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Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley!

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1Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! Empty Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! on Tue May 28 2019, 12:51

Sluffy

Sluffy
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I was there and took my little nephews (they've got kids of their own now!)

BLAZING sunshine, Elton John, ‘Norpigs’, Trevor Morgan’s forward roll, Phil Brown’s bucket hat and a rare Dean Crombie goal fit to grace any Wembley final… Ladies and gentlemen, the 1989 Sherpa Van Trophy.
Life was pretty tough on the terraces in the eighties.
Hooliganism was rife, stadia not fit for purpose and football was being made a scapegoat for the economic and social problems being faced by the country as a whole.
Burnden Park was no different. Long gone was the long hair and swagger of Frank Worthington and Co – the following decade saw financial issues, dwindling crowds and a drop into the Fourth Division for the first time in the club’s history.

By April 1989 football had hit its lowest ebb with the Hillsborough Disaster but against a backdrop of national mourning, Wanderers – now in the third tier – found themselves with something to celebrate.
Just a few days on from the tragedy, Steve Thompson’s extra-time penalty against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road had booked a place at Wembley in the Sherpa Van Trophy.
Bolton had been there three years earlier in the same competition but found themselves well-bettered by Bristol City [I went to this game as well - Sluffy]. This time, however, 25,000 supporters would return aboard 200 coaches and football specials, triumphant.

“It’s strange,” recalled Phil Brown, Bolton’s captain on the day, “I’ve been managing over in India with Trevor Morgan as my assistant and he sent me a picture the other day of us at Wembley and it brought it all flooding back. You’d never believe it was 30 years ago. I can remember it like it was yesterday.

“At the time I was questioning how we were showing up in the league under Phil Neal because we’d got a bit of glamour in the cup runs but the form week-to-week wasn’t really consistent enough.
“I suppose that didn’t come until Neal left and Bruce Rioch came in. He obviously turned out to be fantastic for the football club. But they were tough times for football in general, it was like a different game to how it is now.”

Standing in Bolton’s way were Fourth Division Torquay United, managed by Cyril Knowles.
The Gulls were underdogs but Neal and Mick Brown had a plan to exploit the big Wembley pitch, as Brown explained.

“I remember staying at the Bellhouse Hotel in Beaconsfield. Back then it was top class – we were in our element. There was swimming pool, sauna, health centre, the works. And back then we knew the fans, a lot of them stayed in the same place and were sat there as we’re eating the pre-match meal.
“We’d trained at Beaconsfield Town FC in the build-up to the game and Phil Neal had identified that if we got the ball in behind the Torquay United full-backs we’d get some joy, so it was up to me and Barry Cowdrill to knock the ball for John Thomas and Trevor Morgan.
“When we were going through it on the training pitch we needed a couple of extra bodies to pose as the Torquay defenders, so we roped in Phil Gartside and Brett Warburton.
“I can still see them standing there in their shorts – Phil went to try and head the ball and ended up falling over, it was hilarious, but I suppose they played a part because the plan worked.”
Wanderers walked out on to the famed Wembley turf to be greeted by Elton John, then Watford’s chairman.

It became quickly apparent to Brown that the team would also be battling the temperature.
“The weather was boiling,” he said. “I think it was 92 degrees pitch-side and during the course of the game I managed to lose six-and-a-half kilos.

“Back then I was a full-back who liked to get up and down the pitch but it was hard in that heat. The pitch felt absolutely massive.”
Torquay took the lead through Dean Edwards but Julian Darby – one of the unsung heroes of Neal’s side at the time – swivelled to equalise within five minutes.
The game ambled on and Torquay hit the woodwork in the second half before Wanderers got a stroke of luck which swung affairs in their favour.

“I remember Jeff Chandler putting us in front (his shot went down as a Steve Morrison own goal) and him setting off jumping over the advertising hoardings and getting in among the supporters – I’d never seen him move so fast,” said Brown.
As Torquay chased, the gaps that Neal had predicted began to appear.
Wanderers’ fans had brought their own line of inflatables for the Sherpa Van Trophy run. And though many of the ‘Norpigs’ – so-called to tie in with the superstore which now adorned the side of Burnden – had failed to survive the semi-final at Blackpool, some were still being held aloft in celebration as the team began to take hold of the game.
They were never waved more wildly than for the third goal, a length-of-the-field effort from the normally reserved Dean Crombie.
For Crombie, who would be voted Bolton’s player of the year that season, it was a moment which defined his playing career.

