on the coach and went to Rochdale the next day.

“But it was an absolutely brilliant time. We had a good group of players there, with people like Brett Ormerod and John Murphy up front, and Martin Bullock, John Hills, Tommy Jaszczun…we had some really good footballers, a real good group.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I always enjoy going back there, I always get a good reception. I just hope we’re disappointing them this weekend.”