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INTERVIEW: We looked a very good team

The second part of our interview with Danny Livesey

16 May 2022

Having provided the ‘hero’ moment from the penalty spot in the home leg of the Conference play-off semi-final against Aldershot, it was on to Stoke and a meeting with Stevenage for Danny Livesey and the Carlisle squad, to decide who would be taking the second promotion place back into the Football League, along with Barnet, as the 2004/05 season came to an end.

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“We knew what they were, we’d had our moments with them during the league games we’d played at home and at their place,” the big defender said. “They weren’t nice with any opposition team, but that was part of how they went about things.

“They crushed your hand in the handshake before a game and there was other strange stuff like that. To be fair, it worked for them, and they were noisy up at our place when they beat us in the league.

“You tend to remember things like that, and I don’t think there was any love lost between the two sets of players, if we’re going to be honest.

“They’d done the double over us, so when Lummy kicked the ball into the air and the whistle went, that was unbelievable.

“It was my first full season of playing and it was amazing the way it had turned around from me not knowing what I would be doing to playing my part in something like that.

“You play the game for nights like that, and the relief of getting back into the league was felt by everybody. We knew what that meant to the club. There was a sense that we were back where we should be, and the pride we all felt at achieving that was special.”

And, obviously with blue tinted glasses well and truly glued to the eyes, it felt right that a squad with such talent and ability had done it at the first time of asking, as they then went on to storm their way through League Two.

“A key to that - us carrying it on at the higher level - was that we had goals from everywhere,” he explained. “We knew if we were solid, which we tended to be, we’d score.

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“I can remember going to places and having three shots on target, but we won 3-0. That’s a heck of a good thing to have as a team.

“That came down to the way we were organised and solid. From that foundation of being able to defend we had Karl Hawley, who was scoring for fun, Michael Bridges, who was magical, and the likes of Peter Murphy who liked a goal.

“And there were loads of others, me included, who would chip in. We just looked a very good League Two team.

“If we did concede it didn’t feel like the end of the world because we knew we’d get chances and we’d finish them off. Once we got on a roll after Christmas we were almost unstoppable.

“Even through that sticky spell in September and October when we lost a few on the spin, and the fans were rightly demanding more, it was a season where there were no negatives at all.

“If we lost a game it wasn’t the end of the world because we won the next one. When we got to Christmas we were chasing the likes of Northampton down, because they and other clubs were openly taking about kicking on and finishing the job off.

“That gave us extra motivation and on the coach on the way to the Northampton game all we were talking about was doing it properly. We played really well, that was day we scored some unreal goals, and we caught them all in the end.”

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That season ended with a double-header of away games, and it was a Tuesday night in Rochdale when he got himself another entry into the history book when he netted to seal the win, and the points needed to claim the title.

“The Aldershot penalty is what people always talk about, so I’d actually forgotten about the goal at Rochdale,” he said. “I tend to remember Murph’s more than mine. It’s all part of a great time when it felt like everything you touched came good.

“I feel really lucky and privileged to have been part of it with such a superb club and that some of the key moments actually happened to me or for me. It’s crazy really, I probably don’t even deserve it, but it is amazing.”

Manager Paul Simpson moved on to Preston that summer, and that brought Neil McDonald, who had coached Livesey at Bolton, into the frame.

“It would be fair to say that Neil didn’t really rate me when he came in,” he admitted. “I knew him from Bolton, he hadn’t really got what I was about there, and I don’t think that’s any big secret.

“Maybe this sounds strange but that was one of my better seasons, from February onwards, because after being a bit part player he had to play me.

“That’s how hard I had to work to get him to take me seriously, along with a bit of luck with others being injured for me to get the nod.

“One of the proudest achievements of my career, and I’m not just saying this, is that I managed to win him over, when he clearly didn’t rate me at all, to having to play me all the time.

“Look, coaching wise he was unbelievable and we were sensational in the way we played under him. We took that into the second year in League One, where I think that really paid off.

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“He didn’t get to enjoy that because he wasn’t there by then, but we definitely carried what he’d been talking to us about on to play even better football.

“There’s no doubt about it, we should have gone up into the Championship. I think we needed to win just a few of the last four games, or something ridiculous like that, but we were running on empty in the end.

“People always ask why we couldn’t get it over the line, and you hear all kinds about that, but we had a little squad and it ended up being a bridge too far for us.

“It was disappointing not to go up, but with some of the clubs and the size of squads we were up against we actually did ok. That season was probably the best I’ve seen us play football wise.

“When it comes to why - I honestly think it was just too much in the end. I remember beating Forest at our place and we were thinking that was them done, we’d got enough of a gap, but they signed two or three more players and they went on a run.

“Swansea and Leeds threw money at it, and there were so many others doing the same, putting money in to try and get there, and that made it so much more difficult. We simply ran out of steam.”

