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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » 'I'll never forget it' - Phil Brown on leading Wanderers out at Wembley

'I'll never forget it' - Phil Brown on leading Wanderers out at Wembley

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Former Wanderers star Phil Brown says captaining the side in the 1989 Sherpa Van Trophy final is “a highlight of my career”.

The Whites came from behind to earn a 4-1 victory against Torquay United at Wembley thanks to goals from Julian Darby, Jeff Chandler, Dean Crombie and Trevor Morgan.

It was the first time Wanderers had won a cup competition since their FA Cup success in 1958.

Brown recalled being given the captain’s armband early in the season after Mark Came had suffered a serious injury.

“At the start of that season, we were all coming together as a new group at Bolton and Phil Neal was not quite sure who was going to be the captain,” he told the United Mates Football Podcast.

“We had probably seven or eight players in the changing room that could have led the club from a captain’s perspective, and it was good to know that.

“Mark Came got the captaincy at the start of the season and everybody was pleased for him. Then about two or three games into that season I remember him breaking his leg and it was a horrendous break – he was out for the rest of the season.

“I’m sitting in the half-time team talk with Phil Neal and Mick Brown, and our captain is in a hospital bed.

“I turned to Mick and said, ‘who’s taking the team out?’ The answer was ‘you’. At the end of that season, I’m obviously walking up the stairs to collect the trophy as the captain of the club.

“To lead a team at Wembley was just a highlight of my career. To win a trophy, I’ll never forget it. It was a fabulous day.”

Brown served as assistant manager to Sam Allardyce for many years, initially at Blackpool before the pair reunited at Wanderers.

He admits he initially found it challenging to make the transition from playing to coaching.

“A lot of people thought that me and Sam Allardyce played together at Bolton but we didn’t cross paths,” Brown added.

“I was playing snooker in the Bolton League one Thursday night and I got a phonecall from Sam. He told me Bobby (Saxton) had been sacked and that he wanted me to join him as first team coach (at Blackpool).

“It was a massive learning curve – every day I was doing a million things and just learning my trade very quickly.

“That was the hard part – mixing with the players and then going into the coaches’ room.

“It was really difficult to find a balance in my life. But I absolutely soaked up everything that came my way.”

Brown was part of a successful era at Bolton as the Whites won promotion back to the Premier League and even earned European qualification.

The former Hull City boss praised the club for supporting Allardyce and helping him achieve his vision.

“Sam had an idea about how he wanted the game played and I just went along with it,” he said.

“He played in America in the latter stages of his career and came back with an idea that he wanted every player at the football club to have a coach.

“He didn’t mean just football coaches – he was talking about strength and conditioning, psychology, stretching – you name it.

“He put everything in place at Bolton – he couldn’t quite get there at Blackpool because we didn’t have enough time.

“One day when we were sitting in a team talk at Bolton, he started chuckling. He said, ‘count how many people are in the room’.

“We had 32 coaches at the time, so he had fulfilled his ambition. Obviously, you can only do that with finance and backing from the club.”

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