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Post-war excitement & Adams' legacy

1 January 2013

With Wycombe Wanderers among a number of clubs to have continued playing football during World War II, there wasn’t a great deal of administration required for league and cup competitions to be re-established in the aftermath of the war and the 1945/46 season began smoothly.

The club were in a good position themselves and the Isthmian League campaign started with a 4-3 defeat to eventual Champions Walthamstow Avenue at Loakes Parkon 1st September. The following weekend there was a disappointingly early exit from the FA Cup as the Blues were beaten 2-0 at home by Southall.

Walthamstow Avenue also ended the Chairboys interest in the FA Amateur Cup with an incredible 7-5 victory in a second-round replay at Green Pond Road. Jock McCallum continued his excellent scoring record with 36 goals but was pipped as leading goalscorer that season with Frank Avery notching 37.

The side finished ninth in the 14-strong Isthmian League and improved slightly in the 1946/47 season with a seventh-placed finish. Supporters were able hear official messages for the first time after a public address system was installed at Loakes Park. There were again early exits in the FA Cup, with Hayes snatching a last-minute winner at Loakes Park, and in the FA Amateur Cup, with then Athenian League side Enfield winning 5-2 in a replay on a frozen pitch at Southbury Road.

There was a severe winter which caused chaos throughout football all over the country and the league campaign had to be extended by three weeks to ease the back-log of fixtures. The club had plenty of cause for celebration in April 1947 when the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup was reclaimed.

The Wanderers faced Slough United in the final at Maidenhead’s York Road ground and a brace from Harold Hunt sealed a 2-1 victory in front of a crowd of 8,237. A pivotal moment in the history of Wycombe Wanderers took place on Saturday 19th April 1947 when Loakes Parkwas given to the club as a gift by Frank Adams.

Adams had been negotiating with Lord Carrington over purchasing the freehold on Loakes Parkfor the previous couple of years. The deeds were formally presented the club prior to an Isthmian League clash against Corinthian Casuals. Adams made a speech to the crowd and said: "If future generations obtain the same enjoyment out of Loakes Park as it has given me in the past, then this gift will have been worthwhile".

Adams' altruistic act would safeguard the club’s future for more than half a century. It provided the basis for the successful sides of both the 1950s and 1970s and when Loakes Park was sold in 1985, the proceeds would be used to build the Chairboys’ current home here at Adams Park. It was only right that the ground be named after the club’s greatest ever benefactor.

On the same afternoon there was also presentation madeto Charlie Tilbury on his retirement. He madehis debut as a player way back in 1898 and went on to be captain before becoming groundsman in 1919. There was a real feel-good factor around the club in the summer of 1947 and the following season proved to be an exciting one.

The Isthmian League campaign was admittedly rather disappointing as the side finished 11th in the table but they put in a much better showing in the cups. Southall again ended the Blues’ interest in the FA Cup when then snatched a last-minute winner to claim a 2-1 victory in a second qualifying round replay in front of 8,825 at Loakes Park.

It was the FA Amateur Cup that created the greatest interest with a memorable 3-3 draw with St Albans City in a second-round tie at Clarence Park. Some 50 coach loads of Wycombe fans madethe trip to Hertfordshire and they saw centre-half Vickers grab a last minute-equaliser to make it 2-2. Peter Birdseye then equalised in the last minute of extra-time to force a replay.

An incredible 10,366 crowd watched the replay at Loakes Parkthe following weekend and they saw a tight encounter go into extra-time after a goalless 90 minutes before the visitors took the lead. Jock McCallum switched to the left wing in a calculated move to confuse the opposition and it worked perfectly as the hosts launched a counter-attack which ended with the striker curling a shot into the bottom corner to equalise.

McCallum then turned provider as his corner was bundled home by Ken Butler to snatch the winner with only a few minutes remaining. Ilford led 2-0 in a third-round tie at Newbury Park a week later but the visitors fought back to win 3-2 courtesy of Birdseye’s hat-trick. It took the club into the quarter-finals for the first time since winning the competition back in 1931.

The Wanderers were however drawn away to seven-time winners Bishop Auckland and a crowd of 10,129 saw the hosts stretch into a 3-0 lead. Goals from Barkus and McCallum pulled it back to 3-2 before the Bishops’ scored a disputed fourth goal. They went on to win 6-2 at Kingsway.

There was more disappointment the following month as the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup was relinquished to Chesham United, who won 2-1 in the final at Elm Park, Reading. There had been problems during the season with warning notices printed in the programme after missiles had been thrown by supporters during a match.

The club also endured some travel problems due to petrol rationing following the war which forced many people to travel by bus and coaches. Some supporters had to wait more than three hours for a coach back from the cup defeat at Southall, whilst full-back George Jackson missed the first 20 minutes of one match after the buses passing his Wycombe Marsh home were completely full of passengers!

The side failed to make an impression on the Isthmian League during the 1948/49 season and finished 11th once again. There was more disappointment in the FA and Amateur Cups but the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup was lifted after beatingSlough Townin a replay. The first tie at York Road ended goalless but the Blues won 2-1 in the replay at Chesham United, with Ken Butler and Fred Gearing scoring the goals. 

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