The Chairboys make their longest journey of the season this weekend when they travel to the Border City to face Carlisle United at Brunton Park. Those hardy / loyal / mental enough to hit the road from High Wycombe, as well as the Northern-based Wanderers, will be greeted with freezing temperatures and quite possibly snow.
It is one of those games where you hope that the players turn up and put in a performance for the away fans but reading Len`s Vital preview highlights the fact that our last three victories in League One this season have been followed by three successive defeats. Can they end that dismal sequence this weekend? This is the point where the optimists and pessimists take arms.
Battles have played a significant role in the history of the City of Carlisle. The Carvetti tribe of Brythonic Celts are first recorded inhabitants of the area and it soon became one of the strongest British towns with castles being built before the arrival of the Romans in 73AD. They built a fort where the current Carlisle Castle now stands, which is where the River Caldew meets the Eden.
When Emperor Hadrian arrived in 122AD he built his famous wall with the Scottish border just ten miles north of the City. It is the largest settlement in the county of Cumbria and due to its location it has been an important military stronghold. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the Castle and it was captured during the Jacobite rising of 1745 by Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army.
It became a centre for textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution and an important railway town. Today it still plays a significant role with Border TV, BBC Radio Cumbria and the University of Cumbria all based there. The Olympic torch will be paraded in the City on its way down to the opening ceremony in East London.
Author Hunter Davies was brought up in the City whilst Richard Madeley of Richard and Judy fame spent time working there. Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett was born there as was England cricketer Paul Nixon and current Norwich City striker Grant Holt.
Carlisle United was formed in May 1904 during the AGM of Shaddongate United F.C. The members voted to change their name and joined the Lancashire Combination the following year, although they had to agree to pay the travelling expenses for visiting teams over the next two seasons. Four years later they decided to join the North Eastern League instead.
They also moved to Brunton Park in 1909 having previously played at two different grounds; Milhome Bank and Devonshire Park. They are another club that wishes to move from their atmospheric and characterful home into a soul-less identikit 12,000 all-seater stadium in the near future. The Cumbrians were elected to the Football League (Division Three North) in 1928, replacing Durham City.
They won the old Division Three in 1965 but one of their most memorable achievements was in 1999 when they pulled off a great escape to avoid relegation from the Football League. They needed to beat Plymouth Argyle at home but were drawing 1-1 deep into injury-time when loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored following a corner. In the ensuing celebrations Wanderers’ refereeing nemesis Fraser Stretton was bundled over by supporters.
They have also become Champions of the fourth tier twice, with the Wanderers playing a part on both occasions. More of that later. Despite being almost 300 miles apart there have been a few players (and manager) to have represented both clubs. They are John Gorman, Martin Taylor, Richard Keogh, Stephen O`Halloran, Tony Hemmings, Mo Harkin, Stuart Green, John Sutton and Magno Vieira.
There have been six previous meetings between the sides at Brunton Park and we cannot be split, with two wins apiece and two draws. Both sides have even scored seven goals each. Of course the first ever meeting was an historic and emotional occasion as Wycombe Wanderers played their first ever Football League match back on Saturday 14th August 1993.
The excitement that preceded that game is difficult to put into words but close to 2,000 Chairboys (and girls) made the trip up the M6 to see their heroes in action. The pace of the game in the opening twenty minutes was certainly an eye-opener and the hosts were soon in front. Three minutes before the break however defender Chris Curran kindly headed into his own net to give the Wanderers their first ever League goal.
Steve Guppy sent the away fans into ecstasy when he bundled the ball home at the far post to put the visitors in front. Sadly the fairytale wasn`t to happen with Curran equalising six minutes later to make up for his earlier indiscretion and the game ended all-square at 2-2.
Nine months later and the two sides faced up to each other in a play-off semi-final first leg. The Wanderers had reversed into the play-offs whilst Carlisle had gone on a storming run to snatch the last place on the final day of the regular season. Almost 11,000 fans were there but unlike the previous encounter the atmosphere was hostile and nasty with the local hooligan element out in force.
They came in expectation of rolling over the visitors but Martin O`Neill`s team was ready and took the lead eight minutes before half-time through midfielder Steve Thompson. A combination of good defending and poor finishing from their opponents kept the Wanderers in front and Simon Garner raced away to fire past goalkeeper Tony Caig to make it 2-0 with just four minutes remaining.
The locals weren`t happy and fought amongst themselves before invading the pitch. The away fans were also targeted after the final whistle with many lucky to avoid a kicking. The second leg at Adams Park also saw a pitch invasion with the hosts wrapping up a 4-1 aggregate victory before beating Preston North End in the final at Wembley. Carlisle meanwhile went on to the win the title the following season.
Their promotion meant the two sides met again in November 1995 with the Wanderers under the stewardship of Alan Smith. It was around this time that the iceberg had been struck and the lifeboats needed deploying. The game was played on a Sunday afternoon as Border TV had chosen to show the game live. The home fans certainly enjoyed it as they recorded a comfortable 4-2 victory.
Despite Dave Carroll notching a brace it rather flattered the visitors who were in a sorry state under Smith. The game itself will be remembered as the last ever game goalkeeper Paul Hyde played for the club. He had become involved in a contract dispute over the disparity in wages between the old players and those recently signed by Smith (Jason Rowbotham, David Farrell, and John Williams). He soon left to join O`Neill at Leicester City.
Carlisle were relegated at the end of the season but bounced straight back and the two sides renewed acquaintances in January 1998. The hosts were led at the time by current Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson and had defender Rory Delap and striker Matt Jansen. Defender Alan Beeton was rather fortunate not to see red after “doing” the latter and his substitution allowed the visitors to sneak a point in a goal-less draw. It was a typically gritty away display from the side under John Gregory.
Carlisle were relegation again at the end of the season and it wouldn`t be for another six years until the two sides would meet again. In came in November 2005 with the two sides fighting it out at the top of League Two under Paul Simpson and John Gorman respectively. The visitors had to withstand plenty of pressure at Brunton Park before nicking the three points four minutes from time when defender Roger Johnson found the net from close-range.
Sadly tragedy was to hit the club less than two months later with the passing of Mark Philo and soon afterwards John Gorman lost his wife Myra. Quite understandably results on the pitch soon deteriorated and the Wanderers eventually finished in 6th place in the table whilst Cumbrians went on to become League Two Champions. The last meeting between the sides in the Border City came almost exactly two years to the day.
It was one that won`t live long in the memory as striker Vincent Péricard`s goal proved to be enough to give the hosts a 1-0 victory over Gary Waddock`s struggling side. A goal-less draw in the return fixture at Adams Park in March was even worse with almost nothing happening in the most tedious 90 minutes of football you`ll ever be likely to endure. Yet if that were to be repeated tomorrow, I think most Wanderers fans would be grateful for the point.
“All that`s left are memories”