It was an emotional season for Carlisle United, and few players experienced the highs and lows like Mark Gillespie.
In October he was the hero when Carlisle took Liverpool to penalties in the League Cup at Anfield, saving from Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana and winning man of the match. But in December when floods hit Carlisle, Gillespie had to be rescued from the first floor window of his house as water closed in. Gillespie was then one of the Carlisle players who led the volunteering operation to repair the damage done.
It ended up as a disappointing season for Carlisle, who finished 10th in League Two despite early hopes of promotion. But through it all Gillespie was arguably their most consistent player, impressing with his agility, reflexes and distribution.
Carlisle stand out in League Two for their willingness to get the ball down and play. Gillespie told The Independent last year that manager Keith Curle has instituted a “very strict passing game” at Brunton Park, and it shows.
Gillespie has been working very hard on his kicking and how he is one of the best keepers with his feet in the lower leagues. He achieved an 81 per cent distribution success rate last season, better even than Jon McLaughlin, who won Leauge One goalkeeper of the year after impressing in Burton Albion’s promotion campaign.
That is why Gillespie is thought to be ready for a step up into the higher divisions, and why Charlton Athletic are considering a £150,000 move for the 24-year-old. He started off at Newcastle United as a boy, he is from Throckley just outside the city, but was released at 16 for not being big enough.
His early years at Carlisle were disrupted by knee injuries, but having overcome those and established himself as a regular he is now one of the more impressive young English goalkeepers in the lower leagues.