Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Wycombe Wanderers - Adams Park


Wycombe Wanderers FC
Adams Park
Hillbottom Road
Sands
HP12 4HJ

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Matchday Number: 1
Wycombe Wanderers 2-1 Watford
Tuesday 1st August 1991
Pre Season Friendly




My first of many visits to what was to become the home ground of the team I support was on Tuesday 1st August 1991, for a friendly game against Watford. To tell you the truth, I didn't even like football at the time, but my Dad offered to buy me a Mars Bar - and as a 12 year old who loved his chocolate it was an offer that was hard to refuse!! Little did I know, but this game was to kick start a love affair with Wycombe Wanderers and football, which was stronger than anything I ever have or ever will experience. To date I have been there for over 760 different games, which have varied greatly in entertainment and enjoyment levels. Further down I will put a season by season summary of my time supporting Wycombe, as well as a bit of history about what happened before I got there. My one biggest regret in football was that I didn't get to see a game at our old ground Loakes Park, as I was 15 months too late as a football fan. The closest I have got to it is when I had an appointment at the hospital and the half demolished ground was used as a car park.



WYCOMBE WANDERERS HISTORY 1887-1991

The club was formed in September 1887 at the Steam Engine Public House when a group of locals decided to get a football team together. There was previously a team called North Town Wanderers in the town and these were formed in 1884 though it'a thought that the suffix was inspired by the Wanderers, a success story in early FA Cup Finals. During it's infancy the club plied it's trade in various local leagues as well as having a number of years in the Southern League but withdrew and returned to local football for a long time.

They finally found home in 1921 in the Isthmian League and would remain here until 1985, as well as a one season return for the 1986-87 season. Never dropping below it's top division when it expanded, Wycombe were one of it's most successful teams, winning the league on no less than 8 occasions. Up until 1974 the club remained at Amateur status, finally joining the semi pro ranks for that season. The next 10 years were really a mixed bag for the club, resisting attempts to join the newly formed Alliance (since known as the Conference and National League) local people lost interest and crowds tumbled. Other highlights of this era included taking top flight leaders Middlesborough to an FA Cup 3rd Round Replay in 1975 and winning the FA Amateur Cup in 1931 when they beat Hayes at Highbury.

The club finally bit the bullet and joined the Conference for the 1985-86 season after finishing 3rd in the Isthmian Premier the previous season. It ended in disappointment though as they were relegated on goal difference, but returned after one season. The big turning point came in February 1990 when Martin O'Neill was appointed manager. The Irishman started a revolution, winning the FA Trophy in 1991 and greatly improving the league performances of the team, finishing 5th in his first full season of 1990/91.



1991/92

This was my first season, and what a season it was. We went toe to toe with arch rivals Colchester United and although we eventually lost out on the league on goal difference, gaining 94 points from 42 games, it was a fantastic start to football for me and one that I can get very nostalgic about. I only wish I'd been older and more experienced so I could appreciate it more. The Wycombe Colchester rivalry is explained in more detail here in my Layer Road blog.

HIGH POINTS: The general brilliant league performance. Me starting to get into football.

LOW POINTS: Losing both League games to Colchester, especially the home game where their keeper scored from a goal kick in the last minute to give them a 2-1 win.  



1992/93

Wycombe well and truly made up for the disappointment of missing out the previous year, winning the league and FA Trophy double with some truly memorable performances. Battling with local rivals Slough Town we won the league at a canter and had the title sewn up by mid April.

HIGH POINTS: The amazing 2-2 home draw with West Brom in the FA Cup, which was the game where I knew there was no turning back with my love of football. The Double.

LOW POINTS: Losing out on the Conference League Cup Final to Northwich Victoria. Yes, I know it's a crap cup but it was only one of 2 times I cried over football.


1993/94

Our start to life in the Football League started with a bang and we were unbeaten up until mid September. We just missed out on automatic promotion but won the playoffs, beating Carlisle United over 2 legs, then Preston North End in the final. The Autoglass Trophy area semi final was reached, which we have still come nowhere close to matching all these years later.

