IT WAS wonderful to read the article on the 1988 Sherpa Van Trophy Final by Tim Gibbons in the Bugle of May 29.
For my 2011 book, Out of Darkness (Wolves 1977 – 1990) I was able to interview a number of club officials and players.
One of the most welcoming of subjects was manager Graham Turner, who I interviewed in his office at Hereford United's Edgar Street ground on May 27 2009, the day that Manchester United lost the Champions League final to Barcelona. Graham summed up his feelings:
"To go to Wembley and to have two Fourth Division clubs getting 80,000 there, 40 odd thousand Wolves supporters, we looked red hot in training and it was a great day for us."
Turner clearly enjoyed the day: "This was the highlight of our year. Whether it is the World Cup, the FA Cup or the Sherpa Van Trophy, winning at Wembley is an unforgettable experience. The colour and the noise are things you remember forever.
"We had a lot to follow after clinching promotion and the Fourth Division title, but this was better still. The whole occasion, having already secured the championship, was an unbelievable experience."
Graham kindly posed for a photograph with me at a recent Wolves dinner.
Others to kindly contribute included former player Barry Powell, back as coach.
"While Graham Turner was doing his last team talk, I walked up the tunnel specifically to listen to 'Abide with me,'" said Barry, "and I stood at the end of the tunnel with tears dripping down my face. You don't get to experience that walking out at the end of the players. I remember more about that than 1974 when I was playing."
Keith Downing remembers it with affection too: "The day itself was a very special day, I still remember it like yesterday. We were going in there as favourites because of what we'd done in the league and the whole day was a fantastic day. We played pretty well, deserved to win a decent game of football. They always say when you go to a final then you've got to win it."
Sadly, goalkeeper Mark Kendall died prematurely at just 49 years of age on May 1st 2008, but I was able to meet his widow Gaynor and children, Lee and Lori.
Remembering that his father kept a record 27 clean sheets during the season, Lee recalls the day with a mixture of pride and personal disappointment:
"I was gutted at the Sherpa Van. I'd been mascot for the Aldershot play-off final, but I wanted to be a mascot at Wembley. Dad told me that we weren't allowed mascots for the Sherpa Van, but then I looked down and Graham Turner's son was mascot.
"It was the first time I ever got tipsy. We had a reception afterwards with bucks fizz and I thought it was orange juice. I felt a bit sick."
As for Steve Bull, he of course didn't score for once at Wembley, but still remembered it fondly when I met him in July 2011.
"When people ask me what was the best time of my career, I say 1986 to 1992 at Wolves under Graham Turner," says Steve. "A great man and a brilliant manager.
"There was a great spirit, everybody was altogether. To me the whole experience was the best thing, not just the 52 and 50 goal seasons, everything was good. I wish I could turn the clock back now. It was about all of us, it wasn't about individuals. We were more or less all on the same wages, nobody was bickering. "We just got out there and did it, we had a great balance. If you could have spent a week with our players you'd think, 'What a great bunch of lads.' They were all down to earth and normal.
"Wembley was a great experience, Wolves and Burnley, two old-fashioned clubs, the fans were great, really friendly and playing football in the car park. There were about 50,000 Wolves fans and you knew it when you walked out. We thought, 'We're having this today', we wanted it a bit more than they did on the day."
Bully remembered that Wolves enjoyed a banquet and overnight stay at a hotel in Gerrards Cross before returning the next morning for an open top bus tour of the town, greeted by over 50,000 souls. It started at the Three Tuns Island on the Stafford Road just after 2.30pm, ending at the Newbridge pub on Tettenhall Road. The trophy was handcuffed to Bull in one photograph, as a protection from enthusiastic supporters who had clambered on board.
My own memories of 1988 are special too. My son Tom had been born just three months earlier and his mom took him for a trip to Dudley Zoo with older sister Emily. I went to Wembley with my friend Ian Wood and remember a joyful sunny Sunday afternoon. The next day I dragged four year-old Emily along to Chapel Ash to witness the homecoming. I am not sure how much she saw but she enjoyed waving her flag and joining in the singing.
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