Danny Grainger with more on his 350 career milestoneAs we continued our look back at 350 career starts with Danny Grainger, we focused on his career highlights from both north and south of the border.
And, with the interest it generates within his current dressing room every time he brings it up (we’re joking Danny!), we couldn’t let the subject of his time in Scottish football pass without touching on his obvious highlight – the Scottish FA Cup final victory over Hibs in May 2012 in which he scored one of the goals in a thumping 5-1 Edinburgh derby victory.
“I get battered by the boys for talking about the Scottish Cup Final but I honestly don’t bring it up that often,” he insisted. “It was massive for me. You sit and watch those games on the TV when you’re young and think you’d love to be a part of it.
“I didn’t realise how big of a cup final it was until afterwards. To play against Hibs in the biggest Edinburgh derby of the club’s history was fantastic. To get the win and score a goal along with that was brilliant.
“From the minute we got on the bus at the hotel the streets were lined with fans. We pulled up to Hampden Park and there were thousands of supporters everywhere. We went down the runway which goes underneath the ground and there were fans above us with flares and all sorts. It was like a scene out of a movie you’d watch.
“Once we’d won the cup, the night afterwards was a quiet one - as you’d imagine - then we went to the parade on the Sunday which was out of this world. There were thousands of people lining the streets and we were there in our open top bus. It’s days like that which I’ll never forget.”
“I’d like to think I’ve kept a bit of myself up with Hearts,” he said. “They were going through a hard time when I was leaving. I sold my cup final boots and my under armour to help them. They had special writing on them in memory of my Granddad. He’d passed away just before the cup final.
“I sold them and gave the money back to the club because it was a big part of me at the time ... and it still is a big part of me. I wanted to make sure the club carried on because it’s too big to be heading in the same way as Gretna did.”
His career highlight from his time south of the border so far is also fairly easy to pin down.
“The first time I put the captain’s armband on here was crazy, because I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said. “The manager had just come into the club and I walked into the dressing room to find the armband was on my place. I told Kit Man Col he’d put it in the wrong spot, but he told me the gaffer had said I was the captain.
“We then went down to Newport and Thir [Paul Thirlwell] was back for his first game after injury, but the armband was still on my place. I remember throwing it across to Thir but he said he’d had a chat with the manager and I was now the full-time captain, so he threw it back to me. It was a dream for me to play for Carlisle, never mind captain them, and I’m proud to wear the armband in every game I get to wear it.
“I think the lads all look to me as their captain and there’s a huge sense of pride in that. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Whether that was here, or for whatever club I was at, I’ve always wanted to wear the armband.
“To do it for my hometown team brings with it an immense sense of pride both for myself and my family. It means a lot to me and I try to bring little things I’ve picked up from good captains I’ve worked under through the years. It’s nice to know the lads follow behind.”
On his relationship with Keith Curle, he said: “The manager has put a lot of faith in me. I’ve made over 100 appearances for him now and they’ve all been starts. He’s given me the armband and new contracts and hopefully I’m repaying him.
“There are a lot of lads in the dressing room who help me get through the games and I owe a lot to them as well as the manager. The thing is, I’m the type of player who feels he’s got something to prove every day.
“I go out there to prove things to myself and to my doubters - which I know I’ve got a lot of. I know I’m blessed with what I do and I work hard every day. I go home and work hard and make sure I’m ready for everything.
“I always wanted to come to Carlisle, and to England, and I wanted to be able to say I’ve played in England and pushed myself as high as I can. If we can get promoted this year it will be right up there with the cup final day for me.”
As for the 350 appearances, and his hopes for the future, he said: “It’s hard to explain how it feels to have played this many games because it’s something I could only dream of as a kid. I’m just really happy to have done it.
“I’d like to think there are plenty more games because there are a couple more markers I’d like to hit. If I can get them done before the end of my career I’ll be delighted. As for looking ahead, I’ve been doing my coaching badges, so I am looking to the future.
“However, as I keep saying, I’d like to think there are a few more seasons of playing in me yet. I wouldn’t say you were looking at a future Carlisle manager or anything like that ... I’ll leave that as it is at the moment. I enjoy coaching but I’ll concentrate on the playing side right now and we’ll see what the future holds when it comes.”