HIGH POINTS: The brilliant 4-2 victory over Premiership side Coventry City in the League Cup 2nd Round, 2nd Leg. Going up at Wembley.

LOW POINTS: Our first defeat which happened to be to bitter rivals Colchester.


1994/95

Now in the third tier of the football league, Wycombe made a great fist of things. A 6th placed finish would have usually been good enough for a shot at the playoffs, but due to reorganisation of the Premiership, there was just one automatic spot and we missed out. It was the end of an era as legendary manager Martin O'Neill departed for Norwich City.

HIGH POINTS: The excellent league performance. Doing the double over local side Oxford United.

LOW POINTS: Martin O'Neill leaving.


1995/96

It was always going to be a tough job replacing Martin O'Neill, but the club made a bad choice when they appointed former Crystal Palace manager Alan Smith. The move made sense at the time, as Smith had done well at his previous club. The reality was different though with the manager disposing of fans favourites, alienating fans and having a team that put in some dreadful performances after 5 years of success. That said, the mid table finish was not a disaster and we were up amongst the promotion spots early on. But it was the start of a period of decline, which we still have not recovered from.

HIGH POINTS: The 4-1 demolition of Oxford United on their own patch. The 5-2 win over Bradford City who we also beat 4-0 away.

LOW POINTS: The destruction of the side that had bought success for so many seasons.


1996/97

If the second half of the previous season was bad, then this was a lot worse. Bottom of the league in mid September, the axe finally fell for Smith, with the worst manager in my history of watching the club getting a nice payoff in the process. John Gregory replaced him, and things improved slightly. We did enough to stay up but it wasn't great. A season to forget.

HIGH POINTS: Beating Reading in the League Cup. Hammering Burnley 5-0 towards the end of the season.

LOW POINTS: Pretty much everything else given the general lacklustre showings.


1997/98

Despite an early flirtation with the playoffs, John Gregory's side (which included a fair few players that came in on big money generally flattered to deceive. Gregory left for Aston Villa in February in a surprising appointment and youth team manager Neil Smillie took over and steadied the ship.

HIGH POINTS: Beating Plymouth 5-1 at home. That's about it.

LOW POINTS: Losing to Isthmian Leaguers Basingstoke Town in the FA Cup. A horrible 4-1 home defeat to Carlisle. Losing 5-0 to Aston Villa on my 18th Birthday (thankfully it was only a friendly)


1998/99

A terrible start to the season saw us have to wait 13 games for our first league win, Neil Smillie kept his job well into the new year despite this but was eventually replaced by Lawrie Sanchez. Final day heroics were needed beating Lincoln 1-0 as we climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time in months in the final 10 minutes of the season.

HIGH POINTS: Beating Man City TWICE in the league. Beating Wigan Athletic 2-1 towards the end of the season. A 4-1 victory over Lincoln City who had Bruce Grobelaar in goal. Our first league win of the season, 3-0 against Macclesfield on 17th October. Final day salvation. Managing to get £250,000 out of Reading for a knackered Keith Scott.

LOW POINTS: The bad start. A horrid 4-1 home defeat to Brentford in the Football League Trophy. Injury time goals by rivals Colchester costing us 4 points in the 2 league games.


1999/00

A much better season this time out as we finished in mid table. Some notable victories and good games occurred during this season as the first half of Lawrie Sanchez's reign proved to be a success.

HIGH POINTS: A fantastic 4-2 win at Wolves in the League Cup. a 5-3 home league victory over Reading.

LOW POINTS: Struggling past non leaguers Oxford City at the third attempt (the original replay was abandoned due to a suspected fire, just as penalties were about to be taken) A heavy 4-0 home loss to Stoke City.





2000/01

Another mid table finish in the league as we fell away towards the end of the season. Why? Because of a fantastic run to the FA Cup Semi Final. Despite never getting past the 3rd round before or since we managed to play Liverpool at Villa Park and narrowly lose 2-1.

