Defender Derek Mountfield may only have spent a season with the Blues back in the mid-90s but that was enough to earn legend status and for the fans to really take him to their hearts as he helped the club to secure a first ever trip to Wembley and a title-winning Division Three trophy with his no-nonsense but cultured performances.
You would think that wonderful spells with Villa, Everton and Wolves would overshadow his time in Cumbria, but that’s nowhere near the case, as he fondly recalled at last Sunday’s fantastic legends event.
“I love coming back, full stop,” he said. “I just love coming back. I’ve been a few times now and being in the changing room with the boys brings back so many memories.
“Things were getting chucked around, there were laughs and jokes, and it’s just great. The boys loved it and the other good thing is that it’s all about raising money for a great cause.”
“My year here is high up there with my list of achievements,” he added. “I loved every minute. I travelled a lot from Birmingham to get here, but the group of lads were just superb.
“When you’re winning things and going on a run there’s nothing better, and that’s why it’s so enjoyable when you do come back.
“I must admit, I felt like the grandad of the group back in the day. I was the old man in there. I don’t know what it was that swung it in terms of me coming, but I think when Mick gave me a call and asked if I wanted to come for a couple of days to train, it interested me.
“I drove up on World Cup Final night, in 1994, got myself into a hotel, and by lunchtime the next day he was telling me that he wanted to sign me.
“It was one of those where as you get older you become an organiser, because of your experience, and I found that the lads around me, especially the back four with Edmo, Deano and Gally, with Caigy behind, we got a real understanding going.
“They listened to what I was saying, I encouraged them, and training was an absolute joy to come up for.
“You can never put your finger on what makes a winning team, but if we could bottle it and sell it we’d all be millionaires. We just gelled.
“You can see with this event, 20 odd years later, we still love being around each other.”
Touching more on the achievements back in the day, he told us: “Getting to Wembley for the first time in the club’s history was amazing.
“I happened to score the goal that clinched it to get us there, but to win the league at a canter – I didn’t expect to do that when I came up here.
“I wanted to do my best wherever I played, but something here just clicked, and I was really disappointed to leave the club, but that’s another story.
“Seeing so many of the group again is brilliant and fingers crossed in five or six years’ time, when we’re all well and truly retired, we’ll be the ones coming to watch another successful Carlisle team.”
When asked to compare his achievements with Carlisle with those at bigger clubs, he said: “It’s not ‘little’ Carlisle United as far as I’m concerned, it’s Carlisle United full stop.
“It’s a unique club because there’s nothing around football league wise for 60 or 70 miles, so it’s a little bit of an outcrop on its own.
“I don’t know what it is about this place, I just enjoy coming here. I still see people when I come who I haven’t seen for so long, but it’s like you’ve seen them just last week.
“But it’s the group of lads and the manager who really did it for me. Waddy saw something in me as an old man who he felt could help the youngsters, after they’d just missed out the season before, and maybe I was the missing link, I don’t know.
“To watch the progress of the likes of Dean Walling, Darren Edmondson, Tony Caig, and Paul Conway, the progress they made over that season was just fantastic.
“I can take a little bit of credit for it, but I don’t want that because I was just part of a team that came together and dominated that league for that season.
“Unfortunately it broke up too quickly, I would have loved to have stayed, but for that one season we were the best team and I really do think we could have gone on to even bigger and better things.”
“When you think back, it was almost the perfect storm,” he added. “We had Matt Jansen, Paul Murray and Rory Delap coming through, and these lads all went on to make a decent career out of it.
“Most of them went on to do really well and if I helped in any little way, that’s great. I came up here to play football, but being the person I am I was able to help the people around me.
“Funnily enough I’ve seen more of Deano recently than I did when I played with him, because we both holiday over in Spain and we’re always meeting up.
“Just to see everybody and how much they enjoy playing again - it’s hard work, some of the other team have got over 10 years on them, but what this helps us to realise is that for that one year we gave this town and this club a season to remember.
“These people in the crowd never let us forget it. That’s the really nice thing about all of this. Whenever I come back you’re made to feel so welcome, and that means the world to me.”
“The turnout for this event means so much as well and it’s raised money for the Former Players’ Fund, and let’s hope that none of us need it too quickly,” he concluded.
“I thank everybody for how they are with us and if I made that year one ounce better for them then that’s enough for me.
“I loved it, and I just wish it hadn’t ended after that one season. But that’s for us to talk about another time.
“At the moment it’s about celebrating two good teams and the fundraising. I can’t play now, I’m approaching 60 and I’ve had a new knee and an ankle fusion, so I can’t run around at all, but I wouldn’t miss this for the world.
“I’ve just seen Karl Hawley, and he was a young apprentice coming through at Walsall when I was there, and I haven’t seen him in 25 years either.
“It’s all for a great cause and I hope all of the fans enjoyed it as much as we did. And I hope they had a good laugh because there’ll be aching bodies after the game, I can tell you!”
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