On May 8, 1999, Carlisle United’s relatively unknown goalkeeper Jimmy Glass went from being a journeyman pro in England’s bottom league to a household name in a matter of minutes thanks to a a vital last minute intervention which is still talked about today.
1999 was a year synonymous with late goals. In the Second Division playoff final that year Paul Dickov’s injury time strike ultimately secured promotion for Manchester City at Wembley, while who could forget Olé Gunnar Solskjaer’s last ditch winner in that season’s Champions League final in Barcelona? It could be argued, however, that a goal scored for Carlisle United, on the last day of the season, by their on-loan ‘keeper, in the dying seconds of their game with Plymouth Argyle was just as important.
Under the guidance of Nigel Pearson, Carlisle, who were owned by one time Manchester United wannabe Chairman Michael Knighton, had struggled for much of the 1998/99 season and found themselves at the bottom of the game’s 92 team pyramid.
To make things worse the club were without a regular goalie with three games remaining after Richard Knight had been recalled from his loan period by Derby County and the Football League gave them permission to sign a replacement outside of the transfer window; when Glass signed on loan from Swindon nobody could have known just what an important move it would be.
On the final day of the season Carlisle’s fate was out of their hands after a midweek win for Scarborough meant that even if they beat Plymouth in their final fixture it might not be enough to keep them in the league. Unsurprisingly, there was an air of gloom around the city as Carlisle kicked-off against the Pilgrims, who themselves had little to play for with supporters eagerly keeping an ear out for developments from Scarborough.
At half-time the game remained goalless but the fact that Scarborough were drawing their fixture against Peterborough meant that, as it stood, it would be the Cumbrian side which would be relegated.
Their job was made even harder when Lee Phillips gave Plymouth the lead on 49 minutes meaning United now needed two goals while hoping that Peterborough could also do them a favour; but a David Brightwell goal drew them level after 62 minutes meaning that the most unlikely of escapes was still a possibility as the game drew to a close.
To add to the drama an extra four minutes of injury time would be played and with the final whistle having already gone at the Scarborough game, which had finished 1-1, meaning Carlisle’s task was simple – if they were to maintain their Football League status they had to score a winner.
So when the home side were awarded a corner in the dying seconds Glass took it upon himself to go up into the opposition’s penalty box. "I was always a frustrated forward. I looked over to the manager Nigel Pearson and he waved me on,” Glass would later recall.
As the kick was curled into the box Glass was nowhere near the ball as Scott Dobie headed it goalwards only to be saved by Plymouth stopper James Dungey; but he was in the right place at the right time for the rebound.
First to react he hammered the ball home to not only preserve Carlisle United’s league status but also ensure his name would be written into the footballing history books forever more. "It fell straight to me and the rest is history,” he remembers.
Pandemonium followed with Glass being mobbed by his teammates, spectators and ball boys as the realisation of the goal’s importance hit home. “My first thought was: ‘I’m about to get 2,000 people on top of me,” Glass said after the match.
Meanwhile at Scarborough, fans who had gathered on the pitch to celebrate the club’s survival, soon learnt of the incredible events which ultimately meant that it would be they who would be relegated in the most incredible of late twists.
The Times ranked Glass’ goal as the seventh most important in football history, while the boots he wore that day are now on display in the National Football Museum. Despite saving Carlisle from the drop in the most incredible way, he failed to earn a regular first-team place; enjoying brief spells with Cambridge, Oxford and Weymouth before quitting the professional game in 2004.
In the years since, Glass has found himself working as an IT salesman, driving a taxi in Dorset, a goalkeeping coach with Poole Town and more recently a Player Liaison Officer with AFC Bournemouth, but it will be that dramatic 95th minute winner for which he will always be remembered.
"I could be anywhere and be recognised now,” he says. “I have been in a theme park in America and someone has tapped me on the shoulder and said 'You are Jimmy Glass!’'