Where Are They Now? Carlisle United 1974/75 First Division squad

by Neil Fissler

LES O’NEILL remembers fondly the goals he scored to help put Carlisle top of the First Division for the first time in their history.

After being promoted in third place behind Middlesbrough and Luton Town, the Cumbrians were expected to be cannon fodder for the best teams in the land.

It was only two years earlier that they came within a whisker of being relegated to Division Three.

But, amazingly, after the opening three games they were top after victories over Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Spurs.

O’Neill scored on the opening day at Stamford Bridge and followed it up with a double in the 2-0 win at Ayresome Park. He fondly remembers being top.

“We were always going to be one of the favourites to come back down. We went to Chelsea and nobody gave us a chance. We knew it was going to be very hard.

“We said ‘let’s enjoy it’ and that’s what we did. To be fair, we did have a bit of luck. My goal, especially, was a fluke. I made a mistake and then we held out.

“I always scored goals from midfield, but I didn’t expect to get three in two games, but you take what you can get.

“We weren’t under any illusions. We knew it wouldn’t carry on for the rest of the season and we just wanted to survive. If we finished above the relegation zone, then it was going to be a tremendous achievement.

“And, when you look at those three games overall, we deserved the results we got.

“And to be top of the table we were in dreamland.”

It didn’t last, however, and in April they were relegated, along with Chelsea and Luton Town, while Arsenal and Spurs also finished in the bottom seven.

They did take three out of four points from Derby, who ended as champions, and O’Neill is convinced they could have survived.

Defensively, they had one of the best records in the league, but it was in front of goal that really cost them as he was their second highest scorer with eight.

“We played teams off the park, but our main problem was we couldn’t convert our chances into goals. We created chances but couldn’t knock one in.

“If our games were played over 80 minutes, we would have stayed in the First Division, no problem. We had to know how to see games out, but we were naive.

“If we were winning or drawing we were still going for it, instead of saying we had both points or a point and had to see it out.

“But not us. We kept going and we got caught by a sucker punch on so many occasions. We lacked First Division experience

“The directors ran the club right and they didn’t want to put the club in jeopardy by gambling and getting a striker on big wages.

“But, at the end of the day, it backfired. As players, we would have liked to see them do that, but I understand the economics.

“I am sure if they could have found the money they would have done it.”

Carlisle watn graphic

  1. Mike McCartney: A full-back who became manager of Gretna. He worked for a Carlisle joinery firm and is now a van driver.
  2. Frank Clarke: A forward, who was one of five footballing brothers. Hsettled in Shrewsbury and spent 28 years at a sports centre in Wem before retiring.
  3. Peter McLachlan: A goalkeeper who went into engineering in Canada, before returning to Carlisle, where he became an orthotics technician.
  4. Allan Ross: The goalkeeper worked in Carlisle’s commercial department before he joined the housing department of the council until his death in November 1999, aged 57.
  5. Tom Clarke: A goalkeeper who made only a handful of appearances. He returned to his native North Ayrshire and went to work on oil rigs in the North Sea.
  6. Bobby Owen: A forward who went into the pub trade and managed a bowling club before becoming a fork lift driver for Associated Plastic in Bolton.
  7. Mike Barry: A Wales Under-23 winger, who settled in the US, where he went into coaching, before forming the Thunder Soccer Club in Columbus, Ohio.
  8. Herbert Nicholson: More than 30 years with the club, he was initially employed as a handyman and was physio until his death in 1982.
  9. Dick Young: Joined the coaching staff in 1955 and briefly managed the team after Alan Ashman’s resignation, retiring in 1982, seven years before his death, aged 80.
  10. Eddie Spearritt: A full back who settled in Brisbane and has worked in pharmaceuticals and managed a sports centre. His niece, Hannah, was in S Club 7.
  11. Dennis Martin: A winger who settled in Kettering where he worked as an area manager for Pearl Insurance before moving to Spain in 2004.
  12. Chris Balderstone: The midfielder became a cricket umpire settling in Leicestershire, but returned to Cumbria before his death in March 2000, aged 59.
  13. Alan Ashman: Went on to manage Workington and Walsall and later took coaching and scouting roles before his death in December 2002, aged 74.
  14. Joe Laidlaw: A midfielder now living in retirement in Southsea after managing a number of Non-League teams in Sussex and working as a roofer.
  15. Graham Winstanley: A central defender who settled in Carlisle, where he has had numerous, jobs including working for an electrical wholesaler.
  16. Hugh McIlmoyle: A forward who has a statue outside Brunton Park. He returned to the border country after retiring from his job as a warehouse manager for Walkers Crisps.
  17. Hugh Neil: He became chief scout after hanging up his boots until he was killed in a car crash in November 1978, aged 42.
  18. 18.Ray Train: A midfielder who coached at Walsall, became the community officer at Port Vale and had various roles at Middlesbrough, where he later became a driver for a garage.
  19. John Gorman: A full-back who is best known for being Glenn Hoddle’s side-kick and has managed Swindon Town, Wycombe and Northampton. Is now retired.
  20. Les O’Neill: A midfielder who was a milkman for 12 years. He also coached Swindon and has scouted for Blackpool, QPR, Reading and then Carlisle.
  21. Bill Green: A central defender who managed Scunthorpe and Buxton, before scouting for various clubs. Now working for Southampton for a second spell.
  22. Peter Carr: A full-back who settled in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he owned a hotel and restaurant, then drove a school bus in semi-retirement.
  23. Bobby Parker: A defender who lives in the Carlisle area, where he worked as a health and safety manager in Cavrays food processing factory.

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