A stunning away performance in the play-off first leg at Leeds provided a slap to the face in the hundredth minute of time added (ok, it was the eighth - but even then, why and how!) when they netted to reduce the two-goal deficit to just one, and that was followed by the ultimate disappointment of defeat at home, with the promotion dream cruelly ripped from our grasp.

“It was so disappointing in the dressing room after that Leeds home game because we knew how close we’d come,” he revealed. “At their place they’d scored well into time added on and you felt the tide turn against us at that point.

“It was a heck of a feeling of deflation because we all felt we deserved to go up. We’d played so well, so when you’re sitting there after the game you start to wonder if the opportunity will ever come again.

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“Staying up there in that league at that time, with so many clubs who were splashing the money about, was really tough. We’d given ourselves a massive chance to go even further and it felt like we’d wasted it.

“Going on from there into the seasons that followed in League One, we still weren’t a bad side. But it was more like we were plodding along rather than ever really getting into the promotion hunt.

“We knew the money wasn’t there to compete with the massive clubs, but we always felt we were good for a play-off place.”

With all the excitement of back-to-back promotions and the battle to reach the Championship the one thing missing was a Wembley appearance, but injury dealt another cruel blow in the lead-up to the Southampton Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

“At home to Yeovil two weeks before that game I pulled something, and I thought I was done.” he told us.

“I wanted to play so much that I tried to train that Friday at Watford, with it feeling better. The final was on the Sunday so the plan was that I’d get through that and be available.

“When I went down during the session I was annoyed, because I knew I had no chance. I remember thumping the floor and feeling so frustrated.

“I’d played all season and that happened, and I couldn’t believe I was missing out on my one chance to play at Wembley.

“That year was my hardest watch, to see the lads out there and knowing I would have been part of it if I’d been fit

“I was on the bench the second year, so I never actually got to play at Wembley. That first year was the one where I would have been part of the team, so that will always be horrible to look back at, and it’s fair to say it’s one of the lowest points of my career.”

Coming the following year was another injury of the kind rarely seen, particularly from a non-contact situation.

“I reached for a ball when we were playing head tennis and I thought, hang on, that’s a bit painful,” he told us. “When I woke up the next morning everywhere was bruised and my leg had swollen up.

“When I went to see the surgeon he told me it was the single worst trauma he’d seen from a sporting injury from a situation that had been so innocent.

“It took a while to settle, and every time I tried to come back to full training and playing it just didn’t feel right. It really did take a while to get over that one.”

His departure from the club in the summer of 2014 came about in a strange manner, to say the least, with him reading on the website that a contract offer hadn’t been made.

“It was disappointing to leave, the way it happened is just what it was, but the biggest disappointment was that I was going without having offered more to the club,” he commented. “I’d seen us go down and I’d rather have been part of the team while it was happening, and giving everything I could to prevent it.

“I can’t even remember playing that many games at all that year, and it was really frustrating. That was my club, my team, the place I loved, and I wanted to do my bit.

“I was absolutely gutted when Wolves sent us down at the end, but I think the damage was done long before then.

“That’s a real low point. We were a good League One side and nobody wants to see something like that happen.”

His departure brought spells with Barrow, Salford and Chester, with his time in the South Lakes bringing more success his way.

“Each club you play for is slightly different,” he told us. “I enjoyed my time with Barrow, they were giving it a go, and once you leave a club it’s about doing everything you can for your next one.

“We won the league in that first year and on a personal level you’re off and running when things like that happen.

“With Chester and Salford it was also brilliant. Obviously teaming up with Si Grand, on and off the pitch, that’s just brilliant.

“As defenders we complemented each other for whatever reason. We get on really well and whatever happens we’ve had a great time on the pitch together.

“We’ve spent close to 20 years laughing at each other over stupid stuff and it feels like we’ve never really grown up when we’re together.

“He’s a great lad, he can’t do enough for anyone, and I think he’ll still be playing when he’s 50 years old. I think the way we work with others has been good as well.

“The young lads at Chester have all texted me and said thanks for the help, and I’ve had messages from the academy manager thanking me for the way I’ve been with his players.

“When you step up to work with the first team you want somebody to help you feel that you belong, exactly as it was for me when I came to Carlisle all those years ago.

“That’s where me and Grandy tried to step in, with guiding and helping people along the way. We had a couple of young centre halves we tried to help, and I think they’re going to be really good.”

“I’ve got a job at a school now, and I’m looking forward to really throwing myself into that,” he concluded. “I’ll be as dedicated as I was in my playing career.

“As for Carlisle, everything about the club is just class. The fans are so loyal if they feel you’ve done your bit for them, and you’re always made to feel welcome.

“We’ve lived up there, we’ve embraced the whole place, and it’s overwhelming to receive so many nice messages.

“I can’t thank the fans and people there enough for the support they showed me through all my time there.”


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