'Woah, we're going to Barbados!' - Chesterfield heroes on the play-off final win against Bury 25 years on
“Woah, we’re going to Barbados!”
Partying in the large dressing room bath at Wembley with the trophy and their medals, John Duncan’s champagne-soaked heroes knew exactly where they wanted to go on their summer holiday.
Spireites chairman, Norton Lea, had promised to pay for them to go abroad if they won promotion via the play-offs after narrowly missing out on an automatic spot.
“Because we had dropped out of automatic promotion he probably saw a few of us were deflated but he said ‘if you get promotion through the play-offs we will pay for a holiday to anywhere you want to go’,” Chesterfield defender Jamie Hewitt told the DT. “We didn’t really have a discussion about it. We were just in the big bath at Wembley with the trophy and champagne and I think the TV cameras was there and we were asked where we wanted to go and to be honest that was the only song we knew with a foreign country in it so we started singing ‘we’re going to Barbados’ and it just sort of spiralled from there.”
After the famous 5-2 play-off second-leg victory against Mansfield the Blues faced a Bury side in the Division Three final who had taken four points off them in the regular season.
In 1990 Town had lost 1-0 to Cambridge United in the old Division Four play-off final so that experience helped them five years later, according to Hewitt.
“It definitely helped me having played there before because the Cambridge one was like ‘wow it’s Wembley’ but the second one was more about winning,” he said.
Against Cambridge the squad stopped over before and after the final but this time they went down two nights before to get comfortable with their surroundings. They also had a tour of Wembley and a walk around the pitch which helped calm their nerves.
Striker Tony Lormor, who scored in the play-off semi-final win against Mansfield, told the DT: “John (Duncan) did not like us staying overnight for just one night. Very rarely did we stay overnight when we played away games. For the final he said we will either go down on the morning of the game, drive straight to Wembley and get changed and play the game or if you want to stay over we are going to do it for two nights. He wanted us to be comfortable in our beds and get a good night's sleep. John would have been happy to have left Chesterfield at 9am and drove straight to Wembley and played the game.”
Onto the match itself and Lormor, who said at no point did he feel they were going to lose against the Stags in the sem-final despite going behind twice, had a different feeling about the final.
Leading up to the game the forward had feared that the squad would be broken up if they lost because they had several players out of contract.
“We were a really close group,” he said. “I do remember feeling under a lot of pressure which I think I had put on myself to make sure we won.”
Both Hewitt and Lormor gave honest assessments in saying that it was not a particularly great final.
“Bury were on top for large chunks of the game,” Lormor said. “We had played about half an hour and I had barely had a kick. I remember running back for a corner and Nicky (Law) said to me ‘is any danger of you lads holding the ball up front to give us a break’ and I literally went ‘honestly Nicky you are right, I can’t get hold of it’.”
Lormor’s controversial goal midway through the first-half, from a Law long-throw, gave Town the lead but it should have been ruled out for handball by Andy Morris and offside against Phil Robinson.
“It was definitely handball and Robbo would have been classed as offside (with VAR now),” Lormor admitted. “It dropped to me as a half-volley on my left foot. I remember thinking ‘oh shit’. You just want that tap-in at Wembley and I remember just trying to get a connection on it and it wasn't a particularly great connection and it sort of looped over the goalkeeper.”
Robinson added a second just before half-time, which came again from a dangerous long throw by Law, and a resolute Chesterfield side were never going to concede three after that.
Despite scoring and winning at Wembley, Lormor surprisingly admitted that he did not enjoy the day or rate his own performance which is one of his regrets when he looks back on his career.
“I got substituted after about 65-70 minutes and it was probably one of the worst games I had played in the second of the season,” he said.
“I enjoyed scoring which was a fantastic feeling. Big Kev (Davies) had a good chance, Andy (Morris) had a good chance, we could have won 4-0 or 5-0. I remember the final whistle going and shaking hands with their manager and going ‘I don’t think the best team has won today’. On the day I thought Bury played the better. It should have been the greatest day really of my football career but I hadn’t played well and it had not been a great game to be honest. It is a massive regret that I did not enjoy it more.”
Hewitt said it was a “professional performance” by the Spireites that day.
“The standout players were probably the midfield and the defenders because we defended quite a bit and we kept a clean sheet,” he said. “And when you have a striker like Tony - who says he did not have a good game - but scores for you, that is what you want. I think we defended quite a lot in the second half but that is what we were based on and prided ourselves on and we knew if we could do that we would get promotion.”
Learning from their lesson from the defeat against Cambridge, Chesterfield made no plans to stay over in case they suffered heartache again.
“We travelled back that day on the bus and we were all out in Chesterfield that night and obviously the celebrations were a lot better than the time before!” Hewitt said.
And off to Barbados they went.
“To be fair to the football club they put us in a top class hotel (in Barbados) for a week and we had a good week of celebrations there,” Hewitt added.
“It is one of the fondest memories I’ve got as a player at Chesterfield those seasons in 94/95, 95/96 and obviously 96/97 although I enjoyed them all and I was privileged to play for Chesterfield but they were the successful ones and I felt very lucky to get to Wembley twice and the FA Cup run that we had.
“It (the win against Bury) is up there with the FA Cup semi-final because the league was our bread and butter. The Mansfield game is on a par with the semi-final too. Both games are the highlights of my career with the Wembley appearance to go with it.”