Play-off final heroes: What did they do and where are they now?

If you are going to be a hero for a Football League club, the play-off final is definitely the place to do it.

There is no doubt that play-off heroes hold a very special place in the hearts of supporters. They are not always the biggest and most glamorous names, but that is simply part of their magic.

The Football League play-offs regularly throw up such figures of folklore, and this season we will get three more to add to the list.

What of play-off heroes from yesteryear, though? How did they earn their hero stripes and what are they up to now? Here are some of our favourites.

Mike Newell - BLACKBURN 1-0 Leicester, 1992

When you are talking about important goals in a club's history, you'd struggle to find one to better Mike Newell's for Blackburn in 1992. The club had just been taken over by Jack Walker and he had persuaded Kenny Dalglish to return to the dugout. A few years later, they would be Premier League champions.

Before that, though they had to get themselves out of the second tier, and that meant a play-off final date with Leicester. Newell scored the only goal from the penalty spot, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It all worked out quite well for Newell, who would later be part of the Blackburn team to win the Premier League.

Where is Mike Newell now?

After he retired as a player, Newell appeared to have a promising career ahead of him as a manager. Sadly, that all petered out when he was the whistle-blower in a transfer bungs scandal. He was last involved in football as assistant manager at Irish side Waterford in 2021.

Glenn Hoddle - SWINDON 4-3 Leicester, 1993

Glenn Hoddle didn't score the winner in this one, but how often can a player-manager say they scored for their own team in a Wembley win?

Hoddle went to France to fulfil his dream of playing sweeper and when it was time for him to return to England - a league that still thought sweepers were for cleaning the terraces - he decided it was easier to find a club that let him pick the team himself.

He scored the first goal in this one, which was one of the best finals of all time. Swindon were 3-0 up by 55 minutes but Leicester had levelled it by the 70th. In the end, a pulsating contest was settled by a late Paul Bodin penalty and Swindon were heading to the Premier League.

Where is Glenn Hoddle now?

Hoddle had a decent career in management with Chelsea, Tottenham and England, among others, and now works as a pundit for BT Sport.

David Hopkin - CRYSTAL PALACE 1-0 Sheffield United, 1997

We've all imagined it and don't you dare pretend that you haven't: playing in a Wembley final, last minute, scores are level - and you curl one from distance into the top corner of the net to win it for your team. Frankly, if you haven't imagined it you aren't doing football fandom right.

For David Hopkin, that dream became a reality as he scored a spectacular last-minute winner to send Crystal Palace to the Premier League in 1997.

Palace were the first London team to win the play-offs, although their joy was short-lived with relegation following a year later.

Where is David Hopkin now?

That goal was practically Hopkin's last kick for Palace, with him moving to Leeds for the 1997/98 season. After a decent playing career, he moved into coaching and was last employed in 2021 by Ayr United after spells in charge of Livingston, Bradford and Greenock Morton.

Clive Mendonca - Sunderland 4-4 CHARLTON, 1998

If you are ever in Sunderland, it is probably advisable to mention the name of Clive Mendonca in hushed tones. Mendonca was raised on Wearside and grew up a Black Cats fan, but you wouldn't have known it watching him at Wembley in 1998 for Charlton.

It is a game that is not only widely regarded as the greatest play-off game of all time, but one of the best ever matches anywhere. Mendonca opened the scoring and pegged Sunderland back twice more after they had edged ahead.

Ultimately, the game went to penalties and Mendonca scored his before Charlton came out on top.

Where is Clive Mendonca now?

Mendonca showed plenty of courage in his football career, and he showed it afterwards too. He now lives and works in Sunderland making cars for Nissan.

Paul Dickov - MANCHESTER CITY 2-2 Gillingham, 1999

For many modern fans it may seem absolutely inconceivable that Manchester City could be in a League One play-off final. They were, though. They very nearly lost it, as well.

Goals from Gillingham's Carl Asaba and Robert Taylor in the final ten minutes looked to have settled the game, but somehow City turned it around. Kevin Horlock got what looked like a consolation in injury time, and then Paul Dickov levelled it with mere seconds remaining.

It went all the way to penalties before Man City won it, with Dickov actually missing his. However, for many he remains not just a play-off hero, but the play-off hero.

Where is Paul Dickov now?

Dickov attempted management after his playing career came to an end, but it didn't go well. He currently works for Manchester City TV as a pundit.

Neil Shipperley - CRYSTAL PALACE 1-0 West Ham 2004

Neil Shipperley was one of those weird footballers that no one wanted to see their club sign but no one wanted to see playing against their side.

In 2004, it was West Ham who were sick of the sight of him, as he scored from close range to take Palace back to the Premier League.

Where is Neil Shipperley now?

It's probably best not to ask, really. After a brief and failed management career, Shipperley was found guilty of a sexual indecency offence involving a 16-year-old girl and her mother. He has since sought therapy for a range of personal issues including a gambling addiction.

Bobby Zamora - WEST HAM 2005 and QPR 2014

While Paul Dickov is probably the most memorable play-off final hero, there is no question who the most successful one is. Bobby Zamora has not just scored the winning goal in one final, he has done it in two.

The first came in 2005. A year after Shipperley had broken West Ham hearts, they were back at the Millenium Stadium again to have another go at promotion. This time it was they who came away with a 1-0 win, and Zamora bagged it just before the hour.

Nine years later, at Wembley this time, Zamora was at it again and this time conjured up an even more dramatic winner. Zamora started on the bench for QPR against Derby but was introduced midway through they second half.

With time ticking away and extra time looming, Zamora settled it with a last-gasp winner.

Where is Bobby Zamora now?

