Kudos to Kavanagh. You really don't see enough grey crewcuts.

This weekend heralds the second round of the FA Cup. The cliche-mongerers would have us believe that the lower league clubs are now only one step away from a possible  ‘dream day’ at Old Trafford or Anfield. Pish and nonsense. This is a cracking tie in its own right. Nathan Critchlow assesses the teams…

The FA cup has an established history for putting the Premier League elite in uncomfortable positions against lower league opposition and, such is the varied history of these two clubs, just over ten years ago this game would have been no different.

Just before the turn of the century Carlisle were struggling at the wrong end of the football league ladder, so much so in 1999 goalkeeper Jimmy Glass immortalized himself in Cumbrian folklore when he scored a 94th minute volley on the final game of the season to preserve the teams football status – cue pitch invasion (watch the video below, it’s a magical footballing moment). Unfortunately the following seasons contained fewer heroics for Carlisle, and after several seasons of struggling the Cumbrian’s were relegated from the football league in 2004. Conversely Charlton were enjoying life at the strong end of the football ladder. Despite relegation in 1999 the board’s faith in Alan Curbishley was strongly repaid, and the club bounced back and established themselves with six long years in the English Premier League, with regular mid-table finishes the norm.

 “Jimmy Glass writes himself into the history books”

However each club fortunes from 2005 onwards could hardly be more juxtaposed. Carlisle United, under the stewardship of former Carlisle and Manchester City play Paul Simpson, bounced back from football league expulsion at the first attempt, a feat they achieved again a year later, escaping League Two at the first attempt as well. In recent times Carlisle have managed to consolidate their League One position, whilst also pleasing their fans by reaching the Football League (Johnston Paint) Trophy final on no less than three times since 2003, winning the competition in 2011. However for Charlton Athletic, after years of stability, the departure of Alan Curbishley signalled the club’s long slide down the football ladder. What ensued was a football fans nightmare with multiple relegations to League One, managerial merry-go-round, play-off heartache and constant talk about the potential sale of the club all dogging the clubs supporters.

So here we are, 2011. Carlisle, under the management of Gregg Abbott, are currently flirting with potential play-off success. Much of Carlisle recent consistency is a result of a strong blend between elder, experienced statesmen and youthful exuberance. The club has retained the services of Danny Livesey, Peter Murphy and Tony Caig who between them have nearly 800 appearances for the club, whilst they are exploiting the smouldering embers of the career of former Premier and football League player Graham Kavanagh. These wise heads have been supplemented by a range of young players and established players. Of particular note is Liam Noble, a 20 year old mid-fielder on loan from Sunderland, with a strong engine and a good eye for a pass. Such was his impact on loan in the 2010/2011 season (including Football Trophy success) it is no surprise the club moved quickly to secure him again on a six month loan deal, however clearly the player’s futures lies in much higher leagues. Moreover recent loanees such as Craig Chantler will look to follow in the footsteps of former Manchester City team mate Adam Clayton, and use the Cumbrian club to attract attention higher up the leagues.

For Charlton Athletic the appointment of popular manager, and footballing aficionado, Chris Powell has been a revelation. The club are currently top of League One and extending their lead, evidenced on Monday when they brought Huddersfield Town’s record breaking unbeaten run to a shuddering halt.  Not one to shy to the task Chris Powell quickly moved to clear out the dead wood at the club, and oversaw the departure and arrival of no less than 30 players in the summer. The club has now a strong spine of Hamer, Doherty, Jackson, Hollands and Wright-Phillips, something had greatly lacked in recent seasons. In particular the signing of Bradley Wright-Phillips has been a surprise, who having struggled to find the net regularly for his previous clubs, is justifying his price tag with several impressive displays this season, whilst netting 14 goals in 17 appearances. I watched the game between Charlton and Huddersfield on Monday. Huddersfield Town have become a very hard team to get on top of, and Lee Clarke has done a very good job, but the Addicks were very resilient, and created so many chances, honestly 2-0 wasn’t a fair reflection on their dominance.


Chris Powell. Earning his stripes at Charlton.

Neither club has a particularly impressive FA cup or giant killing record. Since appearing in the final in 1946 and winning the competition in 1947 Charlton Athletics record has left much to be desired. Furthermore Carlisle have a similarly dismal FA Cup record, with their best ever finish a quarter final place in 1975. However so far in the cup this season Carlisle United and Charlton Athletic have convincingly negotiated tricky first round ties 4-0 away at non-league sides Alfereton and FC Halifax town, whilst Carlisle will surely be looking to transfer some of grit and determination acquired through last season’s Johnston Paint Trophy success to England’s Top knock-out competition. I’m sure the Carlisle fans will fancy a cup run to supplement their steady league form, the real question will be does Chris Powell view the FA cup as a worthy money-spinner or league distraction? All factors considered if you offered either manager the chance to play at Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge or The Eithad, they’d bite your hand off.

Here are the key battles which could potentially decide the match;

Peter Murphy v Bradley Wright-Phillips

Football League Trophy hero Murphy is highly experienced, having played over 250 league games across the bottom two divisions for Carlisle, however he will need to be at this very best to halt Wright-Phillips who not only grabbed a goal and assist in the previous round but has scored 14 in 17 League One games this season.

Frank Simek v Johnnie Jackson

Despite an abundance of loan spells whilst under contract at Tottenham, Jackson found his feet at Colchester United. Jackson is now captain at Charlton and a pivotal cog in Powell’s team, and his driving runs on the flank and final ball in from the left side of midfield have caused major headaches for defenders in League One this term. That said, Simek began his footballing education at Arsenal and has some big game and higher league experience from his time at Sheffield Wednesday. They could be the deciding battle if they both get the nod.

Lee Miller v Matt Taylor

Miller was so prolific in spells with Scottish Premier League sides Aberdeen and Falkirk, form which lead to three caps for the Scottish National team. However the striker always seemed to struggle for form south of the border, until now. The striker has now scored an impressive 7 goals in 11 league games for Carlisle since joining from Middlesbrough in the summer, and will look to continue his form towards Christmas. Taylor on the other hand built up an impressive reputation in the lower leagues, in particular at Exeter, which prompted Chris Powell to splash the cash this summer. He was imperious against Huddersfield on Monday, and if he continues to show form like that Miller will find it tough.

Prediction: My head says due to Charlton’s imperious form (both home and away) they will win the game comfortably, 2-0. However some of my first football memories are of my dad taking me to Brunton Park to watch Carlisle when Manchester City played away. One of my first ever games watching Carlisle United was an FA Cup 1st round game against Lincoln City, which United won 2-1. For that reason I am going to go with my heart and say that’ll be score this time.