“I’ve recalled it once or twice,” he told The Bolton News “But Peter Nicholson tells it better than I do. I think I won the ball back in my 18-yard box and I just carried on running – which was a bit novel back then because they didn’t want to break that far down the pitch.
“Jeff Chandler and John Thomas were involved and then all of a sudden I was bearing in on goal. I was thinking ‘what am I going to do now?’
“I didn’t get much time to think about it, and it was one of those surreal moments watching it bounce into the net. It is the moment that people remember me for, and I like that fans still talk about it, not in a big-headed kind of way because it almost takes away from everything else I did in my playing career, but to be there and share it all with the players and half the town; it was a very special moment.”

Torquay deflated, like so many Norpigs, a fourth goal did arrive. ‘Exocet’ Stuart Storer had been sent on to exploit more space on the right, and the winger pulled back a cross for Morgan to slot home.
It was actually the first goal scored by a Bolton striker in the whole cup run – and was celebrated with a forward somersault of limited gymnastic merit.
Goalkeeper David Felgate recalls the noise as the final whistle sounded.
“I sat on the floor afterwards trying to let it all sink in and was trying to find my family and enjoy it with them,” he said. “I was drained but you forgot your tiredness to sprint up the stairs to get your winner’s medal.

“Then it was celebrations in front of something like 25,000 Wanderers fans before heading back to the dressing rooms and those big old baths.
“The fans were special that day, and during my whole time at Bolton, because they travelled in big numbers everywhere.

“To win a cup for them was fantastic because they really were like an extra man for us in games.”
Brown went up to lift the trophy, taking it from the ‘Rocket Man’ himself – but not before grabbing a hat on his way up to the royal box.
It seemed at the time football had little to celebrate. For Neal, a man with distinct Liverpool connections, the occasion was somewhat bittersweet.
“I remember vividly where I was when I heard what had happened at Hillsborough, managing Bolton at Fulham, and the news hit me like a gunshot,” he told The Bolton News.
“I’d already been through Heysel as a player and it brought back a lot of emotions which probably played on my mind because such a big part of my life had been at Liverpool.
“I never saw it as a success for myself at the time – although looking back now I regard it just as fondly as anything I did with Liverpool. It was the people who had been there with me, the backroom, who had been so strong when things really were bad.

“And I can still see Lofty (Nat Lofthouse) smiling at the fact we were lifting a trophy again all those years after he had been heading them in.”
Just three years later the Premier League era began, the Taylor Report demanded better safety measures and the removal of metal fences and the introduction of all-seater stadia at the highest level, Wembley included. It suddenly became fashionable to watch the game again.
For Bolton too, revolution was in the air. Neal’s team would evolve and eventually be taken on by Bruce Rioch. The results were White Hot.
“That game started something bigger,” Brown said. “I arrived as a player in the late eighties and had a couple of years away at Blackpool but by the time I was back as a coach and left in 2005 we were in the Premier League and Europe.
“You’d never have imagined those sort of days when we were knocking around in the old Third Division but that Wembley trip got us buzzing again.”

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Last edited by Sluffy on Tue May 28 2019, 13:31; edited 1 time in total

2Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! Empty Re: Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! on Tue May 28 2019, 13:07

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin
1989 and all that – journalist and Wanderers fan Gary Parkinson recalls his big day out
AS I’d started watching Wanderers after the 1986 Freight Rover Trophy final against Bristol City, our 1989 date with Torquay was my Wembley debut.
I’ve been back several times since, as a fan and a journalist, but none of those visits carry the same memories of innocent happiness.
The team’s journey to Wembley was hardly a procession. In the curious three-team groups I’d been one of the 2,695 at Burnden watching Steve Thompson’s late winner put paid to Preston; despite our then-obligatory defeat at pesky old Bury, we qualified thanks to Preston’s pummelling of the Shakers.

So we played Preston again, away on the plastic, and won 1-0. It took extra time to dispose of two Fourth-Division promotions chasers: Wrexham at home thanks to Mark Winstanley’s 40-yard once-in-a-lifetimer, then Crewe away thanks to Winnie again – half the Bolton goals he ever scored came on this cup run – and new captain Phil Brown.
That set up a two-leg Northern Final with (t)rusty old Blackpool, starting at Burnden with 10,000 on.

For reasons I’ve never fully understood, tickets for the away leg went on sale 15 minutes before the end of the first game, so I duly popped out of the Paddock to leg it round and get my ticket – at which point I heard the roar greeting Julian Darby’s winner. The stewards wouldn’t let me back in the Paddock so for the first and only time I snuck into the Burnden Stand to watch the final minutes. (Sorry, Mr McBain.)
I was too young to travel to the away leg by myself, so I needed a hero. Enter my dad. He’d been there for Wembley '58 and he knew what it meant, so he fired up the old Citroen and drove me to Bloomfield – sitting in the dilapidated car park for two hours, listening to Radio Lancashire and smoking 20 Bensons while his only son watched Steve Thompson’s extra-time penalty send us safely through.