HIGH POINTS: The astonishing run to the FA Cup Semi Final, the highlight of which was the best match I have ever seen as we won on penalties against then Championship side Wimbledon, before beating Leicester away who were 6th in the Premiership at the time.

LOW POINTS: A 5-1 defeat at Walsall in the league.


2001/02

With bags of money to spend, what was left over from the purchase of a training ground went into the team. We flourished at first but fell away badly towards the end of the season. This was the season I started my run of not missing a game home or away for 7 years.

HIGH POINTS: A 5-3 home victory over Brentford, Taking Fulham to a replay in the FA Cup 3rd Round. A cracking effort away at QPR as we lost 4-2 and had 2 men sent off as Phil 'they all look the same' Prosser sent off Jermaine McSporran and Danny Senda as he couldn't tell them apart. A 2-1 win at Bournemouth which put us in the playoffs briefly.

LOW POINTS: A 4-1 defeat at home to Blackpool to see us fall out of the playoffs. This was the beginning of the end for Sanchez, turning from hero to villain as things fell away badly over the next few seasons. A miserable 4-0 loss at Brighton.


2002/03

The poor end to last season continued as Sanchez well and truly lost the plot and the fans backing. His comments became ever more bizarre, suggesting a move to Milton Keynes after a disappointing attendance, moaning that fans would not allow him to play long ball and blaming the results on that and saying the fans only moaned as they were henpecked at home!

HIGH POINTS: A 4-1 home win over QPR, winning 5-0 at Northampton and beating Brentford 4-0 at home.

LOW POINTS: The manager going cuckoo, the low point of which was dragging the players over to apologise after a horrific 4-0 defeat at Chesterfield and getting both barrels from angry fans.


2003/04

Sanchez finally departed after a 2-1 defeat at Tranmere, a game which featured a bizarre own goal from Danny Senda. A brief improvement came under caretaker manager John Gorman but the board were eventually wooed by a big name in Tony Adams. The move was a disaster, with us being relegated by early April.

HIGH POINTS: Beating Swindon 4-1 in the FA Cup. A great 4-1 win over Grimsby. Our first away win in a year as we beat Oldham Athletic 3-2.

LOW POINTS: Being relegated at Plymouth and crying as I'd given my all to supporting Wycombe that season. Losing 4-0 at Brighton on Boxing Day. Having to watch every single dreadful moment of a woeful season.


2004/05

Adams briefly led us to the summit of the league in September but by November we were on the end of a horrific run and were in 17th. Adams resigned and bizarrely didn't inform the chairman, the first Ivor Beeks heard of it was when he turned on BBC News and saw his Manager doing a self serving publicity piece about himself. Peter Cawley briefly managed the team as we struggled past Midland League side Coalville Town before John Gorman took over and started to sort out the mess he'd inherited.

HIGH POINTS: A 4-1 win away at Mansfield in the snow.

LOW POINTS: Losing 3-0 at home to Rochdale.


2005/06

Playing the best football I have ever seen a Wycombe side play we remained unbeaten in the league until the week before Christmas as we scored and conceded goals at crazy rates.Tragedy blighted the club in the new year with player Mark Philo killed in a car accident and the managers wife dying of cancer, Understandably results took a nosedive and Gorman was unsympathetically relieved of his duties by our new owner.

HIGH POINTS; Fantastic football and results in the first half of the season. Even the defeats were good as we lost 5-4 at home to Macclesfield, which spurred one Wycombe fan into campaigning for Macc striker Jon Parkin to be taken to the World Cup with England!

LOW POINTS: Tragedies and the results and performances going to pot, including a 3-0 home loss to Lincoln and a dire home showing against Torquay. A property speculator getting involved in the club as owner. Personally too the loss of my Grandad and much loved Springer Spaniel Maisie during the same period added more woe.


2006/07

Proving once again that we don't do cup runs by half, we reached the league cup semi final, despite not getting past the 2nd round beforehand and only winning one game on penalties since in the competition. A mixed bag in the league as form suffered during the cup run.

