GLORIOUS sunshine bathed 25,000 jubilant Wanderers supporters at Wembley as they watched a swaggering performance that graced the hallowed turf – who could forget the Sherpa Van Trophy final?
It is 25 years since Phil Neal’s side outclassed Torquay United under the Twin Towers and lifted what remains their last piece of silverware in a knockout competition.
Wanderers had been down in the doldrums, their demise complete after relegation to the old Fourth Division for the first time in their history.
Immediate promotion to the Third Division had got the Whites moving back in the right direction but it was not until a magical day on May 28, 1989, that the club’s long-suffering fans really got a chance to celebrate.
The man most associated with the 4-1 victory is Dean Crombie – then an experienced midfielder who had played more than 300 times for Grimsby Town, but who did not have a reputation as a regular goalscorer.
His goal, the third of the afternoon, was one that is still eulogised about among Bolton fans to this day.
“I’ve recalled it once or twice,” said Crombie, now working in the Wanderers Academy set-up. “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.”
If the scenes had been joyous during 90 minutes, they were nothing compared to what happened over the next 24 hours.
“It was quite ridiculous, from the changing room onwards,” Crombie said.
“We had a fantastic time because as a group there were no airs or graces in the team – if someone stepped out of line, there was someone else to put them back in again.
“The camaraderie was incredible, so the dinner we had afterwards with players, staff and the families – even people like George Warbuton were there – it was a great night.
“Needless to say the journey back was a long one the next day but when we turned up at Burnden Park there were thousands of people to greet us.
“Then we had the civic thing at the Town Hall and it was just ridiculous how many people had crammed in around the place. It was surreal.
“I’d done something similar at Grimsby when we got back-to-back promotions but to see the whole town turn out and celebrate was something I won’t forget.”