Len Worley was the man brave enough to say no to the legendary Spurs boss Bill Nicholson when offered a professional contract to sign for the North Londoners.
Already on amateur terms, he was handed the opportunity two years after helping the Wanderers to the 1957 FA Amateur Cup Final. Given the chance to compete with the likes of international wingers like Cliff Jones and Terry Medwin appealed. But the £20 maximum wage paid in those days did not.
“I was getting married and training to become a quantity surveyor which meant long-term security. I also had the chance to return to Loakes Park and play again for one of the best amateur clubs in the country in front of huge crowds every week,” remembers Len. “Like Wycombe coach Sid Cann, Mr Nicholson was a pretty dour character and he just shrugged his shoulders when I rejected his offer.”
So did the man dubbed the Chalfont Wonder ever regret his decision – especially as Spurs were to go on to complete the League and Cup double in 1961? “Never,” says Len – still sprightly at 83. “I was in the British Olympic squad, was winning amateur international caps for England and enjoying my football at Wycombe. I was playing alongside characters like Dennis Atkins and Mike Wicks who, frankly, were different to the professionals of the day that I met."
Len does remember his one senior Spurs appearance with pride though. “I made my debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on the very day that John White also pulled on a Tottenham shirt for the first time. He was a great player whose career was tragically cut short when he was killed in an accident five years later when struck by lightning while sheltering on a golf course.”
Len has happier memories of his year at Tottenham. He played regularly for the reserve side alongside such accomplished players as Terry Dyson and Johnny Brooks. And he’s still friends with another Spurs legend, Cliff Jones. “We were billeted together with the King’s Troop Horse Artillery when we did our National Service. Several other excellent players, including Maurice Setters and Scottish international Willie Ormond, were assembled by a football-mad Sergeant Major and we spent most of our time playing soccer.”
Len was to go on to make 512 appearances for Wycombe in a wonderful 16-year career. One of those games was against Spurs when they visited Loakes Park for a Christmas Eve friendly in 1960. The visitors included such stars as John Hollowbread, Mel Hopkins, Tony Marchi, John Ryden, Bobby Smith, Frank Saul and old wing rival Medwin. The Wanderers lost 4-3 despite goals from Mickey Rockell (2) and Paul Bates. Worley is hoping for another exciting game this time round – but with the result reversed!
Read the full feature in the matchday programme for Monday's game.