Brentford and Wigan Athletic will make trips to Wembley over the next few weeks for differing reasons. Brentford will be playing in the League One play-off final against Yeovil Town, whilst Wigan Athletic will feature in the first FA Cup Final of their history against Manchester City.
Despite these heady days for both clubs it’s not the first time Brentford and Wigan have played at Wembley. They faced one another in the Freight Rover Trophy in 1985. The Freight Rover Trophy was the first ever incarnation of the Associate Members Cup, a trophy for football clubs in the bottom two divisions of the Football League. It would later be known as the Sherpa Vans Trophy, Leyland DAF Cup, Autoglass Trophy, Autowindscreens Shield, LDV Vans Cup and these days goes by the moniker Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. For whatever reason (and I’m yet to think of a good one) I have in my possession a match day programme of the 1985 final between Brentford and Wigan Athletic and therefore thought it might be worth penning a quick summary.
The two sides had made it to Wembley by winning their regional finals, Brentford beating Newport County 6-0 in the south and Wigan Athletic beating Mansfield on penalties in the north. It’s perhaps interesting to note that both Mansfield and Newport were promoted from the Conference to league football this summer.
One interesting aspect of this competition is that it was the first to be screened on British cable television. It was produced by a company called Screen Sport and from the following youtube clip you can see that they were attempting to be innovative. Slow motion replays of odd incidents are a mainstay of most international tournaments now so Screen Sport appear to have been ahead of the game. Though unsurprisingly Martin Tyler’s post-match interviews of topless Brentford players in the changing rooms has never really caught on. The video is certainly an insight into football as viewed through the lens of a mid 80s armchair fan.
The following video from the semi-final between Brentford and Newport County is worth a quick viewing if only for the post-match interview with four-goal hero Gary Roberts who uses the cliché “I’m obviously happy for the club” before following it with the perhaps too honest “but especially happy for myself”. Keith Cassells also offers his honest (and shirtless) view of Brentford’s trip to Wembley, as a delighted footballer about to experience the pinnacle of his career – a match at Wembley Stadium.
Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed Colin Addison (later to manage Atlético Madrid) managing Newport County and Tony Pulis (later to manage Stoke City) amongst the County defence.
Both teams featured names that have become familiar to many in football league circles since their retirement. Brentford included Keith Millen, Terry Hurlock, Steve Wignall, Terry Bullivant and Chris Kamara in their squad whilst Wigan had the pre-Wright/Bright rhyming strike duo of Paul Jewell and Mike Newell. Current TV pundits Frank McClintock (Brentford) and Bryan Hamilton (Wigan) managed the sides.
Reading the programme makes you realise that football has always been more than willing to sell its soul, it’s just that only recently that there’s been a buyer with real cash behind it. The schedule of the day has at 2:25pm a “Presentation of Sherpa Minibuses to the club chairmen” and two pages are dedicated to the sponsor of the cup and some of their quotes are golden, this one especially tickled me:
“In reaching the pinnacle of a great Wembley occasion today’s finalists have shown commitment, spirit and determination – qualities that, over the last few years, have given Freight Rover a leading place in today’s commercial vehicles market”
Other sponsors mentioned in the programme include Mitre (who provided their famous Mitre Delta football for the match) and also National Dairy Council, Panini, Shoot Magazine and United Biscuits who all apparently provided items for the family stand (sounds like one hell of a party bag to me).
Wigan Athletic won the final 3-1 and Elton John presented the trophy to the winners.