On the 50th anniversary of the day Carlisle United reached the top-flight, here is the article written for the following day’s Evening News & Star by long-serving former Blues reporter and sports editor Bob Wood.


Now I have seen it all. For 28 years I have followed the fortunes of Carlisle United and have seen them through thick and thin.

I have reported United in their desperate days – I have reported them in their joy days – promotion to the Third and Second Division, relegation from the Third to the Fourth.

I have seen all their triumphs and their disappointments – those magnificent victories away back in the early 1950s – the years of Bill Shankly when United won their way to Highbury and shook the soccer world by holding the then FA Cup holders to a goalless draw.

The replay at Carlisle mattered little. The sweet wine of success had already been tasted at Highbury.

The great battle over Birmingham City when United were trailing 1-3 and then came the fantastic fightback with Alf Ackerman hammering in two goals to level the scores 3-3. Again the replay paled into insignificance for the success had already been sampled in the first encounter.

I recall the grim days of the Third Division (North) in the years immediately after the war, under the management of Ivor Broadis. And even then there was the sweet taste of success when United, after beating Runcorn and South Liverpool, went to Bramall Lane for a third round tie. Again United lost but the fact that they had got so far was the all important factor.

There was that never to be forgotten night at Brunton Park when United had to beat Mansfield Town to win the Third Division championship – what a night that was.

I thought that was the culmination of United’s greatness, but today all these successes pale into insignificance.

The agony of those 90 plus minutes waiting for the result of the Orient v Aston Villa clash – a game in which United could only stand and wait for the outcome. But what an outcome.

News and Star: Bob Wood's article on United's historic promotion in 1974Bob Wood's article on United's historic promotion in 1974 (Image: News & Star)

Words failed as I looked back on nearly 30 years of following the fortunes of Carlisle United – aye, and they stretch even farther back than that to the years between the wars.

The first match I recall seeing United involved in was in January 1927, when Carlisle, then a North Eastern Football League side, played Wolves – then a Second Division outfit – in the third round of the FA Cup.

That was the start of my lifelong interest in this little homely club. And so we come to last night, surely the greatest moment in the interest of the club.

The names of players who have played their part in building up the history of the club flood through one’s mind – men like Jimmy Dougal, Ivor Broadis, Ronnie Dellow, Keith Mitton, Reg Simpson, Reg Davies, Billie McBride, Big Bill Sweeney, Tommy Hutton, Dai Jones, Billy Hogan, the late George Dick, Norman Coupe, Alex McIntosh, Jack Lindsay, Jim MacLaren, Willie Carlin, Lloyd Iceton, Johnny Evans, Geoff Twentyman, Spud Hayton, Hughie McIlmoyle, Joe Livingstone, Allan Ross, Chris Balderstone, Hugh Neil, Terry Caldwell…

Oh, one could go on recalling names of players who graced the blue shirt of Carlisle United and who in their way brought success to the club.

Then there were the managers, Ivor Broadis, the man who went on to international honours and would have graced any world side; Bill Shankly, sitting high at the moment with Liverpool, but who started his professional playing career with Carlisle and also his managerial career.

The stories about Shanks are legendary. He will be a proud man tonight that the side he first managed has won promotion to the elite league and will be meeting him next season.

Then there was the late Fred Emery, a man who was never really given credit for what he did for the club – the man who instigated the Supporters Club and introduced floodlit football to Carlisle.

Following in his footsteps were Andy Beattie, Ivor Powell, Alan Ashman who started as a player with United and managed the side in its rise from Fourth to Second Division football – and has now achieved the ultimate in bringing that elusive First Division football to Carlisle.

News and Star: Carlisle celebrate against Aston Villa in April 1974 - the game that ultimately earned the Blues promotion to the First DivisionCarlisle celebrate against Aston Villa in April 1974 - the game that ultimately earned the Blues promotion to the First Division (Image: News & Star)

He was succeeded by Tim Ward, Ian MacFarlane, who has achieved success as chief coach of Middlesbrough, and so back to Alan Ashman.

Trainers? Well, there was George Charlton, Tommy Dawson and Dick Young, who has 19 years as United’s trainer behind him. Dick Young and I sweated it out year after year. We came to know each other very well and he is still the same bloke as when he arrived from Lincoln City, that day in July 19 years ago.

So long as you have a Dick Young in your ranks you will not go far wrong. A former player with Sheffield United and Lincoln City, Dick has brought a wealth of experience with him to the Brunton Park scene. Dick is one of the backbones of British soccer – there are few of his kind in the game today.

He is a man whose friendship I have valued over the years and though it is some years since I actually reported the affairs of United, that friendship has remained strong throughout.

This may sound like a lot of sentimentality, but that is just how one feels after all these years. For so long First Division football has been just a dream, something one would like to see but knows will never come.

That is until now. First Division football is now a reality. It has come to Carlisle at last.

To the supporters of Carlisle United I say: Show your appreciation of this team by giving them your support. Turn out in your thousands week by week and show them just how much you appreciate the effort they have put in this past season to bring that dream to reality.

Thanks, United, for the memories. May there be many more in the First Division.

That impossible dream has come true.