U's Net » Look Back In Amber » Wembley 1990

Wembley Stadium, Saturday 26th May 1990

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Wembley scoreboard - picture credit Andrea Thrussell

On Saturday 26th May, 1990 Cambridge United won the first ever Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium to earn promotion to the old Division Three (now Division Two). It was a tremendous afternoon in the sunshine at the historic stadium and if you have any special or funny memories for inclusion on this page write and let me know.

Here are the thoughts that have been sent so far, including a 'behind the scenes' view of the build-up and the day itself from Steve Greenall - who became the Club Secretary soon afterwards.

Andy Ivy of South London wrote:
Memories of Wembley begin at Maidstone when I was working at Capital Radio and blagged a press ticket. Steve Greenall was working as a radio reporter. I think he and Malcolm Webster were commentating, though they must have been drowned out when the penalty went in and my friend Alan was going bananas shouting 'We're going to Wembley, we're going to Wembley!'

Afterwards, I was out on the dry, dusty pitch when John Beck brought the players back out, most in their socks or bare feet, to celebrate with the fans. Somehow that warm night was better than Wembley. We went to the bar and missed the last train back to London so had to get a cab, but we didn't care.

As for Wembley, I was supposed to be going on a holiday to France, arranged several months earlier, with my wife and some friends that morning. The U's first ever appearance at the twin towers or a ferry crossing? No contest. I booked a separate ferry crossing for midnight and the others went off as planned. I couldn't toast our victory, because I had to drive through the night, but it was all worthwhile!

Players warming up on the Wembley turf - picture credit Andrea Thrussell

Vicky Henderson recalled:
My funny moment whilst at the playoffs was watching a group of 8 - 10 rather excited males do a domino trip falling back off their chairs whilst cheering for Dion. The first one lost his balance whilst standing on the chair and grabbed hold of the arm of the person next to him. This continued down the line. I know you shouldn't laugh but it was quite comical to watch. However, the whole day was also memorable.

Phil Mills wrote:
My mate "Locky" Lockwood fell off the perimeter wall at Wembley after the full time whistle blew and was off work for three weeks with a bad back.

Steve Greenall Club secretary Steve Greenall was still working for Homepride Foods at the time of the Play-off final, but was involved with the club on radio and ClubCall. This is his account of the build-up to the big game:
Monday 21st May
Got to pick the hire van up today. Mum rang last night, and the new three piece suite is in stock. They want to deliver on Tuesday. Whose bloody idea was it to buy a three piece suite from a shop in St.Helens? OK we'd been looking for about five months and we did BOTH like it, but we don't live there any more. We only went into town on an errand that day in March. Anyway it's too late now, it's ordered and on its way. That press agency haven't rung yet to say if they want any after match stuff from Wembley.

Wembley. Only a few days to go. I can't believe that Reg Smart wants me to go to the team's hotel on the morning of the game to do some ClubCall interviews. I'm not passing on that one. Before I drive up to Mum's, I'll confirm with the club that I can go and do the squad interviews with John Beck on Wednesday. They'll be going to Burnham Beeches on Thursday morning.......

Later .....
Flamin M6. I'll never get there by 5.30p.m. Aaah. That's better; why do they put these "lane closed" signs up, with warnings every 200 yards, and when you get there, nothing. Mean time everyone has slowed down, and now speed up again. Might get there on time after all. What a week this is going to be.

Ailsa wasn't best pleased when I told her Jethro Tull were playing Liverpool Empire on a Monday night, but she knew I'd be there. It was either there, Edinburgh Playhouse (too far) or London (too dear). Anyway, I've managed to tie all three events together; go to the gig - collect the three piece suite - go to Rotherham for the budget challenge meeting. First time I've been on company business in a non-Homepride vehicle. Can't wait to see that security guy's face when I pull up in a white transit with a settee and two chairs in the back.

