This afternoon brings Rochdale to Brunton Park, the club where, almost 20 years ago, United’s boss Paul Simpson made his first steps into first-team management.
“It was brilliant for me, absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I probably hated it at times. When I look back at it, I probably took on too much. I had three young boys, I was a player-manager, my first job.
“I was doing my dissertation for my sports science degree, I had my 10k word dissertation to do, and I was in the final year of my A Licence coaching award. My head was all over the place.
“Early on in it I was good, I enjoyed the job, I had a really clear mind, I was still playing, doing what needed to be done. And then I probably, it’s fair to say, lost my way a bit.
“The FA Cup run we had was a really good experience, we made a lot of money for the club, I was proud I left them in a really good financial state.
“I probably learned a really important lesson that if directors say something to you, maybe you just have to take it with a little pinch of salt.
“It also gave me that mindset that I needed to forget about management for a little spell, then I came to Carlisle, and that little spell ended up being a lot shorter than I expected, because I was then put back into a management role.
“I definitely was better at Carlisle because of my experience at Rochdale. As much as the Rochdale fans hate me, I’m really thankful for what the club did for me.”
“Their fans certainly didn’t like me at the end, I don’t think, I have no idea, to be honest,” he continued. “I don’t lose any sleep over it. When you lose your job you’re Public Enemy Number 1 in the eyes of the supporters.
“What I would say is when I came here and we were successful and got two promotions, I didn’t do things totally different to what I did at Rochdale, I tweaked little things.
“When you become a manager you don’t get any training for it, you are literally thrown into it. I told the directors at Rochdale when they offered me the job, you do understand, I have no idea how to be a manager, I am going to make mistakes, and they said yeah, that’s fine, we’ll help you.
“And they didn’t, and I made mistakes, and ultimately I deserved to be sacked - in fact I didn’t get the sack, I got to the end of my contract, they offered me two years, they told me they wanted to appoint my assistant, which I disagreed with, they said you either let us appoint your assistant or you don’t get your two years, so I shook their hand and said goodbye.
“That was how I left. Everybody says I was sacked, but I wasn’t. My first sacking came at Preston. But I learned a hell of a lot, it was a really good experience for me. It’s something I’ll always remember.
“And the truth is I only took it because I thought I might never get another chance. I didn’t really know if I wanted to do it. After the first year I still didn’t know, but the Carlisle experience changed it.
“And other experiences you have change it. When you’re in it, you just crack on, and I’ve been really fortunate, that must have been 2002 when that job came about. To still be in it 20 years later, I just think I’m really lucky, that’s the best way to look at it.”