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A glass act, when Jimmy came to the rescue

Jimmy Glass scoring for Carlisle in 1999 against Plymouth
Carlisle vs Plymouth 1999, Jimmy Glass pictured.

“Four minutes to save 70-years of league football,” said the commentator from the gantry at Brunton Park, the home of Carlisle United, a community football club with a proud history.

It was the last day of the 1999 football season, and Carlisle were about to be relegated out of the football league for the first time since 1928. 25 years before, the club briefly led the old First Division, yet now they were about to lose their professional status. To avoid the drop, they had to beat Plymouth, yet with the clock ticking down, the score was locked at 1-1 and they needed rescuing.

Highway Thru Hell tells the story of those who rescue in dire conditions. When possible, Jamie Davis and his crew help stranded truckers in British Columbia in need of a tow. If only the then Carlisle manager Nigel Pearson could have picked up the phone and asked Jamie for a hand as the 90th minute approached.

Unfortunately for Carlisle, and while it might have felt like it, they were not playing in the rugged mountains of Northern Canada, but instead in front of thousands of diehard fan. They needed a hero, but it couldn’t come in the form of a 4x4.

In the dying moments of the game with the referee looking at his watch, Carlisle won a corner. As the crowd roared, each player looked around hoping for their moment of glory. But it wasn’t a striker who was set to cement his legacy, instead, the least likely player on the pitch stepped up the field.

Three weeks earlier, Pearson had never heard of Jimmy Glass. Indeed, only true lower league aficionados would have the slightest knowledge of the journeyman goalkeeper. After a bizarre sequence of injuries, loan recalls and last minute transfers, Carlisle found themselves goalkeeper-less with three crunch games to go. A replacement was found, Jimmy Glass, the number two at Swindon.

“Everybody in that ground thought Carlisle were about to be relegated, myself included,” said Jimmy Glass years later, but how wrong they were.

As Carlisle won the last-minute corner, Glass began the long journey up the pitch to the opposing goal. The corner came in, a Carlisle header, a save from the goalkeeper, and then the ball came down for Glass, Carlisle’s chance at redemption. Glass took it, volleying the ball past his opposite number and into the back of the net for what was the most dramatic kick in the club’s history.

Jubilation exploded around Brunton Park and, of course, a pitch invasion began. "My first thought after I scored," Glass said after the game, "was, “Oh my God, I'm about to get 2,000 people on top of me. Then someone whacked me in the face and I got a nose bleed." Glass’ goal had rescued the club, they were safe for the summer and their proud record of being in the football league was still intact.

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Incredibly, it was the last game Glass would play for the club. Worse still, he would go on to play only three more games in the football league. But, his majestic rescue mission serves as a true reminder that it only takes one second of greatness to create history.