TWENTY-SIX years ago today, Wolverhampton Wanderers featured in a Wembley cup final. This final brought together two of the original founders of the Football League, with both clubs having illustrious footballing histories.
Both Wolves and Burnley were a million miles from their hey day and found themselves playing in the fourth tier of English football. Now the Sherpa Van Trophy might not be the most prestigious final in the football calendar but fans of both clubs wouldn't want to miss out on a visit to the twin towers.
Although in the bottom tier of English football, both teams were experiencing improved fortunes. Wolves, after seasons of free falling down the football leagues, had secured promotion to the Third Division, in a season during which Steve Bull had netted an incredible 52 goals in all competitions. Burnley had survived relegation from the football league on the last day of the previous season and finished the 1987/88 campaign in 10th place.
In a competition that has changed names almost as many times as it has been held, who could have predicted that on the May 29, 1988, the final would attract an attendance of 80,841? To put the attendance into perspective earlier that month a Gary Lineker goal secured a 1-1 draw for England against Colombia in the Rous Cup, in front of a crowd of 25,756!
The figures vary from 45,000 to 50,000 of the official number of Wolves supporters that made the journey to Wembley. The Wolves players must have realised that they had woken one of football's sleeping giants when they walked out onto the Wembley surface on that sunny May afternoon, to be greeted with a sea of gold and black.
I have started writing a book from a fans' perspective of the final and it would be great if fellow supporters share their stories and photographs of their journey, the game, after-match celebrations and any funny tales they have from the day.
At the time of the final, I was a 13-year-old supporter who had only started going to matches the previous season with my dad and younger brother. Now being a Wolves supporter, as with any of the Midland clubs, you are guaranteed a fair share of highs and lows. Although I have seen Wolves in a play-off final, winning the Championship and playing in the Premiership, my favourite Wolves memory is still the Sherpa Van Trophy success.
My own memories of the game have been preserved, as back in 1988 what would any obsessed 13 year old football mad child do?, Yes, keep a scrapbook!
The scrapbook refreshed my memories of the game itself and the build-up, travelling from Bewdley, Worcestershire to the game with my parents and younger brother. I recall the numerous Wolves scarves draped out of the car windows going down the motorway towards London, and on approaching Wembley the sights of thousands of supporters in their gold and claret colours, as both sets of supporters slowly made their way down Wembley Way.
We got to the stadium early to see and cheer the players on the Wolves coach. Back then football players were not transported in tinted or blacked-out windowed coaches, and you could see the astonishment on the players' faces at the size of the crowd that was there to greet them.
Inside the stadium, we took our seats and looked on at the many thousands of Wolves supporters standing behind the goal. Every supporter seemed decked out in the colours, and the souvenir flat caps were on the heads of many supporters. The game itself was a tightly contested one. Wolves, with the fire power of Bull and Andy Mutch, always looked a threat and at the back the central pairing of Floyd Streete and Ally Robertson marshalled the defence.
For the opening goal of the final it was Bull who turned provider for Mutch to score with a close range header. Wolves extended the lead in the second half, through a brilliantly taken free kick by Northern Ireland international Robbie Dennison. Despite injuries to Micky Holmes and captain Ally Robertson, the team held out to win the game 2-0 and lift the trophy, and for the day to become a part of Wolverhampton Wanderers' history.
I'm in the process of tracking down the Wolves players from the winning team and have been in touch with several who have provided their memories of the day and of the game, and these will be included in the book.
I have also managed to contact Roger Milford, the referee from the game, who went on to become one of England's finest and most respected referees. When I asked him his memories of that match, I was surprised at his answer.
"When asked during my career what was my most notable game, you may be surprised to find that I always say it was the Sherpa Van Trophy final between Wolves and Burnley. It was my first official refereeing appointment at Wembley, a referee's dream appointment in those days. The game itself was an excellent one with both teams going for a win and as such was very entertaining with very few problems for me to sort out. Not perhaps like some future appointments!" Roger Milford after spending 32 years in the national game, including working as an FA assessor, is now coaching young referees for Gloucestershire Football Association.
I would invite supporters to send your letters and photographs to the Black County Bugle. As many of the stories and photographs as I can include will be used in the book, which I hope to have published late 2014/early 2015.
Were you at the Sherpa Van final? Both Tim Gibbons and the Bugle would love to hear from you. Write to the usual address, phone us on 01384 567678, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.