No beer, but plenty of cheer for King Ken Charlery after Wembley triumph with Peterborough United

It's the 30th anniversary of Peterborough United’s unforgettable Wembley play-off final triumph today.

By Alan Swann
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 9:12 am
Ken Charlery scores the winning goal for Posh against Stockport County in the Third Division play-off final at Wembley in May, 1992.
Ken Charlery scores the winning goal for Posh against Stockport County in the Third Division play-off final at Wembley in May, 1992.

Posh beat Stockport County 2-1 on May 24, 1992 , in their first competitive match at Wembley, to secure back-to-back promotions under the inspirational management of Chris Turner and a place in the second tier of the Football League (then called Division One) for the first time in the club’s history.

'King' Ken Charlery scored both Posh goals that day and the Peterborough Telegraph caught up with him....

Only two things spoilt the greatest day in Ken Charlery's football career.

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The controversial first goal for Posh in the 1992 Wembley final scored by Ken Charlery (out of picture).

There were no medals presented to the players after a dramatic play-off final win and, more importantly, there was no beer for the players as they drove home on a happy team bus.

“That was (owner) John Devaney for you,” recalled Charlery. “The players and staff were on a high, but we had a dry bus. No-one could believe it, but we made up for it when we got back to the Swallow Hotel in the city.

“Some of the lads wanted to go into town as they'd heard thousands of Posh fans were still there celebrating, and 'Scouse' (captain Mick Halsall) went, but the rest of us feared we'd get mobbed, in a good way of course, and anyway the drink was free in the hotel!

“What a day it was. In fact what a season it was. We beat Liverpool and Newcastle in the Rumbelows Cup on our way to the quarter-finals where we lost to Middlesbrough when a two-legged semi-final against Manchester United was waiting for us and we reached the area final of the Autoglass Trophy, or whatever it was called back then.

Ken Charlery kisses the Third Division play-off trophy after his two-goal heroics

“But promotion was the big thing for us and we did it thanks to a great manager, some great players, great self-belief and our great fans who followed us up and down the country. We wouldn't have pulled it off without them.

“And for me to score the two goals in a Wembley final was incredible. It wasn't much of a game, but it had an amazing finish, although climbing all those stairs at the end to find there were no medals for us was a bit disappointing! There was a trophy though, but that went missing and everyone thought I had it! I promise you I haven't seen it since that day.”

Charlery had joined Posh from Maidstone as one of six March transfer deadline day signings made by Turner to get his side over the line in a Fourth Division promotion push in the 1990-91 season, and he played on the right-wing in his early days at London Road.

It wasn't until Turner turned him into a centre forward in September of the following season that his Posh career took off. He scored 26 goals in all competitions in the 91-92 campaign, capped off by that Wembley double.

The Posh 1992 Wembley winning squad at a 2002 reunion.

“After beating Liverpool we really fancied we could reach the play-offs,” Charlery added. “No-one really fancied us, but we signed Bobby Barnes and Tony Adcock in January and we just took off. We finished sixth, but beat the play-off favourites Huddersfield in the semi-final and we were confident we could beat Stockport.

“We stayed over the weekend at Waltham Abbey and on the way to the ground it was just a procession of cars with flags and scarves hanging out of the window tooting horns at us. It was the same as we walked out at Wembley. Stockport had played there the weekend before so didn't bring many fans. All we could see as we walked out was a sea of Posh blue. It was inspiring, emotional and nerve-jangling, but we knew we couldn't let them down.

“I had a coach full of family and friends come up my East London manor and the game couldn't have gone much better for me or them.

“It was 0-0 at half-time, but early in the second-half I scored with a header from a corner. Some said the ball never crossed the line, but it was at least two feet over, although that distance has grown with every time I tell the story! The bigger surprise for me was Bobby Barnes managing to drop a corner on my head as he never usually managed to do that.

“Stockport had Kevin Francis up front. He was huge and a real handful, but we coped well with him until a mistake let him equalise late on.

“People then remember my winning goal, but really the goalline clearance Lee Howarth made to stop Stockport scoring again at 1-1 was just as important. The ball could have flown anywhere, but it cleared the crossbar. I don't know how he did it.

“It was a blistering hot day so we were all dreading extra time, but luckily Taff (Marcus Ebdon) played a great pass and I managed to finish it. The goalkeeper helped make my mind up by racing off his line. He was a small 'keeper so I could lob him. It wasn't an easy finish, but as soon as the ball went over his head I knew it was going in. The next three minutes or so were the longest of my life, but we hung on to complete an incredible season. It was the best day of my entire career.

"I can't believe it was 30 years ago. I still speak to some of the lads from time to time and it’s just a shame that Chris Turner and Steve Cooper are no longer with us. Steve’s winning goal in the play-off semi-final at Huddersfield was just as important as the two I scored at Wembley.”

That great Posh team started to break up the following season, although they still recorded a 10th place finish in the old Division One which remains the highest finishing position in the club’s Football League history.

"Newcastle wanted me,” Charlery revealed. “But for some reason Posh didn’t let me go. Dave Robinson was the first one to go to Notts County and a week later I went to Watford which was ideal for me as it was just up the road from where I lived and they were also in Division One.

"Before I left we got off to a great start in the league beating Derby who had spent a fortune and Southend who had Barry Fry as manager. It was a shame to leave, but the club needed to cash in and anyway I got to come back twice!”

In three spells at Posh between 1991 and 1997 Charlery racked up 224 appearances and scored 80 goals. Only Jim Hall (137), Tommy Robson (128), Craig Mackail-Smith (104), Terry Bly (87) and Aaron Maclen (85) have scored more in the club’s Football League era.

Charlery (56) is now director of football and majority shareholder of London Colney.

They play in the Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division.