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Wanderin' around the world: Australia

The latest in the series.

23 March 2021

It is a long way from Australia to High Wycombe, in fact, it is over 10,500 miles from Adams Park to Melbourne – the birthplace of former goalkeeper Frank Talia. That figure surely makes him the player who has travelled the furthest to represent the Chairboys. In truth, though, he had already journeyed a fair bit before turning up in Buckinghamshire.

Starting his career in 1988 with the wonderfully named Sunshine George Cross in his home city, he first came to England in 1992 to try his luck with Blackburn Rovers. Although on the books of the Lancashire club for three years – including their 1994-95 Premier League winning season – he never made a first-team appearance.

Instead his first experience of the English game came with Hartlepool United, for whom he made a handful of starts in 1992. Unfortunately for him Rovers boasted England goalkeeper Tim Flowers and while he made several appearances on the bench – including at Wembley in 1995 for the Charity Shield game with Everton – his future clearly lay away from Ewood Park.

Swindon Town was the eventual destination, and during five seasons he made over 100 appearances for the Robins. A brief stint with Sheffield United preceded a trip to mainland Europe with Belgian club Royal Antwerp, before he was signed on an initial three-month deal by Lawrie Sanchez as cover for the aging Martin Taylor. It was just as well he was on the books as a back injury followed by a knee wound suffered in training ruled Taylor out frequently during the 2002-03 campaign.

He made his debut in a 3-0 loss at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate in August 2002 – ironically the club who had been challenging the Blues for Talia’s signature that summer. However, during the course of the term he recorded 10 clean sheets and secured the first-team jersey.

Over the following three terms Talia became a mainstay in the Blues’ backline, but unfortunately his playing time with the club fell between the two famous cup runs of the noughties and included the 2003-04 relegation season. Nevertheless, Talia was a popular figure in goal and since his retirement in 2007 – after an injury blighted season – the club have struggled to find a regular owner of the No 1 jersey.

We cannot finish the Francesco Talia story without mentioning an unfortunate injury suffered in May 2004 when he slipped in his garden while mowing the lawn causing the machinery to flip over and in the process slice off the tip of one of his toes. While we can now look back with at least a little humour at this bizarre gardening incident, in all seriousness the accident could well have ended his career.

Curiously, Wycombe’s second Australian connection is also a goalkeeper. Born in Brisbane, Jamie Young (pictured) actually shared time at Adams Park with compatriot Talia during the 2006-07 season. Arriving in England in 2002 as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, Young started out at Reading, for whom he made his debut in March 2004 in a 0-0 draw with Stoke City. That outing would be his only opportunity for the Royals, though, and during his four-year spell at the Madejski Stadium his only other first-team action came during a loan stint at Rushden & Diamonds in the first half of 2005-06 the season.

By that time he had made a big decision regarding his international career by turning his back on the nation of his birth in favour of his adopted home. As a member of England’s Under-20 squad for the 2005 Toulon tournament, he played alongside the likes of James Milner, Tom Huddlestone, Wayne Routledge and Steven Taylor. His coach at that event was future Wycombe boss Peter Taylor.

Released by Reading in May 2006, he was offered a one-year deal at Wycombe in August 2006 and made his debut in a League Cup tie against Swansea City later in the month. As the 2006-07 campaign continued he became a regular figure in the first team – defending the goal in the famous League Cup quarter-final triumph at Charlton Athletic. Consequently, it did not take long for the heavy metal fanatic to become a popular figure with the Wanderers support and, although in later seasons he more often than not was warming the bench, the ‘Jamie Young, Young, Young’ chant became a familiar aria from the Valley End.

Unfortunately, when given the chance, Young featured in some pretty horrific matches for the club, most notably a 7-0 home loss to Shrewsbury Town in the Football League Trophy. Similarly, his last appearance for the club was one to forget as the Chairboys shipped six goals away at Huddersfield Town, to make matters worse the match was televised live on Sky to a nationwide audience. However, those performances should not taint the memory of his fine shot-stopping ability, which on numerous occasions earned Wycombe points and kept them in games.

In January 2010 Young was released by the club after being informed that he would not be receiving a new contract in the summer.

Our third Aussie came in the shape of Adrian Caceres. Actually born in Argentina, the winger arrived at Adams Park late in the 2004-05 season. He made just three appearances for the Wanderers – against Kidderminster Harriers and Leyton Orient in April and Bristol Rovers in May. Caceres had made a minimal impact in England’s lower leagues before he was recruited by John Gorman. Initially starting his career with Southampton, it was through a loan spell at Brentford that he got his first taste of the Football League. He also represented Hull City, Yeovil Town and Aldershot Town but in total played just 39 league games in England.

By far more impressive has been his career back in his adopted homeland. Before he came to Wycombe he had already played a part in helping Perth Glory win back-to-back National Soccer League titles in 2003 and 2004. Since returning to Australia after his brief flirtation with English football, he has again conquered Oz, lifting the A-League crown in 2007 with Melbourne Victory.

Finally, there is Chris Herd. The young midfielder arrived at Adams Park on loan from Aston Villa in March 2008. The Perth-native made a fine impression during his four outings, with his only previous professional experience coming in a loan stint at Port Vale earlier in the 2007-08 season.

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