Wycombe up next

Thursday 3 January 2002

Next One Up - Wycombe Wanderers

From Ian McCulloch

In the Chair

The first and so far only League Club in Buckinghamshire, the "Chairboys" were formed in 1887 by a group of young furniture makers and supposedly named after the famous FA Cup winners of the time - The Wanderers. A non-League Club for over 100 years, Wycombe gained promotion to the Football League in 1993 under the guidance of current Celtic manager Martin O'Neil. They won promotion to the Second Division in their very first season via the play-offs, and have hung on to that status ever since.

Their ground, Adams Park, is relatively new, opened in 1990 and now with a capacity just short of 10,000 all covered. Planning permission was granted in October 1995 for a new 5,000-seater stand. Construction work commenced in March 1996 and was completed shortly after the start of the 96/97 season.

Last season's glorious FA Cup run that saw the Wanderers only go out to Liverpool in the semi-finals at Villa Park, had an adverse affect on League form, and that together with an horrendous injury list, saw them hover precariously close to the relegation zone. A good run of late form saw them reach the respectability of a thirteenth place finish however.

This term, their outstanding home-form, where they are unbeaten and the Division's third highest goal scorers, have put Wycombe into a very handy position just below the play-off places, and manager Lawrie Sanchez must surely be confident that his promising looking team can get at least that far.

They come into the Fulham game off the back of a thrilling four-three defeat at Queens Park Rangers, a game that was competitive until the very end despite the fact that Wycombe played the whole of the second half with only nine men. Jermaine McSporran and Danny Senda were sent off for their part in a sixteen man brawl on the stroke of half-time, although the referee has subsequently rescinded McSporran's red-card. This result leaves the Wanderers in eleventh place but still only two points outside the play-off places.

The Team

Injuries have again disrupted the team this season, with the loss of key players hampering the team's progress. Ten goal top scorer Andy Rammel's three game suspension and injuries to their other forwards have left the Wanderers frequently short of target men. The quaintly named Jermaine McSporran, nicknamed Jockey, has now recovered from his ankle injury, but summer signing Gavin Holligan from West Ham is set to be sidelined for some time with a groin problem.

Rammel suffered an ankle injury in the match against QPR and is now looking extremely doubtful for the visit of Fulham. Paul McCarthy who missed the trip to Rangers with a muscle knock picked up in the game against Cambridge two weeks ago has more chance of regaining fitness.

Andy Baird is on the long-term injury list with a cruciate ligament problem, and loan signing Richard Walker from Aston Villa will play no further part unless a deal can be worked out between the two Clubs. Striker Sean Devine, who has been out for two seasons, is expected back in the early part of 2002.

Their style of play sees the Wanderers using their attacking wingbacks to dangerous effect. They hit fast on the break and are particularly effective at crosses whenever they can find any strikers to aim at. For big games, manager Lawrie Sanchez has been in the habit of dropping his flair players like Stuart Roberts and Darren Currie in order to play a much tighter game. Roberts was a recent purchase from Swansea, while Currie, nephew of famous Sheffield United and Leeds star of the seventies, Tony Currie, arrived from Barnet.

From the past

This will be the first time the two clubs have met in the FA Cup although they have met in the Football League on four occasions in the late 1990's. The last meeting was a 1-1 draw at Adams Park in February 1999, Lawrie Sanchez's first game in charge for Wycombe.

The nearest Fulham have got to Cup glory since 1975 was when they played Wycombe in the Southern Area semi-final of whatever the Associate Members Cup was called in those days. Two Gary Brazil goals had left the game tied after extra-time, only for the Wanderers to heart-breakingly win the game 4-2 on penalties.

Fulham were relegated to the basement division for the first time in their history that season, and victory that night would have left the Whites only one tie away from Wembley. In the previous round Fulham had beaten runaway League leaders Reading with a fine, gritty display, but against Wycombe, as manager Don Mackay said at the time, "We didn't get knocked out because we missed penalties, it was our attitude, our approach that let us down." A telling comment.

No article about Wycombe can be complete without a rendition of "Conroy from the halfway line...." In the Coca Cola Cup 1st round at Adams Park in 1997, striker "Super" Micky Conroy picked up the ball in the centre circle and coolly lobbed the ball over the Wycombe keeper's head for one of the goals of the season. Asked to recreate his wonder goal on television the following night into an empty net, Micky embarrassingly managed to convert only one out of ten attempts!

He wore both colours

Son of Leeds' fullback Terry, midfielder Mark Cooper was bought from Birmingham City for £40,000 in November 1992. He played sixteen games without scoring for the Whites before moving on to Exeter in February 1994. A player who would feature in most Fulham fans' worst eleven, he showed absolutely no interest in what was going on around him and plainly wished he was somewhere else.

The records show that he made two appearances for Wycombe. It's not clear whether these were part of a loan spell or whether the Wanderers were on to him very quickly. He also played for, variously, Bristol City, Southend, Huddersfield, Hartlepool, Macclesfield, and Leyton Orient. He now works for a legal practice in Birmingham.

Not many people know that

Wycombe won the Evening Standard Five a Side tournament at Wembley in 1994 and 1995. The tournament was then scrapped.

With thanks for the tactical in-sights to a Wycombe Wanderers fan, who to avoid being strung-up by his friends for giving away all their secrets, wishes to remain anonymous.