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Change for the Chairboys

19 January 2013

The summer of 1949 saw Reg Boreham tender his resignation as secretary and he was replaced by Bill Hayter.

It was a time of change for the club and the team reflected this too, with a trio of Polish players making it into the first team. Harry Wegryzk and Henrik Mikrut joined from Aylesbury United whilst Miecystow Krupa signed from local side Polish Carpathians.

Six-feet-four Krupa had escaped a Nazi concentration camp in Russia during World War II and would prove to be an influential member of the squad. Five thousand fans saw Dulwich Hamlet beat the Blues 4-1 in the opening Isthmian League game of the season at Loakes Park. Goalkeeper Reg Williams, left-winger Peter Birdseye and right-half Fred Gearing were the only three players from High Wycombe in the starting XI.

The team made a poor start to the season, crashing out of the FA Cup after being thrashed 6-2 by Southall in a first qualifying round tie at Western Road. The turning point came in November 1949 in the FA Amateur Cup fourth qualifying round tie against Maidenhead United at York Road. The Wanderers were heading out of the competition, trailing 5-4 before thick fog saw the game abandoned after 76 minutes.

The re-arranged game ended in a goalless draw a week later and Williams was recalled to the side for the replay the following week, pulling off a string of fine saves as the Blues beat the Magpies 2-1 in front of 6,000 fans at Loakes Park. Williams had been dropped following the signing of goalkeeper Chris Lodge from St Albans City in October and the side went on an unbeaten run of 13 games as the Fifties began.

The next round of the Amateur Cup saw the Chairboys drawn away to Bungay Town. It was a daunting trip as Bungay was a small Suffolk village with a population of just 3,000. Their ground had no stands at all, so farm carts and lorries were improvised for use by both sets of club officials. Home goalkeeper Tufts and Birdseye both had to be taken to hospital after a clash of heads and yet returned to the field of play in the second half.

The wonderfully-named Johnny Blizzard also had to come off injured but his first-half opener had settled the visitors’ nerves and they scored three late goals to avoid a banana skin with a 4-0 victory. Things really started to hot up in the second round when Wycombe were drawn at home to Northern League side Crook Town. A crowd of over 10,000 saw 37-year-old Jock McCallum’s superbly-executed lob settle a tight game with just over a quarter of an hour remaining at Loakes Park.

Dulwich Hamlet were the visitors to Loakes Park in the third round and a new record crowd of 13,607 saw goals from Blizzard, McCallum and Krupa give the Blues a three-goal lead inside the opening half hour as they went on to record a 3-1 victory to avenge their opening-day defeat in the league.

Excitement was overflowing by the time St Albans City arrived in the Chair Metropolis for the quarter-final a fortnight later. The previous record crowd was smashed as 15,850 crammed into Loakes Park and the home fans were treated to a thrilling display as the hosts romped to a 4-1 victory which sent the Blues through to the semi-finals.

Wycombe were drawn against amateur giants Bishop Auckland with the semi-final to be played at the neutral venue of Griffin Park, Brentford. A crowd of 30,453, with at least 12,000 from High Wycombe, and a TV audience watching a delayed transmission on the BBC, saw the Chairboys wearing a change strip of amber and black shirts, white shorts and red, white and blue socks.

The Wanderers fell behind on the half hour when Krupa was somewhat harshly adjudged to have fouled his opponent in the box to concede a penalty and Davidson beat Lodge from the spot. The Bishops doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half when Major’s cross was turned home by Riley.

All was not lost, however, and Wycombe pulled a goal back in the 70thminute when Johnny Way scored from close range. The Auckland goal led a charmed life in the final 20 minutes with goalkeeper J Washington pulling off a trio of top saves. Blizzard then looked certain to equalise with eight minutes remaining, only to miss an absolute sitter as he blasted wide of an open goal and Bishop Auckland held on to win 2-1.

The side bounced back from that bitter disappointment to reclaim the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup, beating Slough Town 1-0 in the replay at the Dolphin Stadium courtesy of a goal from Birdseye. The eighth-place finish in the Isthmian League was something of a disappointment and the 1950/51 season saw the side record a worse finish of 11th.

It prompted the club to search for a full-time coach and James McCormick was appointed in the summer of 1951. Despite the poor league showing, there was an exciting run in the FA Cup with the side making it through eight ties to reach the fourth qualifying round.

It was local derbies galore too as Amersham Town were thrashed 13-0 before Maidenhead United, Chesham United, Aylesbury United and Slough Town were all disposed of. Sadly Southern League side Chelmsford City proved to be too strong as they won 4-0 at Loakes Park in front of 10,377 in November 1950.

There was to be no repeat of the previous season’s FA Amateur Cup exploits, however, as Walthamstow Avenue ended the Blues’ interest with a 3-0 victory in front of 8,000 in a first-round replay at Green Pond Lane. Chairman Bob Spatchett stepped down at the AGM in the summer of 1951, 52 years after joining the club as a player, and John Timberlake was appointed as his successor.

The 1951/52 season was a historic one in the club’s history as McCormick became the club’s first ever full-time coach. He immediately faced the difficult task of replacing experienced players such as McCallum, who soon left to sign for Aylesbury United. As so often happens in football, the Chairboys were drawn at home to the Ducks in an FA Cup third qualifying round tie less than three months later and McCallum notched the winner to send the Blues crashing out as they were beaten 2-1 in front of 9,000 at Loakes Park.

Wycombe had only made it through to that stage after Headington United had been expelled from the competition for fielding an ineligible player in a 3-2 victory over the Blues at the Manor Ground in the previous round. There was another promising run in the FA Amateur Cup with 12,085 at Loakes Park to see Dennis Atkins’ penalty settle a tight third-round tie with Marine (Crosby) 1-0.

Sadly Barnet knocked the Wanderers out with a 2-0 victory in the quarter-final in front of a record crowd of 11,026 at Underhill (which still stands to this day). McCormick did guide the team to an improved finish of sixth place in the Isthmian League, but his attempts to modernise the club upset too many people and he left in the summer of 1952. It would, however, prove to be a blessing in disguise.

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