Phil Jones, Carlisle United Supporter who lives in New Zealand and has his Face In The Crowd at Brunton Park, spoke to us recently about his journey following The Blues.
CUOSC: Tell us a little about yourself?
Phil: Some people might remember me from the mid-90’s when I created the first online presence for following the Blues, setting up the first web pages and internet mailing list at the start of 1995.
Born and bred in Carlisle in the 70s, I moved over to New Zealand in 2000 and have been based here ever since. I’m probably Carlisle’s most distant fan being around 11,500 miles from Brunton Park, or around 36 hours travel time. Following Carlisle Utd from this far away has always had its challenges. The main headache being the Saturday afternoon games are played in the middle of the night here, so the routine on Sunday morning is to follow the game via the clubs twitter feed avoiding finding out the score beforehand.
I also follow the local team here called the Wellington Phoenix who play in the Australian A-League. This has meant seeing some ex Blues from time to time. For example, last season we had a game where the Phoenix were up against a defence of Tom Aldred, Macaulay Gillesphey and Max Crocombe. I’ve also seen Michael Bridges play a few times over here as he’s still based out in Australia working in the media there. The other notable link is that about 2km down the road from me there is a team called North Wellington who are managed by none other than Magno Viera!
CUOSC: How long have you been supporting the Blues and how do you follow them from so far away?
Phil: I attended my first match on 19 Nov 1983 as Carlisle entertained Man City at Brunton Park for one of my school friend’s 10th birthday party. That was quite a buzz as we beat them 2-0. It was a couple of years later that I started going regularly towards the end of the 80s taking in the FA Cup 3rd round game against the great Liverpool team in 1989. From there I attended virtually all home games until I headed off to University down in Birmingham. I had been to a few away games during this time but not too many. It wasn’t until I went to University that I started attending more away games than home games because of my location. Over the next 8 years I took in all the great away corners of the map with trips to delights such as Torquay, Exeter, Colchester, Brighton, Southend as well some of the bigger games of the era heading off to Spurs, Sunderland (when they were in the top flight) and of course the 2 trips to Wembley for the Birmingham and Colchester games.
Now living in New Zealand, it is much harder to get to the actual games but iFollow and Radio Cumbria are pretty impressive nowadays so can watch all the games live. Unfortunately, 3pm on a Saturday is between 2am – 4am here so it is mainly the mid-week games that I can watch live. Whenever I’m back in the UK I always make sure I take in a game or two. My last game attended was Oldham away in 2018 where we won 3-1.
CUOSC: Who’s your favourite all time CUFC player?
Phil: So many favourite players over the years such as Brent Hetherington, Nigel Saddington, Keith Walwyn, Paul Proudlock, Rod Thomas, Dean Walling, Paul Conway, David Reeves, Steve Hayward, Matt Jansen, Michael Bridges, Ian Harte, Peter Murphy & Danny Grainger. I think out of all these players my favourite would be Paul Proudlock just pipping Rod Thomas… both really creative, skilful players who had the ability to breeze past the defenders and create chances for the forwards.
CUOSC: Who is your favourite player in this current squad?
Phil: Continuing the theme of a creative wide man, my favourite current player is probably Gime Toure. He is a raw diamond at the moment but has showed great promise in the early stages of the season. With a bit of guidance and more league experience under his belt he could turn into a massive asset for us this season. Also, very keen to see how many Jon Mellish bangs in this season after his blistering start.
CUOSC: Where do you think we could finish this season?
Phil: I wasn’t sure at the start of the season about how we’d perform with so many new players but things have started really well, so I reckon we can make the play offs this season. At time of writing it is only Newport who are dominating the league, so there’s no reason why, with a bit of luck, that we couldn’t even sneak into the top 3.
CUOSC: What do you think of the idea of the FITC image?
Phil: I think it is a great idea to help raise money for the club as well as giving the team some support within the stadium. Having seen some of the footage they look really good and gives some sense of atmosphere within the ground. Hopefully, with crowds beginning to return in December, we will see the fans back on the terraces cheering the team on and maintaining their great start to the season.
CUOSC: Do you have any ideas you think we could do as a supporters’ club and club to help raise funds for the club going forward?
Phil: It is very tough at the moment with not a lot of money going around both inside and outside of the club. The club needs as much money as it can get to keep going until some sort of normality resumes. The challenge is to raise money without having to outlay large costs to do so. Some examples could be for the club to sell or raffle off club experiences to supporters such as ground tours and meet the team at training during the school holidays for kids, or train with the first team or executive match day experiences. Obviously, these require COVID to be sorted so can’t be done just yet, but other things that could be offered are supporter’s packages that are linked to the club’s sponsors. So you could pay, say, 25 quid and get a club scarf or hat or signed team poster plus a series of vouchers for club sponsors that would in retail terms equate to something way more than 25 quid. If the sponsors vouchers are pitched correctly to appeal to fans, then both the club and its sponsors would benefit as a result.
CUOSC: Do you have any other photos of you we could use?
Phil: Enclosed is a photo of me wearing a signed shirt that I was lucky enough to catch after Steve Hayward had thrown it into the crowd after we won the 3rd division championship at Colchester back in 1995. I also own a personalised car number plate with CUFC on it, which I’m standing next to in the photo.
CUOSC: Thanks Phil, Happy Christmas & Keep supporting the Blues from New Zealand!
Don’t forget Carlisle United Supporters, Face In The Crowd makes a great Christmas present for friends and family who support or have supported Carlisle United – deadline for FITC for Christmas is 10am on 17th December. Boards will be installed in time for the home game versus Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day (26th December)