Here, we take a look at some of the standout Finals from the competition’s history…
1984 – AFC Bournemouth 2-1 Hull City
The competition’s inaugural Final might have been played at Hull City’s then-home ground of Boothferry Park, but it was Harry Redknapp’s AFC Bournemouth that triumphed on the day, thanks to Paul Morrell’s second-half header. It was a goal which capped an impressive debut campaign for the young defender, who would go on to make over 400 appearances for the Cherries, and one which secured them just a second piece of silverware in their history, following their 1946 Division Three (South) Cup victory. The 1984 Associate Members' Cup Final – as it was then known - was originally supposed to have been played at Wembley Stadium, but was moved to Boothferry Park as the hallowed turf had been churned up by the Horse of the Year Show. In the end, Redknapp’s Cherries won the Trophy 2-1 in front of a crowd of 6,544. A memorable day for many reasons, and the first of many classic Finals.
1988 – Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Burnley
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Wembley meeting with Burnley was the fifth edition of the competition’s Final and, unlike the 1984 version, was watched by over 80,000 supporters, setting a new record which would not be broken until 2019. On the pitch, it was Wolves – fresh from winning the Fourth Division title - who came out on top, with goals in either half from Andy Mutch and Robbie Dennison proving decisive. It was the first time in the competition's history that two previous English champions had met in the Final, and Wolves were the first of the former champions to have won the Trophy. The game and the win represented part of the club’s rejuvenation, just eight years on from their League Cup triumph over Nottingham Forest at the same venue, and will live long in the memory of the Wolves fans lucky enough to have snapped up a ticket.
1995 – Birmingham City 1-0 Carlisle United
A first game at Wembley to be decided by the golden goal rule, the 1995 Auto Windscreens Shields Trophy – as it was known then - will go down in history. More than 76,000 fans packed out Wembley Stadium to witness Birmingham City lift the trophy, with Paul Tait the golden-goal hero. It was the first leg of a double for Barry Fry’s Blues, who went on to win the Second Division Championship, with Tait again scoring the decisive goal on the last day of the season.
2000 - Bristol City 1-2 Stoke City
The last of the EFL Trophy Finals to be played at Wembley before the stadium closed its doors for redevelopment was another entertaining and dramatic affair, as 75,000 travelled to the capital for the occasion. Both sides were involved in the race for promotion to the First Division, with both hoping to use the momentum of a Wembley win to achieve it. Stoke City fans dedicated the final to Stanley Matthews, who sadly passed away in February 2000 and they made it a day to remember by overcoming Bristol City late on. A Graham Kavanagh goal was cancelled out by Paul Holland with 15 minutes to play, before Peter Thorne got on the end of a Kavanagh cross to earn Stoke a third win at Wembley and walk away with the Trophy.
2017 – Coventry City 2-1 Oxford United
Another packed out Wembley Stadium, saw 74,434 fans travel to the capital for the 2017 EFL Trophy Final. The game was, at the time, the highest-attended EFL Trophy Final since the opening of the new Wembley Stadium, only to be beaten in 2019 by the 85,021 Portsmouth and Sunderland fans that flocked to London for the same occasion. With Coventry bottom of league One and Oxford United challenging for promotion, the Sky Blues went in as underdogs, but a Gael Bigirimana strike and an inspired performance from George Thomas saw Mark Robins’ side come out on top to earn Coventry a first major trophy since victory in the 1987 FA Cup Final. The win was a highlight for Sky Blues’ fans whose season ended in disappointment following relegation to Sky Bet League Two, but that day at Wembley will live long in the memory nonetheless.
This feature originally appeared in the official 2020/21 Papa John's Trophy Final programmes.