Classic Football League Trophy Final: Stoke 2 Bristol C 1

Saturday, 29, March, 2014
Graham Kavanagh celebrates his goal in the 2000 Football League Trophy Final

Stoke City 2 Bristol City 1

16 April 2000

Wembley has a history of hosting memorable moments and creating stories which, at times, seem to verge on pre-destination.

Let me take you back, if you will, to May 1953.

Poor Bolton showed up to play Stanley Matthews’ Blackpool with the nation willing the beloved 38-year-old outside-right to finally win an FA Cup winners medal.

The Trotters were there to spoil that party and spoil it they almost did, racing into a 3-1 lead before Matthews inspired his team to an incredible comeback to win the game which would forever be known as ‘The Matthews Final’ 4-3.

Now fast forward some 47 years and the country is still mourning the passing, in February, of Sir Stanley Matthews and another of the great man’s former teams is at Wembley.

This time it’s Stoke City who visit the stadium, a game which would prove to be the last Football League Trophy Final at the old stadium and a match which the Potters fans had already dedicated to their departed hero.

Surely the scene is set and the script is written?

Yet, as in 1953, there is an obstacle to overcome before that fairy tale ending can be etched in pen, however it is not Bolton in the way this time but Bristol City.

And no small obstacle they were either. Competing with Stoke at the top end of Division Two, both teams were vying for a second trip to Wembley via the Play-Offs in May.

As fate would have it both would miss out on promotion in the end so this final would prove the crowning moment of one of their seasons although, of course, neither knew that at the time.

Not that Stoke needed further incentive, they had a legend to pay tribute to and Bristol City had their own motivation.

Silverware had been hard to come by at Ashton Gate and the Football League Trophy they had last won back in 1986 (then known as the Freight Rovers Trophy for those wondering) was looking for a companion in their cabinet.

And so the scene was set, the main event ready to begin and over 75,000 fans packed into Wembley to witness it.

The Stoke contingent of that impressive crowd did not have to wait long for something to cheer.

The game had just got beyond the half hour mark when Graham Kavanagh burst forward from midfield, showed poise and balance to ride two challenges before lashing the ball past Billy Mercer.

An elegant and cultured run from a midfielder in red and white stripes, given the nature of the day it seemed a fitting way to open the scoring.

And for the longest time it looked like that would be the only goal.

42 minutes came and went before The Robins decided to try and write their own script for this final.

Brian Tinnion whipped in a wonderful corner and Paul Holland thumped home the header to send the other half of Wembley into raptures.

But, just as in ’53, there was late drama to be had.

In the Matthews Final it was the second minute of injury time before Bill Perry struck the winner for Sir Stanley. In 2000 Peter Thorne decided to not leave it so late to get a goal which was later dedicated to the man whose statue stands outside the Britannia Stadium.

More clever play from the Potters created the goal. Gudjonsson’s quickly taken free-kick showed speed of mind but it was the fleet of foot from Kavanagh once more which created the goal, the Irishman again elegantly riding a challenge before clipping the ball into the six-yard box for Thorne who simply could not miss.

Ten minutes later the final whistle sounded and the Stoke players took that famous walk up the Wembley steps to collect their prize.

Stoke captain Nicky Mohan was the man with the honour of raising the Auto Windscreens Shield in the air and as he did so a huge banner adorned with a picture of Sir Stanley Matthews was visible waving in the crowd a few rows above the Potters players heads.

I suppose you could say he was looking down upon his former team.