The last time I visited Brunton Park I was 14 years old. My home town team, Bishop Auckland, had reached the second round of the FA Cup, and we travelled full of optimism in expectation of a giant killing. At 0-0, with 70 minutes gone, the referee called the game off due to a waterlogged pitch with our lads on top. After three attempts at a replay were thwarted by the weather the game was moved to Workington. Carlisle won 1-0, some ignorant Carlisle supporter stole my scarf on the way back to the coach, and some of my so called mates threw lit cigarette butts into the hood of my parka coat and burnt a hole. Yes, I was a sartorial disaster, but I didn’t want to be the towering inferno.
I’m not one to hold a grudge. I’d like to say that I’m the forgiving type and that 30 years later I have nothing but affection for the good people of Carlisle and no bad feelings. I’d like to say that…….but I scoured the home support for the by now middle aged Herbert who stole my scarf and if I’d have spotted him I’d have……told Andy Tester that he’d insulted Colonel Sanders and then watched the sparks fly. But fortunately for him he stayed hidden the entire afternoon.
Our CTSA coach had a trouble free trip and we were in Carlisle just after twelve thirty. And from that time onwards, no matter how much I was determined to hate the place, we had a lovely time. Carlisle was, far from my recollection, a rather attractive city. Our visit did start in a rather surreal way, however. Chairman Paul and Matt “I dress as a clown for work” Putland had a nice browse around the M&S lingerie department, where they got in touch with their feminine side but couldn’t find anything in their size. My missus found a nice handbag she wanted, and I went to pay for it only to be asked whether I wanted a bag for it or would like to use it now. Perhaps my feminine side is rather more on display than I would like!
Upon our return to Mortuary Park, where the home supporters are housed in the Rigor Mortis Stand, we found that our drivers weren’t allowed into the match and the stewards wanted us to pay £15 to park our coach. We appealed to their better nature regarding the drivers, and they told us they had a “zero tolerance” policy. On what, we never found out. Still, at least the drum was allowed in this week. Shame Ross had too much of a hangover to play it very much. Shhh, he’s a little delicate, keep the noise down in Redhill. Carlisle supporters were very respectful too, keeping the noise to a minimum the entire afternoon. Mind you, their team gave them little to shout about.
There’s no point me pretending that the match was a classic. The weather was a schizophrenic mix of bitterly cold winds, bright sunshine and occasional rain, and the football was similarly inconsistent, with moments of great skill contrasted with some stupid mistakes and poor communication. The first half was particularly dreadful, but the second much better and illuminated by a surging run and beautiful goal from Nathan Byrne, followed by a dreadful deflection which looped Nicky Adams’ shot over the keeper for our second. Not sure on the balance of play we deserved to be two goals ahead at the end, and keeper Jones made some good saves, but the best side won and the North West is becoming our happy place. A statement I never believed I’d make after last years visit to Morecambe, which will be ingrained on my soul for the rest of time.
So, after a small altercation with a miserable steward (Johnny Vegas with a sense of humour bypass) who wanted us to leave before all of our passengers were actually on board, a happy coach full of joyous customers set off to return to the Broadfield. We hope to be home by midnight, and so long as KFC doesn’t run out of chicken this week we’ll be celebrating the entire way home. Well done to the team, and safe journey to the 144 travelling fans.
I leave you with only one regret. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any nice matching shoes to go with my new bag…….