INTERVIEW: I still support Carlisle United

Rory Delap on supporting Carlisle United

Former Carlisle United player Rory Delap says he still supports the club where his career began.

Delap, who announced his retirement earlier this season after a spell with League Two Burton Albion, moved to Carlisle with his family when he was a small child and attended games at Brunton Park with his father. 

“The first game I can remember going to Mally Posket was up front,” he remembers. “It must have been about 1987. I was about ten or eleven. Mally got two goals in the game and Carlisle won 2-1.”

Rory came through the Carlisle youth system in the mid 1990’s and was one of several players including Matt Jansen, Scott Dobie and Lee Peacock who went on to have successful careers higher up the football pyramid. Rory says that youth team coach Dave Wilkes, who is still at the club, deserves a lot of credit for this: “I think Dave got a good system going because we only had the school of excellence then.

“You’d go and train once every couple of weeks if you could but he got a lot of lads from around Cumbria that went onto to play for the first team. I think the scouting system that he had in place was probably better than most other clubs in the country and he managed to get in there ahead of the bigger clubs to get those lads to Carlisle.”

The famous long throw in, sometimes nicknamed the ‘Delap Special’ was also honed on the training pitch at Brunton Park: “The first time I tried it I was playing in a youth team game for Carlisle against Liverpool on the training pitch behind Brunton Park.

“The ball went out and was thrown to me and I saw Jason Prins the centre forward stood on the penalty spot. I aimed for him, he put it in and we won the game 2-1.

“From then I used it to varying degrees at every club I was at, but at Stoke if we were ever 30 yards from the penalty spot we’d use it to put as much pressure as we could on teams. The other thing that helped was that everyone in the team at that time was over six foot.

Rory made his debut for Carlisle in the 1992/93 season at the age of just 16, although it wasn’t until the 1995/96 season that he became a regular in the first team. The following year he was part of the side that won promotion to Division Two and that lifted the Football League Trophy at Wembley by beating Colchester on penalties, with Tony Caig’s heroics earning a memorable win for the Cumbrians.

Delap fondly remembers that day, as well as the searing heat that the game was played in: “It was roasting, but a great day. I’d gone down with the team two years before when they played Birmingham City and lost. I’d only gone down watch the game, I knew I wasn’t going to be involved.

“You’re never sure if you’ll get to go back there but fortunately two years later we managed to do it again. Merv named the team the night before the game so it got that out of the system, I didn’t get too much sleep that night and the next day it was boiling hot.

“To play a full 90 minutes and then extra time, I can remember being absolutely knackered but it was just such a great feeling at the end to win it.”

Of the team’s promotion that year, he still regrets that they didn’t manage to win the league: “I can remember being disappointed that we didn’t win the league although I was obviously delighted that we got promoted.

“I remember being 1-0 up at home to Fulham who’d spent a lot of money getting Chris Coleman and people like that but they managed to equalise and the game finished 1-1. That knocked our confidence a bit and we didn’t manage to win it but it was still a good season.”

Rory still follows the club now and has managed to take in a few of United’s games this season: “I don’t get to as many matches as I would like. Since I’ve stopped playing I’ve been to a couple of away games and I’ve managed to get up there twice this season to see them at Brunton Park.

“It’s one of the first results I look for, I follow all the teams I’ve played for but everywhere I go, people ask me who I support and it’s always Carlisle. They were the first team I supported as a boy, the local team to where I grew up so I’ll always have that association with the club.”

Carlisle’s star man was eventually snapped up by Derby County in February 1998 and was gutted that his last game for the club ended in defeat: “In my last game for Carlisle we got beat 4-1 by Burnley in the cup and when it all went through I was gutted that I hadn’t finished with a decent result.

Aside from Derby, Rory went on to play in the Premier League for Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke City, before finishing his career at Burton. He also won 11 caps for the Republic of Ireland. 
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