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Club History

20 January 2013

It was in 1887 that a football club named Wycombe Wanderers was founded by a group of young furniture trade workers - an event which also led to the club's nickname "The Chairboys." Nine years of friendly matches followed before the Wanderers entered the Southern League, and the club moved between a number of different divisions before beating Hayes to win the FA Amateur Cup in 1931 in front of 32,000 fans at Highbury.

However, the club had to wait another 25 years for their next piece of silverware, winning the first of eight Isthmian League titles in 1956, and appeared in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley the following year where Sid Cann's side lost to Bishop Auckland in the FA Amateur Cup final.

Brian Lee was appointed as the club's first official manager in 1969, with the team being picked by a committee prior to his arrival, and he guided the club to four Isthmian League titles in seven years. However, arguably his finest achievement was holding First Division side Middlesbrough to a draw in an FA Cup third round tie at Wycombe's Loakes Park ground before narrowly losing 1-0 in the replay.

Following the abolition of "amateurism" in 1974, the club took some time adapt to their new status as a semi-professional club, but won promotion to the Conference in 1987 under manager Alan Gane. New boss Jim Kelman consolidated the club's position in the division before former Northern Ireland international Martin O'Neill was appointed as the club's new boss in 1990.

O'Neill's arrival coincided with the move to the Adams Park stadium and a new wave of success duly followed. Back-to-back FA Trophy finals were won in the early 1990s and the club were promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history in 1993, winning the Conference by a considerable distance.

The first season in Division Three saw Wanderers build on the momentum of previous campaigns and clinch a second successive promotion courtesy of a thrilling 4-2 play-off final win over Preston at Wembley. O'Neill rejected offers to manage Leicester and Nottingham Forest before guiding the Blues to their highest ever points tally and a finish just outside the play-offs.

Wanderers' success had clearly attracted attention to O'Neill and he left the club in the summer of 1995 to take up the post at Norwich City, but the sixteen months of new manager Alan Smith's reign failed to live up to the standards in place and he was dismissed in 1996. John Gregory was installed as the next man in charge and steered the Blues clear of relegation trouble before leaving to manage former club Aston Villa, and youth team coach Neil Smillie was promoted to fill the vacancy.

However, a disastrous start to the 1998/99 campaign resulted in Smillie's dismissal in January and former Wimbledon cup hero Lawrie Sanchez was handed the seemingly impossible challenge of keeping the Blues in Division Two. But an incredible run of form towards the end of the campaign, culminating in a late winner at Lincoln City on the final day of the season, saw Wycombe escape relegation against all the odds.

This feat was surpassed two years later by a sensational FA Cup run which saw the Wanderers progress to the semi-final after defeating the likes of Wolves and Leicester en-route. Eventual winners Liverpool proved slightly too strong for the Blues, winning 2-1 at Villa Park, but the name of Wycombe Wanderers was placed firmly on the footballing map after just eight years as a Football League club.

But despite a strong start to the following campaign, a prolonged run of disappointing form saw the Blues struggle over the next two seasons and Sanchez was replaced by ex-England captain Tony Adams in November 2003. Adams oversaw a large reshuffle of the squad but couldn't prevent the club's slide into the newly-named League Two, and he departed almost a year to the day after his appointment with the Blues in a mid-table position.

Former Spurs and England coach John Gorman was handed the manager's position, having spent time in temporary charge following Sanchez's exit, and narrowly missed out on the play-offs before bringing in a number of big-name signings in the summer of 2005. A 21-game unbeaten run from the start of the season had most Blues fans dreaming of promotion but the tragic deaths of midfielder Mark Philo and Gorman's wife Myra overshadowed matters on the pitch and the club eventually lost to Cheltenham in the play-offs.

Gorman parted company with the Blues that summer to be replaced by ex-Celtic captain Paul Lambert, and the new manager's debut season proved to be a memorable one as he guided the club to another semi-final appearance - this time in the Carling Cup, where they held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw at Adams Park before losing at Stamford Bridge. However, the cup run had a downward effect on the Blues' league form and team finished in 12th place in League Two.

Eleven new signings joined the following summer and helped guide the Blues to a play-off place where they would face Stockport County after a joint club record of 19 clean sheets and 78 points. However, a 2-1 aggregate defeat to County meant the Wanderers missed out on promotion again, and Lambert resigned three days later.

The search for a new manager was short as ex-England coach Peter Taylor stood out from the other candidates, and was installed a week after Lambert's departure.

In just one season Taylor guide the Blues to promotion, as they clinched the third automatic spot on goal-difference in a dramatic finale to the 2008/09 campaign.

However, a slow start to the following season saw Taylor replaced by Gary Waddock and - despite a late rally of four wins from the last six games - Wycombe were relegated.

Waddock wasted no time in rebuilding his squad for an assault on the npower League 2 title this season, signing seven new players including highly-rated strike pair Scott Rendell and Ben Strevens.

The duo both played key roles as the Blues regained League One status at the first attempt by finishing third with their highest ever points tally in the Football League (80).

Rendell top scored with 19 goals, while Strevens scored twice in a vital 3-1 victory at already-promoted Bury.

It was Nikki Bull though who proved the real star of the season and the keeper's 17 clean sheets helped earn him the players' and supporters' player of the year awards.

Wanderers began the 2011/12 season well with draws against Scunthorpe United and rivals Colchester United and a 3-1 victory over Orient. Blues also dumped Colchester out of the Carling Cup on penalties after an exciting first-round tie had ended 3-3 after extra-time.

A 1-0 victory over Sheffield United proved one of the season's main highlights as Gary Waddock celebrated his 100th game in charge in style, while youth team graduate Jordon Ibe became the club's youngest ever Football League goalscorer when, aged just 15 and 355 days, he netted a stunning goal against Sheffield Wednesday.

A difficult few months ensured the Blues were in a relegation fight, but an eight-game unbeaten run in March and April gave the Wanderers renewed hope.However, they were to fall just short and finished seven points adrift of safety.

Stuart Beavon was undoubtedly the star of the season and his 25 goals deservedly saw him sweep the board at the end-of-season awards dinner.

Chairboys celebrated their 125th anniversary in the 2012/13 season and it was fitting that the club was acquired by Wycombe Wanderers Trust in June 2012.

Waddock wasted no time in strengthening his squad with the signing of six new players and the squad started the season brightly, taking Championship side Watford to extra-time in the Capital One Cup before beating York City 3-1 on the opening day of the league season, with one of the new boys, Sam Wood, scoring an early goal-of-the-season contender.


A run of positive results failed to materialise though, and Waddock was relieved of his duties in late September.

Fans’ favourite Ainsworth took over caretaker charge and picked up his first win two games later when the Blues beat Torquay 2-1 courtesy of goals from Gary Doherty and Josh Scowen.

Next up came a trip to League One side Portsmouth in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and the Wanderers blew their opponents away, taking the lead inside 13 seconds through Joel Grant, before Dean Morgan’s brace completed a sensational 3-1 victory.

A number of injuries to key players pushed Ainsworth’s squad to the limit and they dropped to bottom of the Football League in mid-November.

However, a 3-2 victory at high-flying Rotherham United, thanks to goals from Matt McClure (2) and Dave Winfield sparked a fine run of form that saw the Blues win nine of their next 14 games and put themselves in with an outside chance of the play-offs.

Three successive defeats ended those hopes, but Ainsworth’s men won three games in a busy April to finish the season in 15th– a far cry from where they were back in November.

Stuart Lewis picked up the Players’ Player of the Year award, while Josh Scowen, who enjoyed a superb breakthrough season, won the Young Player of the Year and Supporters’ Player of the Year prizes. 

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