Arsenal and England via Stevenage and Biggleswade Town: Carlisle-mad acclaimed sports snapper Martyn Haworth on Michael Knighton, Jimmy Glass, the art of photography and the Emirates ahead of his wedding
PUBLISHED: 15:33 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:44 28 September 2018
CometSport’s excellent freelance snapper Martyn Haworth is getting married at the weekend to award-winning journalist and broadcaster Becca Burrows. Read on for Layth Yousif’s special feature on our popular photographer who is a rising star in the tough trade of sports pictures.
Martyn, 33, has had a meteoric ascent in the world of sports images over the last season, rising from shooting at non-league level to working for a top level picture agency.
This season the talented Cumbrian has already covered England at Wembley and Arsenal at the Emirates in the Europa League - not to mention Stevenage games at the Lamex and on the road from Forest Green Rovers to Norwich City.
Ironically Boro are playing Carlisle, his hometown team, on Saturday at Brunton Park, and he could have covered the match for us – if he wasn’t getting spliced 300 miles south near to kick-off.
As well as being an extremely accomplished photographer with a keen eye - as you can see from a selection of his stunning photos on this story - Martyn is a huge Carlisle fan.
When he was younger he didn’t miss a home game for seven seasons.
The passionate United supporter started following his team away from home from the age of 10 onwards and for a few years didn’t miss a single game home or away, racking up an incredible 35,000 miles a season on the road following his team.
As every football fan, whatever their allegiance, knows all-too-well, loyal Martyn has suffered with his team.
As those who know their football will attest, the hardy Cumbrians have suffered more than most.
With Michael Knighton in charge of the club in the mid 90s they had their fair share of drama.
Knighton, who originally gained notoriety by running out onto the pitch kicking footballs into a bemused Stretford End before kick-off at Manchester United v Arsenal in August 1989, became chairman of Carlisle after his bid to buy the Red Devils fell through.
“That year  we won the division and got to Wembley. The whole city was booming. Everyone was behind the team.
“We played Birmingham City at Wembley in front of 78,000. Barry Fry was their manager. We got beat 1-0. It was the first-ever golden goal.
“I didn’t go to that game. My sister and my dad went. It got to the day of the match and I suddenly felt like I was massively missing out. My dad got back from the game that night and I told him I was gutted I didn’t go.
“To be fair he had asked me a few times but I wasn’t interested. That was on the Sunday. The next Saturday we were away at Colchester and he took me down from Carlisle to the game. And from that moment onwards I was hooked.
“There were three away games left that season including Chesterfield and I went to them all. I’d got the bug and it went from there.
“I remember the year Jimmy Glass kept us up. We had Scunthorpe away in the Autoglass Trophy. The first match at their ground got called off five minutes before kick-off due to a waterlogged pitch.
“The second game got abandoned during the match due to bad weather. The third game was eventually played. I went to all three…” he adds with a rueful shake of the head.
He moved away from the area 15 years ago for work but when people ask him where he’s from he still says Carlisle.
He explains: “The best bit about supporting Carlisle and being from there - even though I’ve moved away down south - is that because of the isolation of the place, you’ve got a real sense of identity.
“Growing up there you’re not in anyone else’s shadow. The town is all that you know and I think that gives you a pride in where you’re from.
“I was at a 30th birthday party the other day and I met a few people on the night who said they know someone from Carlisle who talks about the place with the same sense of pride as I do.”
Carlisle have had a chequered history. They spent a single season in the top flight in the mid-1970s but have also been relegated from league football.
However, their fans are some of the most passionate and committed in the country, not least because of their isolation, meaning long journeys every other week up and down the land.
As such a loyal fan Martyn has had his fair share of moments, good and bad.
He recalls: “We got relegated to non-league in 2004. That’s the lowest point but actually in the second part of the season we played really well.
“We were dead and buried by Christmas. We had five points. We were 16 points adrift. Then Paul Simpson took over who’s now the England U20 manager.
“We went on a brilliant run afterwards. We went out of the league despite having the second best form in the division so in a way we went down on a high.
“For me personally the lowest point was when we got relegated from League One to League Two a few years ago.”
It was a particularly traumatic season for the Cumbrians. They fielded more than 50 players, most of which were on-loan youngsters. United only had a scattering of players contracted to the club with the remainder being a raft of loanees coming and going,
He remembers sadly: “There were so many loanees with no real connection to the town or the club. They were just passing through and the team had no identity.