Perhaps Dad wanted to be close by, just in case: it was three days after Hillsborough.

For the final, the family budget stretched to two tickets, for father and son. I was resplendent in my home Wanderers top with the No.4 on the back: to this day, I’ve never had a number in honour of anyone except Robbie Savage. (Not that one, younger readers. Dear me, no.) At a service station we found a Wanderers flag but it didn’t have a stick, so we whittled one from a tree branch.
The Citroen chugged through London suburbs that seemed endless and drab to me then and, to be honest, still do now. Eventually we came upon the national stadium, instantly recognisable and unimaginably vast, apparently a mile from end to end.

At the gates the police confiscated our whittled stick but trouble was notably absent, perhaps helped by the opposition: Torquay had surprisingly toppled Third Division champions Wolves, whose fans may have been less chummy.
At the tunnel end, despite being stationed on a horribly shallow terrace more than half a pitch away from the nearest goal let alone the far one, we Bolton fans – festooned with inflatable Norpigs and Happy Wanderers – were confident. We were on a 21-match unbeaten run and Torquay’s goalkeeper was 41 – he had grey hair, for Pete’s sake.
So it was a shock when the Gulls went ahead from a poorly-defended corner (ever a Wanderers weakness), but a great relief four minutes later when we equalised through a spin-and-hit from Julian Darby – then still the local lad made good, rather than the hapless scapegoat he would become later in Phil Neal’s reign.

From there, Wanderers were the better team, although it took fortune to take the lead just after the hour. Jeff Chandler’s shot was going well wide until it took a sizeable deflection off John Morrison, but you wouldn’t know it from the winger’s jubilant celebration – matched on the terraces by thousands of shirtless Whites rapidly turning pink in the 90-degree heat.
Even then we might have lost it, but for David Felgate’s safe hands – “Wales’ No.1” making up for the heartbreak of missing out in 1986 with two great saves. Again, history might remember Felgate unkindly for an FA Cup defeat at Southampton, but for a while he was a key player in the renaissance under Phil Neal.
And then, the completely unexpected. At 31, Dean Crombie was a doughty centre-back approaching his anecdotage, which certainly received a boost with what happened in the 73rd minute.

From a Torquay corner, Deano karate-kicked a clearance to John Thomas and just kept running. Collecting the ball over the top from Savage, Crombie calmly clipped the ball over the emergent Kenny Allen like a 30-goal-a-year specialist. In fact, in his 126 Bolton games, he only scored three.
From there it was all over bar the shouting that greeted Bolton’s fourth. Neal’s standard late switch was to replace the guile of Chandler with the pace of Stuart Storer, a greyhound of a footballer: very fast in a straight line, tiny brain.

Phil Brown simply banged it into space behind the left-back, Storer whizzed onto it and crossed for the lumbering Trevor Morgan, somehow our top scorer with 11 that term, to bundle home before executing the least-elegant somersault ever witnessed at this sporting Valhalla.

George Courtney blew his whistle, Elton John presented the trophy and that was that. Except it wasn’t, because the story never ends. Phil Neal had Bolton on an upward trajectory – seeking promotion in between major-cup runs – which Bruce Rioch managed to complete. Several of these players moved on, but Dean Crombie and Julian Darby returned in backroom roles at this most loyalty-inspiring of clubs.
I learned to write about football and found a career in the media: it’s 30 years since the Sherpa Van Trophy final, and I’ve spent more than 20 of them working in London. Wembley’s still awkward to get to, but it’s now a vastly superior stadium designed for the 21st century rather than the 19th.
As for Dad, he still follows the Wanderers from his armchair and when I occasionally drag him along. He didn’t go back to Wembley until I managed, via my hard-won journalistic contacts, to get him a ticket for another Wanderers game there, 22 years later.
On that occasion, we lost, and I shall say no more about it. But thanks, Dad, for cementing my love of this brilliant, rubbish, marvellous, maddening, ever-changing, never-changing bunch of heroes and villains we call the Wanderers. Here’s to the next trip. Fancy the play-off final next year?

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3Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! Empty Re: Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! on Tue May 28 2019, 14:29

Growler


Tony Kelly
Tony Kelly
I attended all the Sherpa Van matches apart from the group match at Bury, the Crewe away tie went to extra time and meant arriving back in Manchester after the last train had left Victoria and a long walk back.Apparantly British Rail put on a couple of buses but we didn't see them and walked.It was "only" a walk to Kearsley rather than Bolton but still quite a hike for school lads at that time of night

4Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! Empty Re: Thirty Years ago - Bolton at Wembley! on Tue May 28 2019, 18:29

Norpig

Norpig
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
My first visit to Wembley, happy memories and Dean Crombie's goal is still one of the best i've seen  Very Happy

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