HIGH POINTS: A wonderful 1-0 win at Charlton which was the pinnacle of a fantastic cup run. League wise, the 4-0 win at Bury was the highlight.

LOW POINTS: The defensive mindset of Paul Lambert took some getting used to after the Brazil style football under previous manager Gorman. It got results for us in the main but there were some joyless occasions, the worst of which was losing twice to the despicable Franchise.


2007/08

A bit of a mixed bag this season. Fresh from our League Cup heroics of the previous season we embarked on an assault  on the playoffs, only to lose to Stockport in the semi finals. Under Lambert the football was very dull, he left at the end of the season following disputes over transfer funds with the clubs owner as the property speculator's plans for a move to a stadium in Booker (that WWFC would have no stake in) were being formulated.

HIGH POINTS: a 4-0 win at Mansfield in the pouring rain where we sang to the Nottinghamshire side's soaked Family Stand fans 'Tell your Mum you've had a bath' as well as the generally good league form.

LOW POINTS: A 6-0 hammering at Stockport in the pouring rain, the worst of many miserable results at Edgeley Park and the general negativity of the play.


2008/09

Bore merchant Peter Taylor was now in charge with his overly defensive rheotric which made Lambert's football look like the Brazil 1982 World Cup team. My 7 year run of watching Wycombe home and away came to an end after a 2-0 victory at Chester, only 3 games into his reign which showed how bad the football was, though we did go up in the end.

HIGH POINTS: Going Up. A 4-0 win at home to Macclesfield.

LOW POINTS; Awful Football, 7-0 defeat to Shrewsbury, 2-0 loss to Eastwood Town in the FA Cup, hammered 5-0 at Chesham in pre season, the way we went up after losing and yet another poor performance.


2009/10

Peter Taylor's poor start resulted in his sacking and we bought Gary Waddock in as a replacement. His first game was a 3-2 defeat at home to Walsall but it was joyous to watch. We went down in the end, but overall it was a mixed season and we did at least give staying up a go, despite some horrific defeats.

HIGH POINTS: Better football, a great 4-4 draw with Brighton in the FA Cup, The few games Adam Hinshelwood played for Wycombe, a brilliant defender whose career was cut short by injury. Drawing at Elland Road the week after Leeds had beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford.

LOW POINTS: 6-0 defeat at Huddersfield live on Sky, 4-0 and 4-1 defeats to Yeovil, going down, the meathead stewards at Leeds.


2010/11

Back in League 2 under Waddock we went straight back up. Football was a lot better than last time we were down here, but a little bit of pragmatism had crept in. There were a couple of ropey periods and we took a while to get started but going up on a winning run was the way to do it.

HIGH POINTS: 4-1 at home to Burton and 3-1 away to Bury were the pick of the bunch. Progression to the FA Cup 3rd Round for the first time in 8 years was nice. Though losing at home to Hereford in that 3rd Round game made it instantly forgettable.

LOW POINTS:  Having worked for the club for 17 years on matchdays,  I was most disappointed to have been forced out of my job following my opposition to the stadium at Booker that would have ruined the club. Plans have long since been scrapped and the individuals concerned have departed the scene, and although I'm still here, financially I'm worse off for doing the right thing.
 


2011/12

Back in League 1, Gary Waddock was starting to lose the plot and had abandoned pretty much all attacking intent. That would be fine if we tightened up at the back but we shipped over 100 goals and suffered some catastrophic defeats. There was little respite in the cups with early exits in all competitions.

HIGH POINTS: Beating Hartlepool 5-0 at home was one of the few highlights.

LOW POINTS: Losing 6-0 at home to Huddersfield live on Sky was excruciating and for the first time in my life I booed my own team off the pitch. Missing my first home game in 10 years as I'd bought tickets to Portsmouth v Peterborough United before the game had been arranged. It was a cracker too, 4-3 against Preston North End, a defeat of course.