“Every month had a turnover of month-to-month loan signings. It was like watching a Premier League reserve team that changed every week. It was so disappointing to see such a lack of identity.
“When your club’s playing badly but everyone’s in it together and you’re going down fighting is easier to take - that season was the complete opposite.
“We just wilted away. There was nothing you could get behind.
“It was a case of ‘these guys don’t care. They’re only here for a month then they’ll disappear.”
His lowest point was a game in East London against Orient. He adds: “I remember being at Orient in the January of that year. I know it was because we’d just played Sunderland in the cup.
“Orient beat us 4-0. We were terrible. We’d not had a shot on goal all game. We had about five loan players that day. They came over at the end to clap us away fans and I’ll never forget just staring numbly at them, thinking ‘what’s the point’.
“You still carry on though, that’s what you do as a fan. But that was a particular low point. “
As a Carlisle-mad youngster Martyn plastered his bedroom walls with newspaper cuttings, posters and scarves.
All the paraphernalia is now in his mum’s loft but one particular match stands out above all others - as it does to the majority of United fans: the ‘Jimmy Glass match’.
Next May will mark 20 years since goalkeeper Glass secured Carlisle’s Football League status with a last-minute winner against Plymouth Argyle on the final day of the 1998-99 season
Every Carlisle fan on the planet recalls where they were for that fateful moment.
Martyn, who was at the match of course, recalls that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon.
“Knighton was at the stage when he simply wasn’t interested in the club anymore,” he says.
“I am certain that had we gone down the club that day it would have ceased to exist. It would have been boarded up and closed down.
“It was essential we won. We were bottom of the league. Scarborough were above us by a point. They drew at home to Peterborough so got a point to leave us needing all three.
“I remember I always stood on the same spot in front of a barrier in the home end. It was the 94th/95th minute. The bloke on the PA, a guy called Colin Carter was screaming over the tannoy telling people to get behind the team.”
What happened next will live on in Carlisle – and football folklore – for as long as the game is played.
Glass, on loan from Swindon Town fired home the winner in a crowded box which saved United from relegation.
Martyn believes that late goal from such an improbable source also helped keep Carlisle in existence.
He says: “I remember Scot Dobie heading it on goal. It got saved and fell into a melee of players. I saw someone smash the ball into the net.
“All hell broke loose. Everyone went mental. There was a pitch invasion. At that point I didn’t know who’d scored. I didn’t know it was Jimmy. About a minute after my dad told me. He was stood about ten metres away from me in the Warwick Road end.
“He came running over to me and started shaking me, shouting ‘It was Jimmy Glass, it was Jimmy Glass.’
“I was actually shaking with adrenaline. You just can’t compare it to anything else.
“I’ve done sky diving and bungee jumping but nothing will ever compare to that moment for the buzz,” before adding: “There’s nothing like scoring a last minute winner. Certainly when it keeps you in the league and saves your club from going out of business.”
Unfortunately Glass’s life spiralled out of control and he subsequently suffered from depression. After having the spotlight on him he struggled to get work and fell out of professional football to become a taxi driver.
Curiously Martyn has met Jimmy a couple of times since that iconic moment.
In 2012, Martyn was working down in deepest Dorset in a place called Wimborne Minster.
He takes up the story: “I knew Jimmy owned a taxi.
“I was out on a night out and got in a cab. I just happened to ask the driver in my fairly drunk state if he knew Jimmy.
He said: ‘I do as it happens. I was just talking to him two minutes ago.’
“I immediately said: ‘Right’. Forget about where we’re going now. Take me to Jimmy.
“He got him on the phone. The driver said: ‘Jimmy. There’s a lad from Carlisle with me who wants to meet you.’ He replied: ‘Ok bring him over.’
“So we pulled into this taxi rank as you do. I got out. Jimmy got out of his cab. He just came over to us and gave me a big hug.
“He was a lovely bloke. There were a couple of lads with me in the cab and they told our driver matter-of-factly: ‘Martyn’s always banging on about Jimmy Glass,’ as if it was the most normal thing in the world to be hugging a United hero of mine in the middle of the street at 1am in a place 400 miles away from Carlisle.
“It was a nice moment,” he adds.
Martyn and Jimmy’s paths crossed again a few years later, this time on the football pitch.
Carlisle and its community had been hard hit by flooding for the second time in a decade in December 2015.
