Let’s play another game of ‘What If…?’
Because I did it last month and one person ‘clapped’ it, making it the most popular article I’ve ever done.
This time though, I’m getting a bit more local and a little further down the pyramid and a scooch back in time and a touch more subtle — What if Jimmy Glass didn’t score the goal that saved Carlisle United and sunk Scarborough?
The date: 8th May.
The Year: 1999.
The Game: Carlisle United vs. Plymouth Argyle.
Final Score: 2–1.
We saw it this way.
Level going into the final moments, The Cumbrians were on the verge of relegation to non-league football and needed a winner to stay up at the expense of Scarborough, whose fans were already on the McCain Stadium pitch celebrating their survival.
But those revelries were premature. Carlisle won a corner and sent up their on-loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass, who booted home a rebound after James Dungey had parried a Scott Dobie header.
One of those moments that you don’t believe is happening and you continue to be gobsmacked on the journey home and when you think about it for years to come.
And Scarborough were relegated to the Conference, never to return to the football league before their disollution eight years later.
But what if Jimmy Glass wasn’t there?
Graham Anthony floats in a corner, finding Scott Dobie at the near post, his flick is parried by Dungey, and… Then booted to safety by a Plymouth defender — let’s say Mick Heathcote.
The final whistle goes and Carlisle players drop, demoralised. The celebrations at the McCain continue unabated as Scarborough’s survival is confirmed.
At that point, Carlisle’s chairman was Michael Knighton, a former Manchester United director who had made Carlisle United his pet project and vowed to turn them into a force in English football. Seven years later, after initial success, there was unrest with the fans and they sat bottom of the football league. Knighton had sacked popular managers such as Mervyn Day, and had even taken up the reins himself, eventually stepping down to make way for Nigel Pearson.
There was apparently ‘no money’ for a title push, and so the fans wanted him out. Threats were made against him and his family, but it wouldn’t be until 2002 that he’d sell up.
Reminder: don’t threaten people.
That’s obviously the worrying part of that last paragraph, but in a footballing sense, the most troubling part is… Well, still the threat part actually — DON’T THREATEN PEOPLE — but let’s focus in on that ‘no money’ part.
Knighton had previously stated that profits from the 1997/1998 season (the season before Jimmy Glass) were well over a million quid, but none (or at least very little) of that had apparently been put back into the squad.
On one hand, poor show. On the other, would that have saved Carlisle United?
Relegation to the Conference would mean a lot less coin, and maybe those prior profits would have been enough to see them survive and climb back, just as they did when they found themselves in the Conference four years later.
But, as the eternal question goes, what about Scarborough?
Eight years after relegation from the football league, Scarborough were dissolved as a football club due to unpaid debts and a moronic contractual clause attached to their stadium that stated it could only be used for sporting events.
That relegation was the beginning of the end.
Finances were shaky enough already, and with the side unable to make a return to the football league, as well as owners and directors getting caught up in scandals, the money dwindled and the club went under.
And if they’d have stayed? If Jimmy Glass didn’t send ’em down?
The club was already struggling. A revolving door of managers had left a club with little identity on the pitch and though they were coming off the back of a play-off finish the season before under Mick Wadsworth, he would leave in January of 1999 with the club mired to the bottom of the table, with Colin Addison left to pick up the pieces.
And he got ’em back in the mix — it would have been a real great escape if they hadn’t encountered Jimmy Glass.
But finances would have come into play the next season. Or the next. Their then common deep run in the FA Cup wouldn’t be enough to keep saving them and administration would have caught up.
You can’t ever say for sure, and survival might have been the spark that ignited an inferno, but it seems that survival would have just been delaying the inevitable.
Another chapter in the club’s storied history before an untimely demise.
If Jimmy Glass hadn’t have scored that goal, I think we’d be right where we are today.
But we’d be robbed of that moment.
That moment that a goalkeeper signed on an emergency loan deal from Swindon playing his third and final game for the club caused an eruption the likes of which Brunton Park had never seen.
That’s what makes football beautiful. You can have Messi’s numerous golazos or Leicester defying the odds, or even Bobby Moore lifting the World Cup — give me Jimmy Glass any day.
As for Scarborough, they were hard done by. But history doesn’t die. And as Scarborough F.C. dissolved, Scarborough Athletic was born in its place. They are making their way up the divisions right now, and I hope one day soon that we get that Jimmy Glass Derby in the football league.
Sometimes this timeline is rough, but it’s the one we got.
What if Jimmy Glass hadn’t scored his goal?
Keep it streets ahead,