2012/13

Glorious scenes at the start of the season as the property speculator's bid to get the council to pay for an un needed stadium in Booker finally got the boot from Wycombe District Council. He left town and handed over to the supporters trust. On the field an abysmal start saw Waddock get his marching orders with us bottom of the table. Gareth Ainsworth came in and galvanised the team and we stayed up by a reasonably safe margin.

HIGH POINTS: Becoming a fan owned club. A 4-0 win at home to York was a rare game in which we played really well.

LOW POINTS: Poor start. 4-1 defeat at Crewe in the FA Cup, a 4-0 loss at Cheltenham


2013/14

With us finishing last season on a reasonable note and even starting this well, up until some point in October we were in and around the playoffs and hopeful of a promotion. But then we went on a dreadful run, barely winning away and going over 4 months without a win at home between the 3-2 win against Torquay on 13th October and the 1-0 victory over Chesterfield on February 22nd. Even then we didn't pick up enough, sliding down the table and as much as I was trying to see past it, sliding ever ever closer to the relegation zone. Matters came to a head in the penultimate game with us losing to Bristol Rovers which put them ahead of us in the relegation battle. With us 3 points adrift, playing poorly and Rovers having a home game against mid table Mansfield, relegation seemed all but confirmed. But our best showing of the season at Torquay along with a shock win for Mansfield saved our skins.

HIGH POINTS: The win over Chesterfield which ended 4 months without a win. Final day salvation at Torquay.

LOW POINTS: Dismal runs, all but relegated in the penultimate game, a horrific 3-0 defeat at home to AFC Wimbledon to kick off 2014 - one of the worst performances by Wycombe in the 25 years I've supported them
 

2014/15

After the misery of last season and budget cuts, not much was expected of us. But several changes were made and the young, hungry team amassed a fantastic 84 points, a record haul for any Wycombe team since my first season of 91/92. Any normal season that would have been good enough for automatic promotion, but it was the playoffs on this occasion. A brilliant win over 2 legs against Plymouth saw us get to Wembley though the final was a bit of a damp squib. We were going up with 20 seconds to go, but Southend snatched a late equaliser and then won on penalties.

HIGH POINTS: Winning 3-1 at Stevenage despite Graham Westley's shady tactics. Beating Southend 4-1 at home. Getting to Wembley.

LOW POINTS: Missing out on playing Liverpool in the FA Cup after losing at home to Wimbledon. Dull game and expensive day at Wembley. 
The 1-0 home defeat to Morecambe which condemned us to the playoffs


A BIT ABOUT HIGH WYCOMBE (THE TOWN)

If you are coming by train, High Wycombe station is around 2 miles from the ground. If you don't fancy a walk then a taxi will cost you around £8 (do not use the Taxis outside the station as they charge a premium) , or there is a bus service called the 'Wycombe Wanderers One' which is detailed below.


As for the town itself, well if you like traffic lights and roadworks, you will be in heaven, as they seem to breed like wildfire and appear at random. There seems a definite preference for traffic lights (so they can tell you what to do) rather than a roundabout where you can make your own decision. Shopping wise, you should be able to get what you want, and there is a good range of takeaways thanks to the large Asian population in the town, with places to suit all budgets. The market has an interesting food court too and there are plenty of chains like McDonalds and KFC too.



Pub wise, it's not so good. Anyone in search of a decent or intersting cider is stuffed, while the town was voted one of the worst in the league for real ale pubs according to a respected reviewer who is in the know about these things. There are 2 Wetherspoons in the town, but these are average for the chain at best - there is The Falcon, a smaller outlet in the High Street or The William Robert Looseley which is a larger 2 floored establishment near the bus station. Others worthy of consideration are The Belle Vue (real ales and Westons ciders) which is round the back of the train station or The Bootlegger - though there the owners are a bit stuck up, don't like football fans and ban football colours which is a shame as it has a decent range of beers from across the world, but once again basic cider choice)

The town's history was in furniture making, hence the team's nickname of the Chairboys. Today that industry is a much reduced, almost extinct operation. There have been a number of well known people who have lived here - pop star Ian Dury was eductated at the local Royal Grammar school as was comedian Jimmy Carr and rugby player Matt Dawson. These days the town seems to be more in the news for being home to some of the terrorists that appear in the news though famous fans include Colin Baker the Doctor Who actor and Bill Turnbull the weather and breakfast presenter on the BBC.




