The start of a new season – and of a new era of supporter ownership of Wycombe Wanderers – means that the perfect way to kick off this review of the club’s 125-year history is to step right back to where it all began for the Chairboys, in the 50th year of Queen Victoria’s reign on the throne.
From here onwards, we’ll be exploring the countless reasons to be proud of our club, revisiting the best players, managers and matches to have embedded themselves in the memories of those fortunate to have been involved. We owe a huge debt to Dave Finch and Steve Peart for their work in the book Wycombe Wanderers: The Official History, without which we would not be able to step down memory lane with such ease and in such detail.
Their work tells us that football grew in popularity in High Wycombe in the latter half of the 19th century, and that High Wycombe FC played their first official match on the Rye Mead in 1871. Football teams had to compete for space with cattle on the long stretch of land, and an attempt to merge all local clubs into one was vetoed by Marlow FC, who were enjoying plenty of success on their own, reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 1882.
A group of young aspiring footballers collaborated to establish North Town Wanderers in 1884, most likely taking their name from the first ever winners of the FA Cup who had defeated High Wycombe FC in the town seven years previously. However, after three years of informal matches against hastily arranged ‘scratch elevens’, the players and management decided they wanted to compete against better sides, and met at the Steam Engine public house on Station Road to form a new club – one which would play in the light and dark blue colours of the Oxford and Cambridge universities.
After a heated discussion, the name ‘North Town’ was discarded due to the new club being made up of players from all over the town, and thus, Wycombe Wanderers Football Club was born.
With each player contributing 6d per week to represent the club, captain ‘Datchet’ Webb and secretary Jim Ray worked tirelessly to secure new players and arrange transport – a horse and wagonette – to get to games. Their first fixture was against Wycombe Nose Club, a 0-0 draw on Saturday 24th September 1887, before Ray became Wanderers’ first ever goalscorer in a 3-1 defeat to Wycombe Rovers four weeks later.
Team vs Wycombe Rovers: John Randell, Noel Curtis, Datchet Webb, Jim Hearne, A. Thorne, George Johnson, R. Stallwood, Joe Norton, Ted Ball, George Cook, Jim Ray.
Their first competitive match, in the High Wycombe Challenge Cup, ended in a 14-0 defeat to the Ramblers, and Wanderers then endured a six-week exile from action, potentially casting doubt over their future on the back of such a heavy loss. However, they emerged triumphant, winning their final six matches of the season including an 8-0 thrashing of West Wycombe Rovers.
So our first venture into the history of the club introduces us to the names of people and institutions who played their part in giving us a football club to treasure today.
Jim Ray, our first goalscorer, Datchet Webb, and the landlords of the Steam Engine public house - our birthplace - all deserve a toast of champagne whilst we celebrate our anniversary throughout this coming season. We will never know if they could possibly have imagined the glory years that were to come over the following century and a quarter, but we remain entirely grateful to them for setting us on the way.
Taken from the Gillingham edition of 1887