Large parts of the city were under water including the town centre as well as Martyn’s beloved Brunton Park after the River Eden burst its banks.
The area’s special spirit – as well as the strong bonds between fans and the club - shone through as people rallied to help each other as the city regrouped.
United had to play at Preston and Blackburn while the recovery effort continued.
The game of football played its part by arranging a fundraiser.
A charity match took place at Welling United in April 2016 between the Carlisle London branch and the England Supporters team.
Martyn recalls with the merest hint of incredulity: “I somehow ended up playing the last five minutes of the match up front with Jimmy.”
However, our snapper turned badly on the turf and ended up suffering a cruciate knee injury.
Yet none other than the legendary Jimmy – along with former Carlisle player John Gorman who was also England No2 during Glenn Hoddle’s spell as Three Lions boss – ended up carrying him off the pitch.
It was a bittersweet moment for Martyn.
For while he was in real agony he adds: “Despite the pain, all I could think about was the fact that John had played for
Carlisle during our one season in the top flight in 1974-75.
“It was a surreal experience. I had spoken to Jimmy in the changing room beforehand about meeting him - and then to be carried off by a hero of mine was a bit strange to say the least.
“I was in a tremendous amount of pain but at the same time I was actually thinking: ‘What on earth’s going on here? I’m getting carried off by Jimmy Glass and John Gorman.’
“I mean, how do you start explaining that to someone…”
That moment could be said to have had a large impact on Martyn’s life.
For such a previously active man, it was during his long period of rehabilitation that he started to focus on another love of his, photography.
He’d always had a passion for sports photos, influenced as a youngster by the beautifully framed, seminal efforts of Stuart Roy Clarke.
Such has been his impact on so many football fans there is an exhibition dedicated to Roy’s work in Manchester’s National Football Museum until the end of the season.
Martyn recalls: ‘He catalogued the changes in football after Hillsborough.
“He was based up in the Lake District for while and a lot of his images were based on Carlisle. His ‘Homes of Football’ postcards were available in the club shop. I used to have them all over my room.”
It so happened Martyn had bought a camera weeks before his injury, a Fuji XT1.
Prior to his injury Martyn had competed in a number of half-marathons. The forced change from being an active person to not being able to run for 12 months allowed him to throw all his energy into photography instead.
Looking back on that time he said: “I substituted my running for photography. I needed a sports team to use it on and I started taking shots at Biggleswade Town.
“I can’t them enough for their help. Everyone from the girls in the office to the chairman have been great. There’s a real connection between the players and the fans and even with me to a certain extent.
“I actually did my first Waders game a year ago this week. It was Biggleswade against Farnborough. 3-0’ he adds, with what can rightly be described as his photographic memory.
Modest Martyn spent the season learning his trade at Langford Road with his photographs used extensively by the club.
He soon appeared on the radar of the sports desk at the Comet as his superb images started to gain a devoted following.
The talented snapper soon progressed to a national photograph agency as well as used extensively in the Islington Gazette newspaper’s Arsenal coverage.
Nearly a year to the week when he first covered a non-league football match Martyn worked at England v Spain at Wembley.
“I’ve been lucky,” he says, humbly batting away his success, adding: “I have had to pinch myself at times.
“Especially when I think I was shooting at Biggleswade this time last year and now I’ve been fortunate enough to work at the Emirates, covering a Europa League game.
”It has been surreal,” he adds with a smile, before he shares an unexpected response.
“The strangest moment so far was when I shot the Stevenage v Carlisle League Two game at the Lamex in February,” he explains.
“I knew a few people in the away end that day and they shouted over to me: ‘What are you doing on the pitch in a bib with a camera in your hand?’
“It was a dire match. It was raining. It ended 0-0. There wasn’t a shot on goal all game. Of course when you’re working you’re completely professional. But for me being such a big Carlisle fan all my life it was a special moment.
“I had people during the match who used to live in the same cul-de-sac I grew up in ask me with surprise: ‘Martyn, I thought that was you. How did you get onto the pitch?’
“That and the Arsenal game I would say are probably the highlights.”
Martyn’s excellent pictures from Unai Emery’s side beating Vorskla 4-2 during the North London giants opening match in Group E of the Europa League attracted a raft of positive comments as well as being critically-acclaimed by many.
Yet, it was a picture of a young supporter and his father moments after the Ukrainian’s first goal on the night which stood out.
The Cumbrian had positioned himself in front of the away section at the Emirates. With the tie won and his match pictures sent, the snapper was aware of the fans behind him.
