25 years since Jimmy Mullen’s Armada sailed into Wembley
Twenty five years ago today I made my third visit to Wembley to see Burnley. My dad had taken me to the 1962 FA Cup Final and in 1988 I was there for the Sherpa Van Trophy Final against Wolves. Then, six years to the day after that game against Wolves, I was there again for the Division Two Play-Off Final against Stockport County.
Stockport County. They were the club who thought we were their rivals. They’d finished above us in the league and had beaten York to get to Wembley. Our task was to try to get past Plymouth and things didn’t look too good when we could only draw 0-0 in the home leg against Peter Shilton’s over confident, over physical side.
We turned up at Home Park for the second-leg to get caught up in all the excitement of their perceived Wembley trip. We could have even booked on one of their coaches. Sadly, for them, they hadn’t even considered that they might not beat us. They did take the lead through Dwight Marshall but a quick double from John Francis around the half hour silenced the home fans who had abused the Burnley player. And, to rub it in, Warren Joyce, who had been desperate to get out of Plymouth in the previous summer, scored a third.
“Jimmy Mullen’s Claret and Blue Armada set sail for Wembley a week Sunday,” were the words of Radio Lancashire’s Guy Havord who himself was a Plymouth fan, probably the only one who did make it to Wembley on 29th May 1994.
I wasn’t sure I was going to make it just a few days before the game. I’d become quite ill but mind over matter got me there for the day. There was no sailing for me, it was a drive down to Wembley and the silly mistake, one not to be repeated, of parking on the stadium car parks.
Burnley’s official video of the occasion referred to the teams as the Gladiators entering the arena as the teams came out, labelling our opponents as the Men from Cheshire. The Football League had determined there was a colour clash and we lost the toss which looked to have forced us to play in the wretched green and black. The club fought tooth and nail to avoid that and won the day by changing the colour of the shorts and socks from the usual white.
Our seats were excellent in the old stadium on what was our last ever visit. We were on the half way line in the upper tier of the stand opposite the Royal Box and had a perfect view. Not as though we wanted one at the beginning of the game. With just two minutes gone they scored from a free kick on the left with Chris Beaumont heading home Michael Wallace’s cross. Those two players were to play an even more significant part.
As we sat there watching our team 1-0 down we also lost John Francis to an injury with referee David Elleray yellow carding him for a foul on goalkeeper John Keeley as he was forced to leave the pitch. Andy Farrell replaced him and in doing so became the first Burnley player ever to play twice at the National stadium, something that’s only been equalled in the last two years because of Spurs playing league games there.
The one bright moment in almost half an hour came on the far touchline to where we were. There was an incident between Wallace and Ted McMinn. Our player saw yellow but Wallace received a red card for spitting at McMinn although it did appear that he’d also stamped on him.
That gave us hope and hope turned to delight just before the half hour when David Eyres received the ball, seemed to run along the edge of the penalty box before stroking the ball home into Keeley’s right hand corner.
We were level, and it remained so until half time but things got even better in the second half when our undisciplined opponents decided to try it with nine men as Beaumont got the second red of the afternoon after an incident involving Les Thompson.
Surely we’d do it now. We did. Gary Parkinson played a one-two, and then shot towards goal. It came off Keeley and seemed to take an eternity before it went in. We didn’t care, the only concern was that there were still 25 minutes remaining although they weren’t going to come back with nine men, were they?
The rest of the game remains a blur and the only moment I can recall with any clarity is a long run out of defence from Steve Davis. Urged on by the half full Wembley (the Stockport end was fairly empty) the run was terrific until he just about ran out of steam.
The final whistle signalled a 2-1 win and a return to the 2nd tier of English football for the first time in 11 years and the party started before the long wait to get off the car park, and I definitely have learned my lesson on that one.
What a day it had been. Unfortunately, we went back down again a year later and had to wait a further five years to get back up there again. We’ve been out of the third tier now for 19 years and counting.
It was a last Burnley appearance for Thompson. He was offered a new contract but turned it down and signed, instead, for non-league Accrington Stanley. It was also a last appearance for Farrell. He was one of the players very quickly ditched by Mullen as he brought in players such as Mark Winstanley, Chris Vinnicombe, Alan Harper and Liam Robinson ahead of the following season. Captain John Pender and midfielder John Deary didn’t play many more games and Francis was out injured for some time before playing just a handful more games.
Finally I’d seen us win at Wembley. That was the good news, the bad was that the illness returned although thankfully it was by then the close season and I didn’t miss any games.
The teams on that historic day were;
Burnley: Marlon Beresford, Gary Parkinson, Steve Davis, John Pender, Les Thompson, Ted McMinn, John Deary, Warren Joyce, David Eyres, Adrian Heath, John Francis (Andy Farrell 14). Subs not used: David Williams, Graham Lancashire.
Stockport: John Keeley, Lee Todd, Mike Flynn, Bill Williams (Andy Preece 59), Michael Wallace, Jim Gannon (David Miller 80), Peter Ward, Sean Connelly, David Frain, Chris Beaumont, Kevin Francis. Sub not used: Ian Ironside.
Referee: David Elleray (Harrow).
Attendance: 44,806 (most of them from Burnley).Share this page :