Club will play away from Brunton Park while damage is repaired
17 December ~ Carlisle United have been flooded out of Brunton Park for the second time in 11 years, forcing the club and their fans on an unwanted tour beginning with a “home" game at Preston on Saturday against Notts County. Following the most isolated of Football League clubs means Carlisle fans are used to travelling, so most of us have accepted this with weary resignation.
Last week’s dramatic aerial shots of the ground under several feet of water triggered a quick and generous response from within football. Blackburn and Blackpool will host games in January (against Plymouth and Yeovil respectively), Newcastle offered support and equipment, while Welling (Carlisle’s FA Cup opponents on the day the flood peaked) and last Saturday’s opponents Oxford both donated their half-time draw receipts to the local flood appeal.
The aftermath also brought the club and the local community closer together. Immediately after their win at Welling, the players made a public commitment to assist local households in their clear up operations. They honoured this two days later, clearing out houses near Brunton Park while inside the ground fans were answering the club’s own call for help in dealing with the damage.
The flood came during the club’s best spell on the pitch for several years. Keith Curle has assembled a promising team, who have remained high in the table while producing entertaining and high-scoring games. The highlight of the season so far was the League Cup tie at Anfield, in which Liverpool were taken to penalties after two hours of defiance and unity by the visitors.
The same qualities will now be required in abundance during the long rebuilding process that lies ahead for the city and county. The impact on a football club is a small part of the picture – a large area of the city is closed down, containing hundreds of houses as well as schools, businesses and many of the local sports facilities; and while the media focus has been on Carlisle, other Cumbrian towns have suffered badly too.
As the media keeps reminding us, we are hardy people in Cumbria – we need to be to live here in the first place – we’ll get through this, and we can cope with a bit more travelling to see our football team. We did the same 11 years ago, and were rewarded with success in the play-offs. History has repeated itself once with the flood – if it were to do the same with a happy ending for Carlisle’s already eventful season, it would be a small but welcome boost for a community that needs one. Paul Todd
Photo by Colin McPherson for WSC Photography