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Jimmy Glass: The Great Escape
Watch Jimmy Glass: The Great Escape on Sky Sports Football at 10pm this Friday and available On Demand
Last Updated: 04/05/19 7:32am
The story of Jimmy Glass, the goalkeeper whose last-gasp goal kept his team in the Football League, is being revisited 20 years on in a new Sky Sports documentary...
"The sheer elation is very hard to describe," says Jimmy Glass. "The moment when suddenly it goes from such sombreness, such disappointment and anguish, to elation. It's very rare that you experience that in your life. I don't think I have ever experienced that in my life.
"Football gave me a moment."
Glass made three appearances for Carlisle. Just three. But the last of those saw the on-loan goalkeeper keep the club in the Football League when he smashed the ball into the Plymouth net in the fifth minute of stoppage-time on the final day of the 1998/99 season.
Probably the greatest goal of all-time, according to the t-shirts.
"It wasn't my goal," says Glass. "It was football's goal really."
Twenty years on and football's goal is being remembered in a new Sky Sports documentary. What might seem a simple tale is actually much more. There is his serendipitous arrival, a sense of destiny, and even a narrative arc of redemption to the Jimmy Glass story.
Firstly, there was the bleak environment into which he arrived.
"We were in a difficult situation as a club," recalls Nigel Pearson, who would go on to enjoy great success at Leicester but back then was in his first managerial job. "When your only fit goalkeeper is sold, clearly that's going to have a difficult knock-on effect."
Tony Caig was sold to Blackpool and Carlisle were given special dispensation to bring in a goalkeeper on loan. Not everyone was happy about that and Glass was not Pearson's first choice either. He even made a mistake on debut in a 3-3 draw with Darlington.
By the final weekend, it was out of Carlisle's hands. They needed to better Scarborough's result against Peterborough in their game against Plymouth. The mood was not good.
"The players were under a tremendous amount of psychological stress just to go out and play," admits Pearson. Carlisle skipper David Brightwell remembers the manager letting them have a drink before the game in the hope that it would help them to stay calm. A bottle of brandy was passed around the dressing room.
In more ways than one, Glass was the man for the moment.
"During that final week, I don't think he went in goal once," says Brightwell. "He was playing right-wing, centre-forward… I don't even think he put his gloves on but he kept up the spirits. Glassy was running around like an idiot as if we were going for promotion.
"He was just the sort of person we needed really."
Pearson adds: "He is different and there's nothing wrong with being different. He came with a positive attitude. Given the circumstances we found ourselves in, that was enough."
Not that it looked like being enough.
Scarborough went behind but then equalised. More worryingly, Lee Phillips also put Plymouth ahead at Brunton Park making the other result academic until Brightwell found an equaliser from outside the box just after the hour mark. But the winner would not come.
"You could feel it in the ground," says Glass. "The desperation. The disappointment. The fans felt that was it for Carlisle."
When the game at Scarborough ended in a 1-1 draw, at least there was clarity. One goal would be enough to stay in the Football League and stadium announcer Colin Carter took it upon himself to intervene when revealing the amount of stoppage-time still to be played.
"Carlisle, we have got four minutes to save our football club," he announced.
"With that it was just like lighting a firework," he says with a smile, recalling the moment.
Nobody really knows who decided Glass should go up for the corner.
"There will be lots of different views on how it happened," says Pearson. "People from behind the goal, the fans, say they sent him up. There might be pictures of me waving him up but if you could see my face there might be a bit of resignation there as well.
"At the end of the day, nobody was going to stop him."
There were seconds to go and the referee had told Brightwell that this was the last chance of the game. Young forward Scott Dobie won the header from the corner but it was saved.
"You think the chance has gone," says Brightwell. "Then this figure in red just appears. I honestly didn't know Glassy had gone up for the corner. I thought it was a fan at first."
The ball was there. Glass was there. "There was literally nobody around me," he says.
But not for long.
There had already been a pitch invasion at Scarborough as their supporters prematurely celebrated survival but now it was Carlisle's turn. The fans were removed from the pitch just long enough to restart the game but then it was over and the celebrations could really start.
Glass got a knee to the face in the ensuing melee, drawing blood, but it was hardly going to faze him. Meanwhile, Jeff Stelling was busy incredulously revealing to the nation what had unfolded. The unknown goalkeeper on-loan from Swindon was suddenly a folk hero.
"My life certainly turned into a circus," says Glass. "Wherever I went to play they'd be shouting for me to go up for a corner. There would be interviews and newspapers wanting to talk to me wherever I went.
"On the other hand, my football career was slowly disintegrating."
Neither Pearson nor Glass were offered new contracts by chairman Michael Knighton, most famous for his abortive takeover at Manchester United a decade earlier.
For both men it was disappointing, although Glass is more philosophical about things now. "Would it have taken away from the poetry of the moment? Possibly. So in some ways he probably did me a favour."
For a long time, it did not seem that way. He bounced around from club to club but never stayed too long and his career in football soon slipped away - seemingly for good.
"As I look back, it was a sad time for me," he adds. "I just started to fall out of love with the game and gambling certainly took hold. The real world waits for no man. You need money to pay the bills and my mindset wasn't a balanced mindset.
"I was a binge gambler. It wasn't every day. But when life was difficult I would go to the casino to try to win money back. I used it as a way to hide the disappointment of not feeling confident as a goalkeeper. I would use it to hide the disappointment of losing my career."
For two-and-a-half years, Glass was a computer salesman. Then he began driving a taxi, eventually buying the company and running it himself.
Pearson followed the story from afar.
"I would imagine over the years it has been a bit of a millstone around his neck because it's the one thing that people want to talk to him about," says his old manager.
"I was very pleased to read that he has found his way back into football."
It was Eddie Howe, his old team-mate at Bournemouth, who gave Glass the opportunity to get back into the game as the Cherries' player liaison officer. He has now been doing the job for three years and has clearly made an impression on Howe all over again.
"He's such a unique guy," says the Bournemouth boss.
"I instantly realised that he was a very different character that I had known when Jimmy was a player, which to be honest he needed to be for me to want to recruit him. I take this job so seriously and I am only going to employ someone who can add to what we deliver.
"He hasn't let me down for a second."
There is one quirky aspect to Glass' interpretation of his role, however. New signings do not escape their first meeting without sitting down to watch a certain goal first.
"It is one of the initiations that we do and it happens one-on-one with Jimmy in his office where he talks them through what happened," jokes Howe.
"It's only a three-hour process," laughs Glass.
But it's a tale well worth telling.
"Of course it all goes back to the event of him scoring a goal to stay up," says Pearson. "But there's a bit more to it than that…"
Watch Jimmy Glass: The Great Escape on Sky Sports Football at 10pm on Friday