Huntington enjoys more success down Wembley Way


Captain, leader, legend – repeat. In a weekend filled with heart-racing drama, Paul Huntington enjoyed more EFL Play-Off success, this time with his boyhood club.

Just over eight years ago to the day, Paul Huntington played a pivotal role in Preston North End’s promotion under the Wembley arch as they demolished Swindon Town. Nearly a decade later, and he’s now leading Carlisle United to the same fate as they ran out Play-Off winners against Stockport County on penalties.

After neither side could find a winner, a score line of 1-1 led to the second Play-Off penalty shootout in consecutive days. And whilst Huntington would’ve preferred to win in similar fashion to his last visit to Wembley where he scored North End’s second on the day in a 4-0 hammering, he would’ve enjoyed the aftermath just as much.

In a squad that’s littered with passion and strong, experienced characters, Carlisle United came from behind to equalise with just minutes left to play at the home of football as Omari Patrick slotted home to send the Carlisle fans into ruptures.

It’s also a squad which Huntington’s former side, Preston know all too well. The squad contains the likes of Joe Garner – a name which will raise a smile of every Preston North End fan’s face, Jack Armer – a boyhood Preston fan and graduate of the Lilywhites’ academy, and then the manager, Paul Simpson – who previously left Carlisle to join North End back in 2004.

Speaking to Carlisle’s official website, Huntington said: “What a feeling. This is the best place to win. I’ve managed to do it here a couple of times now and I’m just trying to soak it all in.

“I’m a lot older now than when I came with Preston and I’ve just thanked the manager then for bringing me back.

“I had a quick look at the odds before the game and we weren’t really fancied, people were saying that Stockport were the favourites and that’s fine with us. But we’re in League One. We’ll enjoy this moment and the next few days and then we’ll be looking to get even better for next year.

“We’ve practised penalties for the past few weeks and to be fair, they’ve been class. Taylor’s (Charter) the hero and I’m just delighted for him, delighted for the lads and just what an occasion and what a place to do it.”

Affectionally known as ‘Hunts’ and the ‘Cumbrian Cannavaro’, the Carlisle skipper would’ve felt this promotion more than most as he lifted the trophy on the biggest stage for his local side following the penalty win.

“When I found out we was on the West side of the Stadium I must’ve text all my Preston friends and family because I’ve been on the other side and lost as a young 19 year old and now been on this side twice and won twice.

“It means a lot. Being from the city and the buzz that we’ve created as a group with the manager – this is what it’s about.”

Huntington also described an emotional moment when lifting the trophy.

“I said to Morgan (Feeney) ‘you lift it’ and he said ‘no, we’ll do it together’ which was nice. I think Coldplay was playing and I could see my daughter, so it set me off a bit so hopefully the cameras didn’t catch that.

“But it’s been a while since I’ve played in league one, 2015 for me but I think that’s where we should be. We have to tie down our better players in the summer and add to it and then we’ll go again with the right guy in charge who’s not just a top manager or coach, he’s a top person who’s loved here.”

And finally when asked what it’s like to captain the club he supports and where he’s from, the centre half couldn’t speak highly enough of the Cumbrian club.

“I can’t even put it into words. We got a ‘Cumbrians picture’ before and the amount of people I knew in the stands, I was just trying to soak it in. But seeing all those familiar faces, I just hope some of them are celebrating with us tonight because it’s going to be some party.”

Whilst there’s possibly a summer testimonial awaiting Paul Huntington back in Lancashire after reaching a decade of service for North End before moving to Carlisle, he’ll be sure to be spending a few weeks celebrating in Cumbria first. At 35 years of age, putting a bit of cramp aside, Huntington still looks like he could play for years as he headed absolutely everything away on a memorable trip to the capital.

But in two successful Wembley trips, Paul Huntington has now wrote himself into two scriptures of football history and will forever be a legend at Brunton Park.

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