Twenty six years ago today, a man who wasn’t even expecting to be playing scored one of the most important goals in Fulham’s history.

Micky Adams had already achieved a miraculous turnaround in Fulham’s fortunes. He had steered the Whites to Division Three safety after succeeding Ian Branfoot in his first managerial job and told the press to judge him on what happened next season. Having revamped the squad, without much money via a collection of loans, free transfers and nominal transfer fees, Fulham won the eleven of their first fourteen games and the Whites were locked in a three-way title battle with Wigan Athletic and Carlisle United in early April.

Fulham, unbeaten in their last nine fixtures, travelled to Brunton Park full of confidence that they could clinch the club’s first promotion for fifteen years. They might have been without key players in the form of centre back Mark Blake, midfielder Richard Carpenter and popular forward Darren Freeman, but there was still a belief that the Whites could do something special. McAree only had his own spot in the side confirmed hours before kick off – having told his family that he was unlikely to play.

Carlisle were formidable opposition, especially at home, and went in front through a first half header from Rory Delap. Adams, angry at his side’s lack of quality in the first half, delivered a stirring half time speech and it took only six minutes for the Cottagers to equalise. McAree, found a clever short corner, crossed for Danny Cullip at the back post and top scorer Mike Conroy did the rest. Of course, the Northern Ireland midfielder’s crowning moment – still sung about with gusto today – was yet to come.

Fulham continued to ask questions and went ahead four minutes later when on-loan Christer Warren’s lay-off fell perfectly for McAree, whose magnificent half volley felt in as soon as he hit. The visitors held on despite a fierce late Carlisle onslaught and the scenes, both in the ground and on the train home, were something else. Promotion – although not confirmed because Swansea were still able to catch Adams’ men if Fulham lost all of their remaining matches – was almost a certainty. McAree, one of the game’s great characters, had written his name into Fulham folkore.

If you’d like to relieve that day and learn a bit more about what Rodney McAree’s been up to since, please do enjoy Lydia’s lovely interview with the man himself from a few years ago.