Defender rolls back the years to Wembley victory

A decade ago Cambridge United's days in the wilderness came to an end when the club was promoted back into the Football League. Two of their players reflect on that historic day.

Defender Josh Coulson has rolled back the years to the day he wheeled captain Ian Miller around Wembley and into history.

On 18 May 2014 the U's returned to the Football League after nine years by beating Gateshead 2-1 in the 2014 Conference Premier play-off final.

Defender Miller had to go off near the end after tearing his Achilles tendon and Coulson pushed him around the Wembley perimeter in a wheelchair as Cambridge celebrated.

Coulson, now 35, recalled how he initially wheeled Miller, now 40, on to the pitch after the match ended, but was told to get off by the Wembley ground staff.

Cambridge had been elected to the Football League in 1970 and stayed there for 35 years.

Bad times came in 2005 when he club filed for administration, and was relegated to the Conference.

Fans remember the Wembley win as one of the biggest days in the club's history.

The club has stayed in the league since 2014, and was promoted into League One - football's third tier - in 2021.

'We had to do it for him'

Cambridge were 2-1 up when Miller got hurt.

Coulson, who grew up in Cambridge and has always been a fan, said his friend's departure galvanised the side.

"The last minutes of injury time was horrendous without Ian," said Coulson, who now plays for King's Lynn.

"It was such a bad injury for him - it was really sad to see.

"When he went down a few of us got together and said we had to do it for him... he was such a good leader."

He recalled seeing Miller appear from the Wembley tunnel in a wheelchair just after Cambridge had collected their play-off trophy.

"I remember pushing him on to the pitch and getting told to get off," he said.

"The ground staff weren't too happy with us. So I pushed him around the edge.

"I would have carried Ian up the steps if I could."

Miller, who comes from Colchester and started his league career at Ipswich, recovered from the injury and played for Cambridge against Manchester United in an FA Cup tie in February 2015.

He left Cambridge later that year and now runs the 442 Football Academy, based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

'I'm fine - I can carry on'

Miller recalls being reluctant to leave the Wembley pitch.

"When the medical team came on, I remember saying, 'I'm fine - I can carry on'," he said.

"But they took me off and carried me off down the tunnel to a medical room.

"I couldn't hear anything and after a while a doctor came in said the score had stayed the same and we had won.

"I said 'I need to go and celebrate' and said I would crawl out if necessary.

"I remember from somewhere they found a rickety old wheelchair and wheeled me out.

"They had just collected the trophy when I got outside."

Cambridge United players pile on top of each other in celebration
Two goals at Wembley sent Cambridge United back to the Football League [Getty Images]

Doug Shulman, 56, who commentates on United for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, said: "It seems like yesterday.

"It was historic. In 2005 the club had dropped out of the Football League.

"When they won that play-off final at Wembley it seemed as though it was almost wiping out all of the bad memories."

Cambridge had gone 2-0 up, before Gateshead pulled a goal back in the 80th minute.

"It was almost surreal, the way events unfolded," said Mr Shulman.

"They had used all their substitutes when Ian Miller went off, and gone down to 10 men.

"Then watching Ian being pushed around in a wheelchair afterwards - I've never seen that at Wembley before.

"The U's never do it easy."

Follow Cambridgeshire news on Facebook, Instagram and X. Got a story? Email or WhatsApp us on 0800 169 1830

More on this story

Related Internet Links