Zamora retired from football in 2016 after struggling with a hip injury but he keeps himself busy with a number of projects, including helping run a social housing scheme with Rio Ferdinand and Mark Noble.

Dean Windass - Bristol City 0-1 HULL CITY - 2008

Dean Windass celebrates Hull promotion

Unless you are a Bristol City fan, there is every chance that the Dean Windass story touches the football romantic in you.

Windass was Hull born and bred and started his career with the Tigers. He made close to 200 appearances for them, but Hull were struggling in the lower half of the Football League at the time and he outgrew them.

He went on to have a nomadic career that took him all the way to the Premier League with Bradford and Middlesbrough. When the opportunity came to rejoin Hull, who by that time were in the Championship, he jumped at it.

After scoring the goal that spared them relegation from the second tier in his first season back, the following season Windass was the hero. These were much different circumstances, however, as Deano scored the Wembley goal that fired his hometown club to the top tier of English football for the very first time in their 104-year history.

The goal itself was a cracker too, as he volleyed into the top corner of the net from the edge of the area.

Where is Dean Windass now?

Life after football wasn't kind to Windass. He was declared bankrupt after a bad investment in 2016 and has suffered with mental health problems. Last year he revealed he suffered with such bad anxiety that he could only sleep with the help of cannabis oil, but he remains an inspirational advocate of male mental health charities and has taken to YouTube to help others.

Martyn Woolford - Millwall 2-3 SCUNTHORPE, 2009

You can't help but feel that Scunthorpe's Martyn Woolford stole this one from Gary Alexander to a certain extent. Alexander scored two goals in two first-half minutes - one of them arguably the best goal Wembley has ever seen - to put Millwall ahead.

Matt Sparrow equalised with 20 minutes left, though, and Woolford became the hero by bagging the winner in the 85th minute with a crisp left-foot strike into the bottom corner.

Woolford played nearly 100 times for Millwall later in his career.

Where is Martyn Woolford now?

Woolford continued his playing career as long as he could and only recently retired following a spell at Frickley Town.

Brett Ormerod - BLACKPOOL 3-2 Cardiff City - 2010

Brett Ormerod scores for Blackpool at Wembley

Brett Ormerod had made his name at Blackpool and left to have a shot at the Premier League with Southampton, but by the time he was back at Bloomfield Road the club had a genuine chance at promotion to the Premier League.

Perhaps, then, it was destiny when he scored the winner in a brilliant final against Cardiff that is probably better known for Charlie Adam's sensational free-kick.

Adam may have got the plaudits, but it was Ormerod who was the hero, and he went on to achieve the remarkable honour of scoring in all four divisions for the same club.

Where is Brett Ormerod now?

Since retiring, Ormerod has moved into coaching. He has had spells as caretaker-manager of AFC Fylde and as a part of the first team staff at Bamber Bridge. He is also an anyalyst on Blackpool games for BBC Radio Lancashire. 

Scott Sinclair - Reading 2-4 SWANSEA, 2011

Play-off final heroes emerge every year, but play-off final hat-trick heroes are much rarer.

Scott Sinclair had been loaned out more often than bowling shoes as a youngster at Chelsea, but when he finally found a home he really made it count.

With Swansea on the brink of a completing the transition from fourth tier to the top flight, Sinclair lined up for them at Wembley against Reading.

A pulsating game ensued, with SIncclair bagging a hat-trick in Swansea's 4-2 win. Two of them were penalties, but a Wembley play-off hat-trick is a Wembley play-off hat-trick!

Where is Scott Sinclair now?

Sinclair is only 33 years old so is still playing. He has just been released by Preston after a two-year spell there, but it's fair to say his once very promising career really hit a wall after he left Swansea. A successful stint in Scotland with Celtic was as good as it got, and the predicted full England caps never materialised.

Ricardo Vaz Te - Blackpool 1-2 WEST HAM - 2012

The play-offs have been relatively kind to West Ham (Neil Shipperley aside) and they got to celebrate a last-gasp winner back in 2012.

Sam Allardyce had been brought in to secure promotion and he had built a typically robust team with the physical duo of Carlon Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te up front.

Both scored to stop Blackpool from returning to the Premier League, but it was Vaz Te to whom the headlines belonged.

With time running out, the Portuguese ace fired one into the top corner from close range to win the game and make West Ham's stay in the Championship a short one.

Where is Ricardo Vaz Te now?

He is still playing. Well, he is trying to at least. After leaving West Ham, Vaz Te had spells in Turkey and China as well as a goalless stay at Charlton. At the end of the 2020/21 season he was released by Portuguese side Portimonense and he has been looking for another club ever since.

Kevin Phillips - CRYSTAL PALACE 1-0 Watford - 2013

Kevin Phillips suffered play-off heartbreak three times in his career before 2013, with him scoring in the famous Sunderland vs Charlton 'Clive Mendonca' final.

He finally got his moment, though, as he came off the bench to score the winning penalty for Crystal Palace against Watford.

That year in the play-offs, Watford had been involved in what was probably the most remarkable two minutes in English football history.

In the final moments of the semi-final at Vicarage Road, Leicester were awarded a penalty that would eliminate Watford if they scored it. They didn't, and Watford immediately counter-attacked and Troy Deeney scored the goal that earned them the spot at Wembley instead.

Where is Kevin Phillips now?

After cutting his teeth in coaching at Leicester, Derby and Stoke, Phillips has just taken his first steps into management with Northern Premier League club South Shields. They have just lost out to Warrington in the play-off semi-finals.

READ MORE: Finding a way to lose: Why Sunderland are the undisputed kings of play-offs heartbreak

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