On Sunday afternoon it wasn’t so much about the result or even the football at Brunton Park, but rather the people playing the game as a host of United legends came together to celebrate two of the club’s best and most enjoyed eras - and all with a serious edge, with all profits from a fantastic event to go to some fabulous causes.
Stars from across the ages came from as far away as Australia and Warwick Road to help to give a boost to the Former Player Fund set up recently by Colin Carter, Chris Lumsdon, Paul Murray and Derek Walsh, and the weather gave it an added thumbs up for what turned into (as expected) a competitive encounter.
The squad of 1994/95 took the Blues to Wembley for the first time in the club’s history as they romped to the Third Division title, with the 2005/06 team securing a second consecutive promotion into League One as they went to Cardiff for their League Trophy Final.
Mick Wadsworth and Paul Simpson were the respective managers, and they were in the dug-out once again as heroes like Michael Bridges, Karl Hawley, Tony Elliott, Darren Edmondson, Andy Hart, Paul Murray, Jeff Thorpe, Paul Proudlock, Richard Prokas, Gavin Skelton, Garteh McAlindon, Tony Caig, Ian Arnold, Matty Glennon, Stephane Pounewatchy, Danny Livesey, Tom Cowan, Peter Murphy, Kevin Gray, Simon Hackney, Luke Joyce, Lee Andrews, David Raven, Jeff Smith, Neil Dalton, David Wilkes, Derek Walsh, Steve Hayward and Brendan McGill.
Also there to lend their support were Derek Mountfield, Dean Walling, Billy Barr and Bushead Andy Horn, with former owner Fred Story in attendance in his once familiar seat in the directors’ box.
The game had plenty of chances, thrills and spills, and a hefty chunk of controversy when a stunner from Chris Lumsdon was ruled out following a haphazard VAR check, which resulted in the award of a penalty at the other end of the pitch.
There was little surprise when Karl Hawley finished clinically to open the scoring, a throwback to his days as a predator for the Cumbrians, but the scores were soon level when Steve Hayward slotted the aforementioned penalty into the bottom corner.
Danny Graham pounced to restore the 2005/06 lead, and Hawley added a cushion with his second of the day.
Michael Bridges brought a huge cheer from the crowd when he made it 4-1 to Simpson’s men - that was from a stunner of a free kick routine by the way - before Skip Boyd reduced the arrears with the older squad ending the day with 11 Cumbrians out on the pitch.
“It’s fantastic to see so many people come down to watch the game,” Paul Murray said. “It shows how highly these players are regarded, and we’re obviously so pleased that it helps with the great cause of being able to look after Carlisle players who might need a bit of assistance, for whatever reason, as we go on from here.
“It’s been a great day, it really has, and we’re just pleased that everybody has enjoyed themselves.”
“I had a wonderful time here, and I love coming back because the fans are always so welcoming,” defender Derek Mountfield said. “Both squads here today had good times at the club, and for us it was almost a perfect storm with the mix of youth and experience we had.
“Seeing the fans again, it really does bring back the memories, and you can tell with the number of players who come to these events that it’s a special place for all of us.
“Helping with a fund for players adds something extra to the reasons to be here, and it’s just been fantastic to see everybody and to be in that dressing room again.”
Older legends George McVitie, Tot Winstanley and Les O’Neill received an ovation during the half-time break as they presented medals to the play on the pitch youngsters.
Manchester United stopper Dean Henderson sponsored the match ball, which was taken onto the pitch by his father, and a healthy attendance of 1,389 clapped and cheered their way down memory lane as the tackles flew in and instructions were barked.
Thank you to everyone who attended – it was a superb day.
Watch the extended highlights from the game here: