Carlisle supporters faced 780-mile round trip to Plymouth on Tuesday
20 August ~ Like any true football fan, I enjoy nothing more than an away day following my team, Carlisle United, especially under floodlights in midweek: the camaraderie, the chants, a pie and a cup of tepid tea. I’ve experienced moments that to the uninitiated would seem banal, but bring untold joy to supporters standing on a cold terrace.
We've showered Rochdale players with pies after they'd scored, gone crazy at Sunderland after equalising in the FA Cup and celebrated at Leigh RMI, where there were more away fans than home fans, on a Tuesday night in the Conference.
This sort of experience is under threat, however, because of randomised fixtures. This season, the Football League decided to send Carlisle United away to Plymouth Argyle on a Tuesday night. The reverse fixture is on New Year's Day. On the same evening Yeovil were away to York and Newport at Hartlepool.
Of course there are fans willing to go, and the crowd of just over 6,000 included 179 Carlisle supporters, some of whom made one of the longest trips in UK football to see a 4-1 defeat. The official coach left at 10am on Tuesday, embarking on the 800-mile round trip, returning at 5am the next morning.
There needs to be an intervention from the Football League to help as many fans attend games as possible. They could assist with travel costs for marathon away games (in this case Sky Bet decided to cover costs for Carlisle fans) or abandon randomised fixtures and actually coordinate them with fans in mind. In a few weekends time Carlisle are away to Hartlepool, but that is a 90-minute journey, precisely the type of away day that would be fantastic and feasible in midweek. Benjamin Spiro-Hughes