MEMORY LANE – CREWE 1987 by Peter Fordham


Peter Fordham

Pete looks back at Crewe (h)…and Bryn the dog!


Odd how our minds work and how memory can play tricks on us. “Selective“ memory often recalls the good times and blocks out the bad. 

From the old cars I have owned to the good times as a TUFC supporter I think we all tend to remember the best bits and push the bad memories to the back of our minds.  

Selective memory undoubtedly  played a part in my recollection of one famous day in the  football clubs history. Just like the old useless unreliable cars I once owned and quite ridiculously would love to own now, its just selective memory once again getting up to its old dirty tricks. 

The date May 9th 1987 exactly 36 years ago this coming Tuesday. For all the wrong and all the right reasons I had pushed the events of that day to the back of my mind. For myself and, no doubt  the majority of the 3655 crowd  emotions were so heightened and confused that afternoon I simply couldn’t cope with recalling the stress levels of that “unforgettable” last dramatic match of the season between ourselves and Crewe Alexandra. 

This was the first season of the play off system and automatic relegation to non league with the club suffering relegation to footballs wilderness and possible oblivion.   

Three clubs were left with that cloud hanging over them as they entered the last day of the season. Burnley began the day in pole position for the drop with ourselves just above and Lincoln in the final spot.  

The previous two seasons had seen us finish bottom of the table following some of the worst years in the clubs history during the Webb era.  Most neutrals would have undoubtedly fancied us to be the fall guys this time around. We were playing a decent side in Crewe who would feature future England international David Platt.  

Burnley’s position also looked ominous with a very tough home game for play off contenders Leyton Orient, who needed to win to guarantee a place in the play off’s. 

Lincoln, who had been as high in the table as 7th in the January, faced a Swansea City side who had little to play for. Only a heavy defeat and an unlikely set of results for ourselves and Burnley would see them relegated. 

A warm sunny Saturday in mid spring. Much In keeping with playing surfaces of the day we looked on at a a bone hard well worn pitch and along with the inevitable tension the quality of the football suffered. This was no football  spectacle.  

No doubt the exact same feelings were being felt at the Vetch and at Turf Moor. 

So there we all were, stood there more in hope than expectation. I was stood on what used to be the Pop side open terrace towards the Babbacombe end… The sun was shining, it was a warm day and the best place to be…. 

We had a pretty disastrous first half. 0-2 down at the break. Can’t recall the goals at all, who remembers opponents goals? But Platt scored one of them from a free kick. We looked doomed, there was an intense feeling of inevitability sweeping the ground as the game entered the second period. We then managed to pull a goal back from Jim McNichol free kick. A tiny glimmer of light shone around Plainmoor but how were the others doing? 

As the game entered its last throws we stuttered,stumbled and toiled in search of the equaliser. Very little was falling for us as we entered the final minutes… Suddenly a commotion in front of us . Most had no ideas what the hell was going on. Dogs barking, trainers, medics on the pitch we realised something serious had occurred but were unsure what exactly. The actual sequence of events have been well documented.. 

With at least ten minutes of added time the fate of Burnley and Lincoln began to filter through. Our lot soon realised we needed to score to survive.  

With Jim McNichol stitched up and soldiering on in incredible brave fashion and some scruffy play the ball ends up at the feet of Dobo and hey presto the bloody round thing ends up in the Crewe net. 

WE HAVE EQUALISED!!! We are saved!!   

What the hell those Lincoln supporters were going through God only knows but at that moment in time not one of us really cared . 

Consequently we added to the TUFC legend list Paul Dobson. 

Jim McNichol, and dog Bryn go down in history as being part of the greatest ever escapes. The crowd scenes at the end were incredible. I just stood and watched in disbelief as players and management were swamped by supporters. 

Burnley contrive and conjure up a 2-1 home win and three points over Leyton Orient while Lincoln suffer a 2-0 defeat at Swansea. 

At 4.55 on Saturday the 9th of May 1987 we were destined for a first stint non league football. By 5.00 we were once again a football league club. 

Fine lines…..A terrible season but a fantastic day.  

The following season though would be so different.  Manager Stuart Morgan would resign soon after. The late great Cyril Knowles was appointed and would go on to assemble one of the better squads of recent times after inheriting a core of excellent footballers who just needed improved tactics, organisation, leadership and a focal point up top…. Dave Caldwell was that man. 

It’s all down to selective memory you see. PF 







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