He takes up the story: “It was a big game in a big stadium.
Once I’d got the shots I’d needed I was aware of this guy. I purposely wanted to put myself in that corner because I thought if there wasn’t much going on in the game the away fans might offer a colourful alternative.
“I firmly believe the more interesting shots take place in the stands during the game among the fans. But that doesn’t sell.
“I just thought, a small Ukrainian team coming to the Emirates. It’s going to be a big day out for them. The kid had a scarf and a flag and was standing on his seat and was easy to get a good shot of.
“When they scored late on to make it 4-1 I thought: In the scheme of things it’s a late consolation. So after I fired off a couple of shots of the players I turned around and aimed at the fans. That was when I saw this guy throwing his kid up in the air.
“It was an easy shot. There were several photographers around me and they were all facing one way while I was facing completely the other. I think I got the best shot…”
Martyn approached the father after the match, showing the man the delightful shot of he and his son, even offering to send him a copy of the picture – much to the man’s delight.
Another superb picture Martyn captured to be added to his impressive CV was the primal scream Biggleswade Town striker Jack Bowen released moments after breaking a scoring drought.
In non-league circles the powerful image has won wide acclaim.
Martyn explained: “He hadn’t scored for a while. You could see the relief on his face. They won 1-0. He had banged it and turned naturally to his left and I managed to get him screaming.
“The more and more practice you have makes you panic less. I just focused on him and the camera did the rest. It’s quite simple. You just lock your camera on him. Lock your focus on him.
“You do tend to know when you’ve got a good picture. For Jack’s goal I was on burst mode and I was shooting about ten frames a second.
“Because he happened to be running towards me it’s hard for a camera to keep tracking but because of the decent light that day it was easier to track him.
It was then just a case of thinking: ‘I’ve done everything I can do. Now I just need to review it and hope to god at least one of them comes out in good focus.
“There’s nothing worse than knowing you’ve composed a picture really well and then you look at it and the focus is slightly out because it couldn’t keep up.
“Thankfully when I saw the shot of Jack was in focus I knew I’d nailed it. I just went ‘Yes’. It is a good feeling.
“A lot of it is luck. But you make you own luck. By placing yourself in certain positions it can work out perfectly as it did in that case when he ran towards me, screaming while looking into the camera – which is key.
“The goalkeeper sat on his backside behind in the goal added to the piece too. There’s more than just a happy goalscorer in that frame.”
Hard-working Martyn knows he’s still got a long way to go and is happy to put the hours in striving to reach the top.
While doing so he is happy to pass on important advice to any aspiring sports photographers out there.
“I would say you learn more from doing games week in week out. If there’s a gap between it makes it harder to learn.
“I liken it to a footballer being match fit. What really helped me was finding a club that were willing to let me come down and shoot regularly week on week.
“Also, get a mentor. It’s pretty lonely out there by the side of the pitch when you’re on your own and you’re trying to figure stuff out on your own through trial and error.
“Five minutes with Danny [Loo, Archant’s brilliant photographer who shoots Stevenage and Arsenal games] is invaluable.
“I learned more in those minutes than a month of doing it by myself.
“But before you go looking for a mentor you’ve got to put in a bit of graft on your own. You’ve got to present work to someone to show you’ve put in the hours and you’ve got something about you and want to learn more – rather than it being a passing interest.
“I did a whole season in non-league before I started sending things out to agencies.”
As the interview draws to an end I cheekily ask him why he is getting married in the football season. Ever the diplomat
Martyn deadbats the question away.
In an ironic twist Martyn’s Carlisle are hosting Stevenage at Brunton Park on the day of his wedding on Saturday.
One fan of his work is the Stevenage manager Dino Maamria.
The Boro boss admires the talented snapper’s work and offered a warm message to the soon-to-be-bride and groom: “Enjoy your wedding Martyn,” he said, adding with a smile, “hopefully Carlisle won’t have as good a day on Saturday as I’m sure you and your bride-to-be will have. All the best to you both.”
Down-to-earth Martyn takes the compliment in his stride, adding with a smile as he looks forward to his wedding day, dare we say it with one eye on Saturday’s result.
He adds: “My best man is just as mad for Carlisle as me. My phone will be off all day but he’ll be keeping me updated with team news and the score…”
For more of Martyn’s superb pictures follow him on Instagram and Twitter @mhsportsphoto