Through the looking Glass: the hero of '99 joins suffering fans

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The Independent Football

He left his goalscoring boots at home in Bournemouth, but Jimmy Glass was back at Brunton Park yesterday for another date with Football League destiny for Carlisle United. "I just had to be here," he said. "I've followed the ups and downs of Carlisle pretty closely over the past five years. I just wanted to come up and be part of it in some way."

It was to prove a forlorn journey, but simply by taking his place among the home fans, Carlisle's saviour of 1999 lent his inspirational support to the club's vain survival cause. The half-volley he hoofed into the Waterworks End goal against Plymouth Argyle, five minutes into overtime at the end of the 1998-1999 season, made the on-loan goalkeeper such a hero in the Cumbrian city that a bronze cast of his right boot can be found on display in the museum next to Carlisle Castle.

Like Carlisle, though, Glass's own football fortunes have foundered since that memorable May day. Five years on, he is still trying to make a name for himself as a keeper of goals rather than as a scorer of them.

It was to Swindon's reserves that Glass returned after the dramatic conclusion to his loan spell at Brunton Park. He moved on to Oxford in an attempt to secure a regular first-team place between the posts, but within two-and-a-half years of that fairytale goal he had hung up his gloves and turned his back on pro football. "I got a job in information technology sales and just played on Sundays, up front," reflected the one-time Crystal Palace trainee.

"I was banging in the goals - 23 in nine games, I think it was in the end. I was always a frustrated forward, wanting to show it was easier to score goals than to save them. The first thing I did when I quit playing was to go out and prove that, but it took the fun out of it for me and I started thinking, 'Hang on a minute. I was a really good goalkeeper. I never really fulfilled my potential'. And that's the challenge for me now."

Six months ago Glass quit his job in IT, retired his goalscoring boots from the Bournemouth Sunday League and, at the age of 30, set about becoming a No 1 one all over again. He started training with AFC Bournemouth, and in March he played three games in goal for a Weymouth side managed by Steve Claridge.

"The plan all along has been to get myself fit for next season and to go on a few trials in the summer," he said.

"I'm not thinking I'm going to get into the Premiership and start playing for England, but if I can get back playing after two-and-a-half years sitting at a desk selling IT, it'll be a small achievement for me."