For many Chairboys (and girls) this is the one we`ve been waiting for. Not for long mind you, when the fixtures were published back in June our return to the wilds of Essex was set for our first away game back in League One. Excitement has increased following the enthralling penalty triumph over our erstwhile rivals in the League Cup in midweek and you get the sense that tomorrow`s encounter is going to be something of a humdinger.
The year 1884 has some significance for football in High Wycombe. It is the year North Town Wanderers, the forebears of Wycombe Wanderers were formed. Perhaps that word is slightly grandiose. Essentially it was a group of working class lads who worked in the furniture industry getting together to have a bit of a kick about.
It seems fitting therefore that in the very same year the town of Colchester was hit by an earthquake, estimated to have reached 5.1 on the Richter scale, although thankfully no fatalities were reported. One feels it was a portent that a great footballing rival was borne and that the citizens of the Essex town ought to gird their loins.
The history of football in the town is similar to High Wycombe, albeit that Colchester Town were formed in 1867 and remained amateur until they were dissolved in 1937. United were formed out of its ashes and became a Football League club in 1950. Its most famous moment came in 1971 when they beat Don Revie`s Leeds United 3-2 in the F.A. Cup. Ray Crawford and all that.
Did you know that the nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ was written by Jane Taylor whilst living in the town’s Dutch Quarter? Another literary mention comes from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, when the main character, Winston Smith, thinks back to his childhood and his first memories of war, recalling: ‘Perhaps it was the time when the atomic bomb had fallen on Colchester.’
The U`s greatest celebrity supporter is DJ Steve Lamacq who was watching the U`s when the rivalry with Wycombe was at its` fiercest. TV presenter Dermot O`Leary and Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay both went to school in the town. There have been several players to have played for both clubs including Steve McGavin, Keith Scott and Scott McGleish but perhaps the most infamous is manager Paul Lambert who, had he not left for Norwich City at the start of 2009/10 season, might`ve lead the Essex ramble to promotion instead
It will be the Wanderers` 14th trip to Colchester this weekend and they can boast a decent record, losing just three of the previous 13 visits. Four of those have come in cup competitions and the Chairboys have won them all. The league record isn`t so good with just two victories in nine visits. Those two wins still live long in the memory.
The first came in March 1994 with the Wanderers pushing for promotion under Martin O`Neill in our inaugural Football League campaign. It was a revenge mission and the hosts put up a rearguard action for almost an hour before succumbing. Goalkeeper John Cheesewright (remember him?) could only parry a shot from Tim Langford and Simon Stapleton tapped home from three yards to spark pandemonium amongst the away support at Layer Road.
With time almost up, left-back David Titterton, playing as a makeshift striker, got on the end of Steve Guppy`s low cross to tuck the ball under Cheesewright to make it 2-0, notching his one and only goal for the club. Whilst the Wycombe fans celebrated, the Essex apes in the Barside tried to invade the pitch and away end as they lost the plot. The season ended in glory with promotion sealed in style with a 4-2 win over Preston North End at Wembley.
The second victory came in October 2002. The club was suffering a hangover from the collapse in form at the end of the previous season and manager Lawrie Sanchez had started to antagonise supporters who dared show their displeasure at both performances and results. Nevertheless these were put to one side as we travelled into enemy territory.
Keith Ryan, Steve Brown and Andy Rammell all returned to the starting line-up but it was Michael Simpson who won a penalty after being up-ended inside the box by Micky Stockwell and Brownie was coolness personified as he slotted the spot-kick past goalkeeper Scott Brown and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. It proved to be enough to take the three points although largely due to the U`s inability to take their chances.
Other memorable moments include Rhino`s brace on our first ever visit to Layer Road in November 1990 which earned a 2-2 draw. Darren Currie`s sensational strike that shone brighter than the orange change shirts we wore in a 2-2 draw on an October evening in 2011. Lastly, but most certainly not least, Gareth Ainsworth`s injury-time equaliser on our first visit to their new home on the outskirts of town that earned a 1-1 draw. Some even claim he may have used his hand to score.
“All that`s left are memories”