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Memories of the Freight Rover/Sherpa Van Trophy

Discussion in '1980's' started by Beowulf, Dec 17, 2010.

  1. Beowulf

    Beowulf Senior Member

    Likes Received:
    Dec 4, 2007
    The Sherpa Van Trophy win of 1987-1988 occupies a curious place in the large Wolves pantheon. In terms of prestige it no doubt sits behind our solitary Division Four title and Division Three North success of 1923-24. And yet, despite its lowly status, the Sherpa Van Trophy was a much-cherished and fondly remembered addition to the Wolves Roll of Honour, and is still the subject of pride amongst the many Wolves fans who witnessed Ally Robertson ascending Wembley’s 39 steps to raise the trophy on that warm, sunny May day.

    I attended all home matches over the four seasons that Wolves were involved in the competition. For the inaugural match against Torquay, I was one of just 1,618 present for the then-titled Freight Rover Trophy. The level of apathy amongst the Wolverhampton public was, of course, reflected in the sparse attendance. But the underwhelming feeling amongst those attending that evening was also encapsulated in the humour of a solitary voice that frequently echoed around the South Bank. The traditional and time-honoured terrace chant reserved solely for FA Cup matches was replaced by tongue-in-cheek words that stated: “… and we’ll really bowl ‘em over when we win the Freight Rover…†We all shared in the joke that night but I often wonder if that lone wag was one of the estimated 50,000 Wolves fans that were present at Wembley a couple of years later.

    The Freight Rover/Sherpa Van Trophy proved to be somewhat of a slow burner. The apathy of those formative years was replaced, in the year of our success, by increased attendances and a memorable two-legged semi-final against Notts County. I recall, in particular, the first-leg at Meadow Lane and a packed away terrace. In a crowd of just over 10,000 at least half of that figure, I’m sure, were Wolves fans. County were at that time, if memory serves, riding high in the division above Wolves and were probably considered by neutral judges as the more likely to win. With our underdog status very much in mind and with Wembley so tantalisingly close, I remember the release of emotion from the massed ranks of Wolves fans following Bully’s long-range goal. In fact, so much emotion was released from yours truly that I planted a kiss on the cheek of one of my mates who was also celebrating the goal with equally wild abandonment! Fortunately, for all concerned, that was the only time I’ve ever felt moved to kiss another bloke and I’m still bemused that it was the unheralded Sherpa Van Trophy that was the vehicle for such an act! Those scenes of collective joy were repeated a week later after our second leg victory and were in marked contrast to the indifference that greeted our match against Torquay two years previously.

    I’ve written quite extensively about the Final on the relevant thread but the reason our success in the once-ignored Freight Rover/Sherpa Van Trophy holds relevance is because of what it represents to Wolves supporters. To those of a younger generation raised on tales of the illustrious Wolves teams of the 1950’s and the last great Wolves side of the early 1970’s, the Sherpa Van Trophy victory, in conjunction with the Division Four title, provided a level of success that will always be welcomed, no matter how small. It might not have been a major honour that the previous generation of Wolves fans were so used to, but it represented our stake in the club, our marker of success for our generation and it was planted with a great deal of pride. But to all generations of Wolves fans the 'Lower League and Cup Double' symbolised something of the utmost importance: after near extinction and subsequent slumber, the Wolves were beginning to roar again.

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