Play-Off Final 1993/94

Remembering City’s Three Consecutive Wembley Visits

Leicester City featured in a hat-trick of consecutive play-off finals in the early 1990s with the aim of reaching the promised land of the Premier League for the first time.
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Before promotion was finally achieved in 1994, successive trips to the national stadium had brought the Foxes plenty of late drama and heartbreak.

The early '90s were a time of much change in the English footballing world as the newly formed FA Premier League started to take shape and slowly attract some of the biggest names in world football.

City came close to participating in the league’s inaugural campaign, narrowly missing out on promotion to the top flight in the first of their three consecutive second tier play-off finals at the old Wembley.

The route to that showpiece event had been negotiated with relative ease. After finishing fourth in the Second Division, Cambridge United were dispatched 5-0 in the second leg of the semi-final tie after a stalemate in the first.

Five years after relegation, this was Leicester’s first serious challenge at returning to England’s top division and only three points had separated the Foxes from promoted Middlesbrough in second.

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Mike Newell
Mike Newell

Former Leicester City forward Mike Newell scored the only goal of the 1992 Final, via the penalty spot.

Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers, backed by the money of Jack Walker, were the opponents for the final in May 1992, and future City forward David Speedie would prove a thorn in Leicester’s side.

Steve Walsh was adjudged to have fouled Speedie in the box, leading to Mike Newell - a Leicester player three years earlier - converting his penalty on the stroke of half-time.

His goal, in front of over 68,000 under the Twin Towers, condemned City to another season in what became the First Division.

In a great test of character, Brian Little’s side returned for a second crack at promotion in 1993, this time against Swindon Town. Having finished sixth in the table, level on points with fifth-place Swindon, the Foxes faced Portsmouth in the two-legged Semi-Final.

A 3-2 aggregate victory, in which both games were played ‘away’ due to stadium developments at Filbert Street, ensured City would compete in back-to-back Wembley play-off finals.

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Paul Bodin
Paul Bodin

History repeated itself in 1993 when a late Swindon penalty crushed City's promotion dreams at Wembley.

Bidding to reach the top flight for the first time since 1986/87, the Foxes were cautiously optimistic having remained unbeaten against the Robins in the regular season.

But in a disastrous 11-minute spell either side of half-time, Town scored three goals, including one from player-manager Glenn Hoddle, and appeared to have put the game beyond doubt.

Remarkably, however, City showed their fighting spirit to bring the scores back level thanks to goals from semi-final hero Julian Joachim, captain Walsh - the Club’s leading scorer that season - and an equaliser from Steve Thompson, who had also netted the semi-final aggregate winner.

There was to be late heartbreak, once again from the penalty spot, as Paul Bodin scored from 12 yards in the 84th minute to send Swindon into the Premier League. 

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Steve Walsh
Steve Walsh

The iconic former Fox celebrates perhaps his biggest-ever goal for Leicester.

After six failed attempts at winning on Wembley Way, including two successive play-off final defeats, the Foxes faithful could have been forgiven for thinking the chances of a third visit in three seasons were minimal.

In a show of true grit and determination, City bounced back from those previous disappointments to finish fourth in the 1993/94 First Division and earn a spot in the end of season play-offs.

Tranmere Rovers, who had reached the top six two years running, awaited in the semi-final. After a goalless first leg, City won 2-1 at Filbert Street with goals from Ian Ormondroyd and Speedie - now a Leicester player.

That set up a Final with East Midland rivals Derby County, after they breezed through their two-legged tie with Millwall.

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Steve Walsh
Steve Walsh

Two-goal hero Steve Walsh holds the Play-Off trophy aloft at the old Wembley.

History appeared to be repeating itself once again as Leicester fell behind when Tommy Johnson broke the deadlock inside the first half an hour at Wembley.

Crucially, Leicester managed to equalise before the break when Walsh, playing in just his second full game since September due to injury, met Gary Coatsworth’s cross to score in consecutive play-off finals.

Better was yet to come for Walsh and City in the second period, as buoyed by the travelling Blue Army, the skipper poked home a rebound three minutes from time, after Martin Taylor could only parry Ormondroyd’s header.

Despite the Rams dominating, Little’s men withheld the Rams’ pressure to seal promotion to the top flight for the first time in seven years and finally put to bed the disappointment of past defeats.

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