Wanderers are back at Wembley in part four of Adrian Wood's series.Part 4 - Season 1993/94 – Instant success in Division 3
During the close season, Martin O'Neill turned down an approach from Nottingham Forest to take over as manager and remained at Adams Park. As he did the previous summer, O'Neill kept faith in his squad and just three players - Glyn Creaser, Mark West and Steve Thompson - remained part-time as the club went full-time. There were record season ticket sales totalling over 2,000 and netting £200,000 in income, compared to £90,000 sold the previous season in the Conference. This came despite price rises of around 30% with terrace season tickets for adults costing £102 and seats £136. The club promoted matchday hospitality with £30 plus VAT buying a pre-match meal, seat, programme, and tea or coffee, and full use of a private bar.
To co-ordinate the various new safety requirements by the Football League, a new safety officer, Frank Knowles, was employed. The new safety control room was built, housing all elements of the club’s safety procedures including CCTV. There were two new sponsorship deals sold at different areas of the ground - the Woodlands Terrace became the Davenport Vernon Vauxhall Stand from the start of the season and later on the Hillbottom Terrace officially became the Amersham & Wycombe College Stand. With the Bucks Free Press still sponsoring the Valley Terrace, this just left the Main Stand available for sponsorship. Following crush barrier work behind each goal, the ground capacity was mid-season increased to 7,400. Later in the campaign this was raised to 9,000 after £10,000 was spent installing additional barriers on the Woodland Terrace.
August 21st 1993 saw Adams Park stage its first ever Football League fixture when, in front of a 5,607 crowd, a Keith Scott goal saw off Chester City 1-0. Three days later came another first with the League Cup (at the time sponsored by Coca Cola) 1st round second leg tie against Division 2 club Leyton Orient. Scott was again the only goal scorer, Wycombe winning the tie 3-0 on aggregate. Old foes Colchester then inflicted our first home defeat as they romped home 5-2. A truly memorable evening was the 2nd round of the Coca Cola Cup when the opponents were Coventry City of the Premier League. Coventry had won the first leg 3-0, but roared on by the majority of the 5,933 crowd, Wycombe unbelievably went 4-0 up in extra time. As they tired however, two late goals saw the Premiership side sneak through 5-4 on aggregate.
The club’s success on the field was reflected in the financial results for the year ending 31st May 1993. Turnover was up by 50% to £1.8million and the bottom line profit figure was £272,493 against £20,484 the previous year. This left the club in a strong cash position. In November the club announced that they would build a car park on land adjacent to the existing Adams Park site in an attempt to alleviate traffic problems on match days. The site had originally been ear-marked for a training pitch following a lengthy planning application but this was never pursued. The club had agreed a 60-year lease with Sir Francis Dashwood who owned the land to be used for parking and the costs were to be recouped by charging supporters to use the car parking area. A new Sunday Market opened on November 7th. However the number of stallholders attracted was low and this was replaced in January by a new car boot sale at a cost of £7 per car. Meanwhile the club opened a Club Shop in the Octagon Shopping Centre.
The club ended 1993 in 4th place and early in January welcomed Premiership outfit Norwich City in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. It was only the third time Wycombe had reached this stage and a sell-out 7,802 (a new ground record) packed the ground. Two goals from Chris Sutton however ensured there was to be no giant killing. O’Neill strengthened his squad with some shrewd signings; midfielder Steve Brown joined from Northampton, and midfielder Nicky Reid and experienced goal scorer Simon Garner joined on free transfers from West Bromwich. All three played key roles in the remainder of the season. Another big Adams Park cup occasion came in the Autoglass Trophy. O’Neill’s side won through to the southern final, their run including a dramatic penalty shoot-out win at Fulham in the semi-final. Their opponents were Swansea City of Division 2 who had won the first leg 3-1. A 6,710 crowd saw Wycombe win 1-0 only to lose 2-3 on aggregate. The police and stewards were kept busy by several pitch invasions by the sizeable visiting contingent.
Late April saw Adams Park stage the FA Trophy semi-final replay between Enfield and Woking. For the record Woking won 3-0 and went on to beat Runcorn 2-1 in the final (Wycombe of course had lifted that trophy the previous season). The final regular Division 3 game of the season was at home to Preston. Wycombe had to win and also rely on Crewe failing to take three points at Chester City. A new record league crowd for Adams Park of 7,442 saw a 1-1 draw with Wycombe finishing 4th three places adrift of Crewe who claimed the third automatic promotion place. That attendance made the average for the season 5,470, the third best in the division after Preston and Carlisle. It was also almost a 19% increase on Wycombe’s 1992/93 average.
The final action at Adams Park was the 2nd leg of the play-off semi-final against Carlisle. There was another bumper crowd 6,265 and again stewards and police were kept busy by the actions of a section of the away support. Goals from Carroll and Garner ensured a 2-1 victory (4-1 on aggregate). Almost 20,000 Wycombe fans then made the now familiar journey to Wembley to see a marvellous play off final that ended in a 4-2 triumph over Preston. This was a fitting climax to the fourth season at Adams Park. The side had adjusted marvellously to life in the Football League and O’Neill had led them to a second successive promotion. The dream goes on!
This article first appeared in the club's matchday programme on Saturday 5th September 2015.