Tuesday 22nd
What a great shout that was - getting the delivery men to come to Rainhill first. Now I can get to Rotherham on time. Great night. Hope the photos come out. Tull just get better with age. It used to really bug me that fewer people follow the band now. Don't suppose Ian Anderson cares much. Wish I had a job where I enjoyed going every day, meeting lots of different people ..........dream on.

Can't wait to get back home really. The suite will look great now that the new carpet is down too. One day, some kid will arrive in our house, and the money belt will get cranked up a few notches. It's nice to be able to buy things for the house, and have them paid for in just a few months. Must work on those questions for 'Becky' in lunch break. Message at security desk. Ring your wife. I cadge a phone while that bloody security guy looks in the van. Great, the agency want an after match report. Tight thirty seconds. Out on "Steve Greenall - for RadioRadio - at Wembley Stadium". Better write that down. It is Richard Branson's station, and he may be listening.

Wednesday 23rd
Glad to lose that van. You can't beat a transit for shifting three piece suites, but give me my Sierra Sapphire any day. The Becky interviews went brilliantly. I really have struck up a good rapport with the man. He is strange in many ways, but fascinating to talk to. These interviews will be a great build up for the match coverage. And Davison and Patrick have come up with the goods. Not only will they pay me £40 for that 30 piece, they've managed to get three comps for Ailsa and Mum and Dad. CNFM rang to say the tickets are reserved. I'll call Malcolm and let him know. By Saturday, I'll be as up for that commentary as the team will be for the match.

Thursday 24th
Phew. That was some budget meeting. And hard to concentrate when all you can think of is commentating on a team you know everything about. And at Wembley. Mum and Dad arrive OK. I can't believe the coincidences. We arranged this weekend months ago. Friday - down to London to see Les Miserables - stay overnight - see the sights next day, and then up to the Norfolk coast on Sunday. It was a doddle to fit in Wembley around all that. Just have to make sure we get to Burnham Beeches on time. Can't help thinking Reg Smart is winding me up. First he says he wants ClubCall interviews at the hotel. Now he wants me to travel ON THE COACH from the hotel to Wembley. This is getting better. I won't have much trouble remembering all of this one day.

Friday 25th
After the worst traffic jam I've ever seen on the A1, we get to London with 10 minutes to spare to see the show. Cutting it fine? What's "fine" about thinking that you've wasted £64 on theatre tickets? Anyway, we got here. The Wembley comps were at reception, delivered by courier. Hope mine are at the box office. or else Ailsa, Mum and Dad will see the game, and I'll be listening on the car-park.

SATURDAY 26TH MAY
The show was sensational. Will this day be so? Travelled to the hotel. This is the place where England sometimes stay. Looks like Roy Johnson is doing a couple of fitness tests. I speak to several of the directors. The new guy, Roger Hunt, asks me a lot about my job and family. God, this is a build up to a match at Wembley and I feel like I'm being interviewed. David Ruston speaks to my Dad. Colin Howlett asks about ClubCall. I think I may be able to persuade him to change the ClubCall contract. they're ripping the club off. Since I took it over the call numbers and durations have shot up. At 33p/minute, the club should be earning more. Ailsa comes over and says they're going back. The only thing I couldn't get was a car-park pass, so I suppose they'll be in the multi-storey.

The team prepare to leave for Wembley

The bus driver powers up the engine. I can't believe what Steve Claridge just said. He's been told he's on the bench and wants to drive to Wembley under his own steam. He's a strange lad. I've built up a decent relationship with some of the players since I started doing ClubCall, and the ones who know me call me Steve. He calls me 'Mr. Greenall'. Still, he can play a bit, so why should I worry.

As I get on the coach, I only know some of the players, the manager....... oh, and Gary Johnson. I'm introduced to John Holmes. I've seen him around many times. He helps with the Junior U's and commentates on the videos. I had heard they've offered him a job as commercial manager. Why would anyone want to work at a football club?

As we get nearer to Wembley, I've already used one and a half side of a C-60. I've got some great interviews. Some of the time, I just left the tape running. We're getting near to the stadium now. Blimey, they're going to let the coach drive up Wembley way - normally closed to traffic.

