The Class of 95: The Play-Off Final Team

Twenty-five years on from the Play-Off Final victory against Reading at Wembley, it has been a rollercoaster ride for this historic football club ever since that glorious day. It was Owen Coyle, Mixu Paatelainen and Fabian De Freitas who scored the goals to ensure a first ever promotion to the Premiership as it was then known.

Not everyone will have had the opportunity to get to Wembley that day and there is a sizeable percentage of the Wanderers fan base that hadn’t yet been born. Let’s go through the squad from that day and tell you a bit more about them.

#1        Keith Branagan                      Goalkeeper

Many people credit Keith Branagan for much of the success that was achieved at Wembley twenty-five years ago and it is easy to see why. With Wanderers 2-0 down to a confident Reading side, the future Republic of Ireland international made an important penalty save from Stuart Lovell to ensure the contest wouldn’t sail out of the reach of Bruce Rioch’s side. Born in London, the goalkeeper spent his early years with Cambridge United and Millwall before an eight year spell with Wanderers (1992-2000). His professional career came to an end in 2002 following two years with Ipswich Town.

#2        Scott Green                Right Back

The Midlands born full-back was in his fifth year with Wanderers and went onto make over 250 appearances for the club before a move to Wigan Athletic in 1997. Starting his professional career with Derby County, he was picked up by Bolton in 1990 for a fee of £50,000. After leaving Wigan in 2003, he spent time with Wrexham, Telford United and Ashton United before retiring in 2006.

 #3       Jimmy Phillips                        Left Back

Phillips was a couple of years into his second spell with Wanderers when he played in the 1995 Play-Off Final and would go onto rack up well in excess of 300 appearances for the club. Born in Bolton, the full-back came through the club’s youth ranks in 1983 and spent four years at Burnden Park before signing for Glasgow Rangers in 1987. Spells at Oxford United and Middlesbrough followed prior to a return to his hometown club in 1993; he retired from playing in 2001.

#5        Gudni Bergsson                     Centre Back

The Icelandic defender had only made his debut for Wanderers under a month prior to the Play-Off Final, coming on as a substitute in the Coca-Cola Cup Final defeat to Liverpool. Having signed from Tottenham Hotspur, Bergsson would go onto become a firm favourite amongst the Bolton supporters and stayed with the club until his retirement in 2003.

#6        Alan Stubbs                Centre Back

A promising young defender during his time at Wanderers, Stubbs had really come of age and was attracting potential suitors further up the ladder by the time he’d played in the Play-Off Final in 1995. Coming through the ranks to make over 200 league appearances, he signed for Celtic in 1996 and remained in Scotland until 2001 when he signed for Everton. Before retirement in 2008, he also had spells with Sunderland and Derby County.

#7        Neil McDonald                       Midfielder     

Capable of being used as a right-back or a midfielder, McDonald played just the first half of this match before being replaced by Fabian De Freitas who would of course go on to score twice. The former England Under-21 international played just a handful of games for Wanderers having spent the previous years of his career with Newcastle United, Everton and Oldham Athletic. He finished his playing career in 1998 after three years with Preston North End.

#4        Jason McAteer                       Midfielder

McAteer would leave Wanderers later in the year to sign for Liverpool, but the midfielder had continued to excel following his arrival from non-league Marine and performed excellently in the Play-Off Final. Making in excess of 100 league appearances for the club between 1992 and 1995 he went onto spend four years at Liverpool (1995-1999) before spells with Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland. He retired in 2007 after three years of playing in his hometown of Birkenhead for Tranmere Rovers.

#9        Mixu Paatelainen      Forward

The big Finnish forward scored the goal in extra-time to give Wanderers the lead for the first time, putting Bruce Ricoh’s side 3-2 up – having trailed 2-0. Having done well in Scotland for Dundee United and Aberdeen, he joined Wanderers in 1994 and remained with the club until a move to Wolves in 1997. Retiring in 2005 he went onto spend time with Hibernian, RC Strasbourg, St. Johnstone, St. Mirren and Cowdenbeath.

#11     Alan Thompson                     Midfielder

A tricky wide midfielder with an eye for goal, Thompson was brilliant during five years with the club (1993-1998) and made over 150 league appearances having joined from Newcastle United. Going onto earn an England cap, the left-sided player also enjoyed spells with Aston Villa, Celtic and Leeds United before retiring in 2008 after a loan spell with Hartlepool United.

#8        Owen Coyle                Forward

Brought down from Scotland by Bruce Rioch, Coyle signed for Wanderers in 1993 after beginning his career with spells at Dumbarton, Clyde and Airdrie. Having arrived for a £250,000 fee the forward spent a couple of full seasons at Burnden Park and scored the first goal in the 1995 Play-Off Final. Heading back to Scotland shortly afterwards to sign for Dundee United, he spent the remainder of his playing career north of the border until his retirement in 2007.

#10     John McGinlay                       Forward

Without doubt a club legend for his contribution on the field with goals aplenty during the 1990s, McGinlay first arrived at Burnden Park in 1992 after leaving Millwall. Starting his career in his native Scotland, he first came to England to sign for Yeovil Town in 1985 and also had a spell with Shrewsbury Town. Scoring 118 goals for Wanderers during five years with the club, the Scotland international had spells with Bradford City and Oldham Athletic before going onto play and coach in the United States.



#16     Peter Shilton              Goalkeeper

On the bench as backup for Keith Branagan, the legendary former England international stopper was 45 at the time of the 1995 Play-Off Final. Capped 125 times during a 20 year period (1970-1990), Shilton made over 1,000 league appearance during an impressive playing career; his most notable spells with Leicester City, Stoke City, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Derby County. Remarkably, he played on until 1997 before retiring at the age of 47!

#14     John Dreyer               Defender

Only playing four times during a loan stint from Stoke City, the experienced defender had started his career in non-league before spending time with Oxford United and Luton Town. After leaving Stoke City in 1996, he spent four years at Bradford City before retiring in 2003 following spells with Cambridge United and Stevenage.

#12     Fabian De Freitas      Forward

The hero on a dramatic May afternoon, the Suriname-born forward came on at the break to score twice – once to level the game at 2-2 close to the end of the 90 minutes, and then again in extra-time to score his side’s fourth and put the contest beyond any doubt. Signed from Dutch side FC Volendam in 1994, he spent a couple of years with Wanderers before going onto play for Osasuna, West Bromwich Albion, SC Cambuur, FC Den Bosch and NEC Nijmegen. He retired in 2004.


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