Following the controversy of the Wild West High Wycombe Challenge Cup triumph in March 1890, the club sensibly went with ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams the following season. The 1890-91 season saw the club decide that a match committee would select the team. They met every Monday evening to pick the following Saturday’s side. It might seem bizarre now but it was considered successful enough to have been continued until 1968!
That winter was so cold that the Thames at Marlow froze! Only two cup games were played in January with one of those against Chesham Reserves in the Berks and Bucks Junior Cup. The club had entered the competition for the first time and there was another first as the third round tie was played at the Cricket Ground on the London Road. A large crowd paid to see the Wanderers win 3-2 on a snow-covered pitch.
The final was reached and 1,500 spectators watched the Chairboys hold hot favourites Reading Albion to a 2-2 draw at Marlow FC’s Crown Meadow ground. It was the first time the club had ever played in front of a four-figure crowd. They did so again in the replay but were thumped 6-2 in a match played in heavy rain. There was more disappointment when the Blues were beaten 3-0 in the final of the High Wycombe Challenge Cup by Wycombe Marsh.
In the spring of 1891 there were moves to merge Wycombe Wanderers with the town’s main club, High Wycombe FC, but these were resisted. The Wanderers were still seen as young, lower class upstarts and they felt that they deserved more respect than they were being shown. There was more change that summer with Jim Ray and Joe Norton both stepping down which saw Frank Jennings take over as secretary.
The 1891/92 season saw the club make a committed effort to play their matches away from the Rye. They were given permission to use the Cricket Ground as long as High Wycombe FC had no use of it. It would, however, be a season remembered for some ugly crowd scenes. In November a 3-1 home defeat to Slough in the Berks and Bucks Junior Cup saw the Slough linesman assaulted by some “loud-mouthed rowdies”.
There was more controversy in the Maidenhead Norfolkians Charity Cup when a 2-0 win against Maidenhead Reserves was ruled invalid because both sides had agreed to play two halves of 40 minutes instead of the regulation 45. The replayed tie saw the visitors eventually agree to play on a snowbound pitch, but the delay caused by their reluctance had riled the home crowd who started throwing snowballs at the visiting goalkeeper.
The visitors were leading 2-1 with just 10 minutes remaining when the game was abandoned due to bad light. Certain elements of an already angry crowd attacked the Maidenhead players with the events of the day even reported in the national press. Wanderers’ president Robert Wood hotly disputed the reports, describing them as “untrue and malicious statements”.
The Chairboys were beaten 1-0 when the tie was finally concluded at Maidenhead in January 1892. The Berks and Bucks Junior Association met to discuss the “disgraceful scenes”, which were corroborated by some of the Maidenhead players. The Association would normally have closed the ground for the rest of the season, but that was unworkable as High Wycombe FC owned the cricket ground and they would have been unfairly punished.
It would also have meant the cancellation of the Wycombe Cup final and a County Senior Cup semi-final that had also been scheduled at the ground. They requested that the Football Association “remonstrate” with the club but the national body were unimpressed with this ‘buck-passing’. The club were to be censored but it’s not clear how this was done.
There was plenty of concern at the start of the 1892/93 with neither the Wanderers nor High Wycombe FC in action. The former had chosen to wait for the cricket team to complete their matches rather than play their matches on the Rye, however, the town club were never to take the field again. Their demise meant that Wycombe Wanderers were now the leading the club in the town.
There was yet more crowd trouble when Maidenhead Norfolkians knocked the Wanderers out of the High Wycombe Challenge Cup with a disputed goal. After the game, the referee apologised for awarding the goal to the crowd of 100 home fans outside the cricket ground who threatened to give him a ducking in the Wye before taking their frustrations out on the visiting players, one of whom ended up with a black eye.
The club lost captain Frank Howlett in February 1893. He suffered a concussion after heading a ball during a fixture against Finsbury Polytechnic in March 1891 and passed away following a long illness. Frank Jennings scored in the final game of the season and then shocked the club in the summer when he announced he was leaving to play for Loudwater Lilliputians. It would prove, however, to be making of the club.