ADAMS PARK was opened in 1990 after the sale of Loakes Park to the local council for use by the local hospital. After turning down site after site the council finally granted planning permission for the current ground in Sands. Around 20 better choices were turned down flat by the local authority, this meant we are stuck down the end of an industrial estate with only one road in and out. This sometimes means a long wait to get out if you are not prepared to walk 10 minutes away from the ground to a better parking space. The ground was named after former player Frank Adams, who, in 1947 bought the old Loakes Park ground and straight away gifted it to the club. This allowed the club to push on and enjoy many years of success in the non league game, before selling up and moving to Adams Park in 1990. The ground initially had a capacity of 6000, eventually rising to 10,000 with improvements being made as we moved up the the leagues.






The MAIN STAND has remained virtually unchanged since the ground has been built, with only replacement seats added in the late 1990's for some reason or another. With a seated capacity of just shy of 1300, it is the smallest of the stands at Adams Park. Part of it is sometimes given to away fans if they bring a large following and it also has standing spaces at the front, though they never sell these due to restrictions set by the local council. I sat here for games with my Dad and Brother from 1991-96.



The VALLEY TERRACE has also seen no major changes since it's inception, though extra crush barriers were added to comply with Football League standards, following our promotion from the Conference in 1993. It has a physical capacity of 2100 though the authorities recently cut this back to 1400ish. I stood here for games from 2001-2014 as it is where the main bank of singing fans stand.



The WOODLANDS STAND was originally a terrace which was the same height as the current Valley End. But in 1996 new regulations were bought in which dictated a minimum number of seats were made available to supporters. And so a 5,000 capacity 2 tiered stand was built. It includes 20 executive boxes for the prawn sandwich brigade and affords the best views of the action from the upper tier. The lower tier was my stand of choice from 1996-2001 (with family) and from 2014 to present (with fellow groundhopper and Wycombe fan Anwar)




The HILLBOTTOM ROAD END was originally a terrace and since entry to the Football League has served as the stand for the away fans. Previously visiting supporters were given a section of the old Woodlands Terrace. It was made all seated in 1996 and then extended in 2001 to give more space to the away fans with the total capacity now at 2000.





There are a number of bars at the ground. The Vere Suite is the main one, a large bar with around 350 capacity. It has screens showing the live Sky games and does a number of real ales too, mainly from Belhaven & Greene King. For cider drinkers there is Thatchers Gold. For the 2015/16 season, prices are fairly reasonable at £3.50 a pint and there is a range of soft drinks also. Food wise you can get things like hot dog, pie and chips and the occasional special such as curry.

Away fans are allocated a bar too, which is useful given the location of the ground. They normally get a beer tent with slightly reduced bar facilities and no food, though they can bring food in from the burger vans outside the ground. For smaller followings they can be given a smaller room near the Vere Suite, or Scores, a bar with lots of sports memorabilia on the walls. A lot of away fans use the Hour Glass, which is the nearest pub to the ground, a 15 minute walk away. There is also a Coral bookmakers and a chippy near here.



Food wise there is the Beechdean Cafe which offers sandwiches, cakes and coffee or there are a couple of burger vans around the entrance to the ground. The club shop has a small and disappointing range of merchandise as it is run by a rugby company called Kukri, though it is at least of a good quality. Inside the ground the food is above average with prices in line with other clubs in League 2.

If nothing else you should get a nice welcome at Wycombe. Stewards are helpful and friendly, only very occasionally slipping into the standard jobsworth mode, which seems the standard at lots of other clubs. Fans too are generally a decent bunch and you can wear your colours and have a sing song without fear of any trouble as long as you don't act like a twat. 


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