As we get closer, the sight of black and amber gets more vivid. There are thousands here. I can't see any Chesterfield. Old, young, die-hards, never been to a game before. They're all here. It is clearly quite fraudulent for a working class lad from a rugby league town to be travelling on the team bus down Wembley way, when there are fans who have supported this team since the Southern league days watching the bus go by. Just before we go through the huge gate by the dressing rooms the bus pauses, the fans roar, and there's my dad. I know what he is thinking......"I wish I was on that bus".

It's time for work. I meet Malcolm and we go up in the lift to the press gantry. It's opposite the Royal Box and very high up. It will be like watching Subbuteo.

Dion Dublin (9)'s header loops into the net - photo credit Andrea Thrussell

"..........77 minutes gone. It's still Cambridge United nil Chesterfield nil, and Cambridge United have a corner, to be taken by Chris Leadbitter. Left-footed. Into the heart of the box. Up goes Dublin. A goal. I don't believe it! Dion Dublin, whose goal at Maidstone helped take Cambridge to Wembley....opens the scoring at Wembley..... and Cambridge United are just minutes from Division Three ........!"

Little point writing about the rest of the game. Full time. Never have so many copies of Yellow Pages been deposited in one place at one time. The Club are promoted.

Final report for CNFM done, it's just the interviews and the RadioRadio piece to do. I get back in the lift, and it gets stuck 2 feet from the bottom. I can't get out. 25 minutes later, I am finally rescued.

Reg Smart is interviewed. Crying. Happy.
Dion Dublin. Speechless.
John Beck: "I can only liken this to the day my children were born."

This is the radio stuff of legends at the venue of legends. We troop home surrounded by cars with black and amber scarves. Somewhere, on a team bus bound for the Abbey ward district of Cambridge, the whisper is 'that lad who does ClubCall, do you think he'd fancy being the new secretary ???????'

Dion celebrates with the fans, John Beck and Gary Johnson - picture credit Andrea Thrussell

Sarah Mansfield wrote
We had booked a holiday in York so half the way through we travelled down to Wembley passing lots of Chesterfield fans and with our amber flags waving we recieved many strange looks. We arived at Wembley in plenty of time and watched our heros play until about the 73 min when my sister needed the toilet so several members of the family took her and whilst sitting on the loo there was an almighty cheer, we had scored and she had missed it. So now if we are needing a little bit of luck we send her off to the toilet. But till this day it still has never worked again. Maybe this year she can work her magic again.

Richard George wrote
I remember driving down the A1. EVERY car we saw was decked out in Black & Amber - it was a sight to see. All the passengers in every car we passed were waving to each other.

But my abiding memory was of an incident AFTER the match -

A friend had driven us down to the game... the car park was empty and the reporter on the radio - we were listening to Radio Cambridgeshire - made the statement that "some of the supporters were so happy that (and can't believe what has just happened) that they are still here". - We all had a good laugh at that point, 'cos the reason we were still there was that the car wouldn't start and we were waiting for the AA to arrive!!

Josh Holly wrote
Dion tried to take my scarf off me moments before this photo of him and the cup was taken. However, I yanked it back cos its my lucky one and I didn't want to lose it.

Dion holds the Play-Off Trophy aloft

Cambridge United: John Vaughan, Andy Fensome, Alan Kimble, Colin Bailie, Phil Chapple, Danny O'Shea, Michael Cheetham, Chris Leadbitter (Michael Cook 85'), Dion Dublin, John Taylor (Steve Claridge 60'), Lee Philpott.

Chesterfield: Leonard, Francis, Ryan, Dyche, Brien, Gunn, Plummer, Hewitt, Chiedozie (Waller 78'), Rogers, Morris.
Sub not used: Shaw.

Referee: George Courtney (Spennymoor)
Attendance: 26,404

The victorious Cambridge United team

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U's Net » Look Back In Amber » Wembley 1990


© Andrea Thrussell 1998
This page last updated: 16 July 1999