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The not-so 'Swinging Sixties'

23 February 2013

The decades changed and so did the team and its fortunes.

Many stalwarts left the club and the 1960/61 season was a disappointing one, with the team finishing in eighth place in the Isthmian League and knocked out of both FA competitions at home by Kettering Town and Wimbledon. It was the end of an era as Sid Cann left in the summer to return to the Football League as a coach with Norwich City. He was replaced by Colin McDonald in August 1961.
The capture of McDonald was seen as something of a coup, an ex-England international goalkeeper who moved from Bury to take up the role, but he remained in the job for just 23 days before resigning for “domestic reasons.” The club acted quickly to appoint Graham Adams as his successor, but the 1961/62 season was a frustrating one.
The season had begun with a 3-1 home defeat to Leytonstone in the Isthmian League with Charlie Gale making his debut. He went on to make 413 appearances for the Chairboys. Paul Bates had been the clubs leading goalscorer for the last six seasons, but he left to join Tooting and Mitcham United in the summer before re-joining in November. Peter James ended the season as top goalscorer with the side finishing seventh in the table.
That mantle would soon be taken by a gentleman by the name of Tony Horseman. He made his debut in a 3-2 league defeat against Oxford City at the White House ground in October 1961 and naturally he found the net! Ashford Town knocked the Blues out of the FA Cup in a first-round replay in Essella Park and the mighty Wimbledon side won 1-0 in front of 9,254 in an FA Amateur Cup third-round tie at Plough Lane.
Adams left the club at the end of the season and Don Welsh took over as coach. Bates again departed, this time for a brief spell with Hendon before linking up with Cann at Sutton United. The Wanderers reached the second round proper of the FA Cup for only the second time in their history, but were beaten 3-1 by Southern League professionals Gravesend and Northfleet at Stonebridge Road.
The 1962/63 campaign will be remembered for the severe winter that saw the club play just one match between Boxing Day and the end of February and the team finished in ninth place in the Isthmian League table. The 1963/64 season was memorable in more ways than one. It began with the league being increased from 16 to 20 clubs and the board controversially adopted the Oxford and Cambridge blue striped kit - traditionally worn by the reserve team - for the first team.
Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett made his debut in the opening Isthmian League game against Maidstone United, which ended in a 3-2 defeat at the Athletic Ground. He made 14 appearances for the Chairboys before later making his name with Wimbledon. There was a historic moment in September 1963 when 3,000 fans saw Wycombe Wanderers play their first game under floodlights at Loakes Park. They marked the occasion with a 3-1 victory over Enfield.
On 14th December, striker Keith Samuels scored on his debut for the Wanderers in a 4-1 home win over Corinthian Casuals. He would score 115 goals in 247 appearances with the club. A fortnight later Peter Lowen, signed from Maidenhead United, matched that feat with a goal on his debut in 3-0 victory at Oxford City. The tall striker made a real impact in the second half of the season, notching 25 goals in just 21 appearances before leaving in the summer to join Slough Town.
The turn of the year saw the Blues embark on an FA Amateur Cup run which ended with a 2-1 defeat to Spennymoor United in a third-round replay at the Brewery Field. Barry Baker made his debut in a 1-1 home draw with Maidstone United in April 1964, and went on to make 348 appearances for the club. There was success at the end of the season with Windsor and Eton beaten 2-1 in the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup final at Maidenhead.
The 1964/65 season began with a 1-1 draw against Kingstonian at Loakes Park. The game saw the debut of goalkeeper John Maskell (who remains the club’s second highest appearance maker with 616 starts) but he missed the following game, where the Wanderers suffered a humiliating 8-1 defeat away at Leytonstone. The side made a poor start to the campaign, but there was a boost with Paul Bates returning to the club in October.
Two weeks later the team suffered a desperate 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Hayes in an FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie at Church Road, during which Maskell broke his ankle. The final straw came after a 9-2 defeat at Hendon in December with Welsh resigning and former player Barry Darvill taking over as coach. In February 1965 chairman Eric Webb passed away and Jack Smethurst was appointed to the position.
Darvill soon made an impression and after two successive 13th-place finishes in the Isthmian League, the improvement was clear as the team claimed fourth spot in the table in 1965/66, scoring exactly 100 goals in the process. Ian Rundle made his debut in a 1-0 win over Barking at Vicarage Field in August and would go on to make 357 appearances for the Chairboys.
There was excitement in both FA cup competitions, although they would both end in acute disappointment. The Wanderers had escaped from Josephs Road with a 2-2 draw against Southern League side Guildford City thanks to a spectacular last-minute equaliser from Len Worley and were then drawn away to Queens Park Rangers in the second round. Sadly the Blues didn’t make it to Loftus Road as they were beaten 1-0 in front of 6,811 in the replay at Loakes Park.
Aveley, Penrith and St Albans City were all seen off as the side reached the quarter-finals of the FA Amateur Cup for the first time since 1957. They were drawn away to Isthmian League rivals Hendon, but Horseman’s goal wasn’t enough to prevent the ‘Greens’ from winning 2-1. Despite that the team finished strongly in the league and continued that form into the 1966/67 season.
It was to be another memorable campaign with Martin Priestley becoming Wycombe Wanderers’ first ever substitute when he replaced an injured Maskell during a 4-1 home win over Barking on 1st October 1966. There was a marathon FA Cup first round tie with Bedford Town which needed three replays to produce a winner. After a 1-1 draw in the first game at Loakes Park there was a fabulous encounter at the Eyrie in the replay.
Goals from Bates and Horseman looked to have earned a 2-1 victory but the hosts equalised late on to force extra-time. Winger Les Merrick restored the visitors’ lead only for “the Eagles” to level again from a controversial penalty two minutes from time. The second replay was abandoned after 90 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch at Loakes Park with score 1-1 and it was Bedford Town who finally won it 3-2 in the third replay at the Eyrie.
The club again decided to change kit with a new ‘modern’ strip of plain Cambridge blue shirts and Oxford blue shorts worn for the first time against Corinthian Casuals on New Year’s Eve. The season ended with a third-place finish in the Isthmian League, the best in seven years and there was plenty of hope around the club for the future. 

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