As Huey Lewis once sang “We’re going back in time” – all the way back to 1931 in fact. No Chairboy (or girl) needs reminding that it was a year that the club fulfilled arguably its greatest ambition, winning the F.A. Amateur Cup at Highbury against Hayes. Yes, we know, it’s Hayes and Yeading now, technically not the same club but I’m sure you’ll forgive us our little indiscretion.
It’s a fitting clash to look back upon as it was the first meeting with the newly-named Hayes F.C., having changed from Botwell Mission F.C. in 1929. Despite having faced the new Hayes and Yeading United in a couple of recent friendlies, this weekend’s encounter in the F.A. Cup is the first ever competitive meeting between the sides.
Wycombe had begun their 1930/31 F.A. Amateur Cup run with a win over London Caledonians before beating Walthamstow Avenue, Romford, Metropolitan Police and Woking. A week before the final at the home of Arsenal F.C. the first team played a friendly against Nunhead at Loakes Park which gave goalkeeper Jim Kipping the opportunity to get some match fitness after being out with a perforated ear-drum suffered in the semi-final win over Woking. The Selection Committee were unable to select Club Captain John Timberlake who had declared himself unfit with an injury picked up in the fourth round tie with the Met Police.
It was noted that the players would travel by train from High Wycombe to Marylebone and then transfer to a coach for the rest of the journey to Highbury. Athenian League Hayes were the outsiders for the final, but had been since they began their run in the preliminary rounds, finally reaching Highbury after nine matches, all away from home, culminating in victory over Bishop Auckland in the semi-final.
Despite the personal disappointment of missing the final Captain John Timberlake said in the Bucks Free Press before the game: ‘We shall win. That darned old Amateur Cup is coming to Wycombe this time, make no doubt about it. Our lads realise that they will have to play hard to beat Hayes, but all the boys are confident and are going to play the game of their lives. If they have an equal share of the luck the Wanderers will return tomorrow carrying the cup. Wish us luck!’
Over 4,000 Wycombe supporters travelled to North London for the final and Bucks Free Press reporter ‘Goalpost’ described the scene: ‘Wycombe emptied itself on Saturday. The streets lacked the usual throngs until visitors crowded into the town from the country districts, towards evening, to await the result of the game at Highbury. Official figures from the High Wycombe railway station show that 4,200 passengers availed themselves of the cheap train facilities offered.’
‘Motor coaches, lorries and motor cars – both of ancient and modern types! – were requisitioned and scores of private vehicles were used. As Highbury was reached some of the thoroughfares were jammed and a good many folk did not get to the scene until after the start of the game. The Wanderers’ supporters like those of Hayes, did not forget to show their colours and hundreds of yards of ribbon, to say nothing of miniature chairs and gollywogs, were used. Mothers even decorated their babes in arms’
Arthur Greenwell continuing to deputise for Timberlake and Pat Badrick took the captain’s armband. Hayes sprung a surprise when they selected new signing Bill Caesar in their starting line instead of regular left-half Arthur Butcher.
The Chairboys` line-up was: (2-3-5)
Sid Crump – Dickie Cox
Fred Rance – Pat Badrick – Arthur Greenwell
C. Simmons – Bill Brown – Doug Vernon – Dick Braisher – Alf Britnell
Hayes lined-up as follows: (2-3-5)
Maskell – Gower
E.Caesar – Wainwright – W.Caesar
Knight – Rowe – Welsh – Morgan – Lloyd
The Highbury pitch was something of a mud-bath although the players would have been well used to such conditions in those days. There was a crowd of 32,489, with gate receipts of £2,222 and they watched a tight contest. Wycombe were dealt a blow early on when right-back Sid Crump suffered a head injury and had to leave the field of play leaving the Wanderers with ten-men. As might have been expected this gave Hayes the upper hand and goalkeeper Jim Kipping had to make a good save to keep out an effort from Rowe before denying Eric Caesar.
It wasn`t all one-way traffic and Alf Britnell created a couple of chances for Doug Vernon but he couldn`t keep his header down on either occasion. Crump returned to fray just after the half-hour mark but played on the right-wing with Bill Brown dropping into the right-back position. The Chairboys almost took the lead on 35 minutes when Dick Braisher hit a powerful shot that was superbly saved by Hayes` goalkeeper Holding. It meant both sides went into the half-time break with the score locked at 0-0.
Wycombe switched things around during the interval with Crump moving back into his usual position and it helped swing the game in their favour. Arthur Greenwell tested Holding early on and he was kept busy. Brown whistled a shot just wide of the post and Britnell went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when his free-kick beat Holding but clipped the top of the bar. Hayes also had their chances with Lloyd shooting wide when he should have done better.
The Blues had a real let-off on 75 minutes when Sid Crump appeared to handle the ball in the box but despite the Missioners` appeals referee Mr Graham gave a free-kick right on the edge and the danger was cleared,
With just six minutes remaining a goalmouth scramble in Hayes box ended with Brown shooting against the foot of the post and defender Bill Caesar deliberately handling the ball whilst lying on the ground. The referee pointed to spot and Wycombe had a golden opportunity to take the lead. Brown stepped up but smashed his kick straight at Holding who pushed the ball straight back out. Alf Britnell was the first man to react and he thumped the rebound past the Hayes goalkeeper and into the top right hand corner of the net.
The Wanderers saw out the final five minutes with little trouble and the final whistle signalled the club’s greatest achievement in its 44-year history. Oh and how it was celebrated. Captain Pat Badrick had the honour of collecting the cup and an estimated 10,000 people greeted the team on its return to High Wycombe by train at around 9pm in the evening. The Bucks Free Press described the scenes as ‘unprecedented in the history of the old borough.’
Mayor Healey made a speech, saying: ‘In the name of our dear old town I say to the Wanderers – Welcome Home! We honour you tonight for the distinction you have, by your determination and clean sportsmanship brought to High Wycombe. We’re proud of you and proud of what you have so well done to add to the fame of our wonderful old borough. I am confident we shall curb our enthusiasm so that, looking back, this night will long be recorded in the history of our old borough, with nothing but justifiable pride.’
Captain John Timberlake was given a specially struck winners medal for the part he played in the earlier rounds. Every player except Doug Vernon, who was stationed at a nearby RAF base, lived within a five mile radius of High Wycombe town centre. The profits from the cup run were used to build the “cowshed” at Loakes Park and enabled the club to become the first Amateur club to have stands on both sides of the pitch. At the end of the season 400 people attended a celebration dinner in the Town Hall where former Club Captain and benefactor Frank Adams conducted numerous speeches and toasts.
Whilst very few of us were there it serves as a reminder how we have got here today and why Wycombe Wanderers is such a special club.