Arnold Furious: Adventures in Football #2
THE COACH TRIP: ADAMS PARK
In my first football grounds column I talked, at length, about the many years I spent watching Bromsgrove Rovers play at the beloved Victoria Ground. All the pleasant and unpleasant memories that came along with that. I was never really one for away games. I’ve never even been to Aggborough. There is one exception to that.
February 20, 1993
FA TROPHY R3
WYCOMBE WANDERERS VS. BROMSGROVE ROVERS
We weren’t doing great, as a family, financially when I was in my teens. There wasn’t a lot of spare cash around and we didn’t even have a car. My dad worked locally so he walked it. My mother has always been a bit frugal with the finances, which has set them in good stead. They’ve never had to worry about money problems. When it came to away days, and this is pre-internet, the concept was a tricky one to deal with. When it came to this fixture against Wycombe it was a chance to go to a real stadium. One that would soon see league football. So my dad got us tickets on the official supporters coach and we headed down the M40 to see an away game.
I remember being quite nervous because this wasn’t that far removed from the heydays of hooliganism. I was 16 years old and understandably concerned. I shouldn’t have been. If there’s a softer part of the country than High Wycombe I’ve yet to encounter it. This was 1993, it may have changed since, but it was not an intimidating atmosphere looking out of the coach windows at the town as we approached the ground. Maybe we just went through the nice bits. The most important part of the coach trip is the camaraderie you get from it. There was a buzz about the coach. You get that many supporters in a tiny cramped space and you can hear the conversations. The one I’ll always remember was a middle aged woman telling her husband that if anyone called her a “Brummie” she was going to kick off.
THE LINE UPS
A couple of the Wycombe players were fairly notorious. Guppy went on to a successful league career and played for Leicester. Scott was a non-league legend and top scorer in the Conference. He was also clumsy as fuck. The Rovers team wasn’t the best. We were missing Kevin Richardson and Stewart Brighton from the back line and the gaffer went with two up top, which was a bit brave for an away day against the best team in non-league football.
I remember two things really clearly about the game, even now looking back. Firstly; the Wycombe fans were booing Brian Gray, our only black player, and the travelling fans decided it was racism and, get this, to counter this perceived racism they started booing the only black player in the Wycombe line up (I’m pretty sure it was Andy Kerr). I’m not making this up, this actually happened. I can still hear the words of a fan behind me saying “why are they booing him, they’ve got one too”. 1993. It’s not really that long ago.
The other thing I clearly recall is the opening Wycombe goal where Scott was clean through on goal but kicked the ground instead of the ball and fell over. Stapleton fired the ball into the empty net as veteran keeper Ron Green had come charging out. A catalogue of errors. A typical non-league goal. We had, as a club, fooled ourselves into believing we were better than that.
Also, the second goal for Wycombe was a shambles. Keith Scott, blundering fuckwit that he is, rounded Ron Green, lost control of the ball and embarrassingly fell over his own feet as it rolled out of play. The daft twat of a referee only gave a penalty! They even interviewed Scott for a Wycombe ‘season retrospective’ and he admitted he’d just fallen over and was a bit embarrassed by the whole thing. And that was it! My only Rovers away day. A game suitably ruined by idiots. Both in the stands and on the pitch.
Adams Park was purpose built by the ambitious Wycombe owners after they sold their original ground Loakes Park to the NHS to build a hospital. Adams Park is out in the suburbs. Some three miles from the middle of town and backing onto green belt land. Taking a coach was the sensible approach as a train journey would take four hours and that wasn’t including an hour walk at the other end. 10 hours of travel for an FA Trophy game? No thanks.
It is a pretty stadium, thanks mainly to the backdrop of open fields and plush greenery. It was smaller back then. A capacity of 6,000. We had 5,000 there for the Rovers game. It’s been expanded since and now has a capacity of over 10,000, which is appropriate considering their rise up the divisions.
I would recommend going to a stadium as an away fan at least once. It’s being part of a travelling tribe of people. Going from one part of the country to another to ‘invade’ and claim territory. I was nervous about it but looking back it was a good experience. I don’t particularly like coaches as I get travel sickness on them (although not on any other form of transport, which is weird) so I probably wouldn’t do that again.
Adams Park is a bugger to get to on public transport so I would recommend driving in if you’re able to. I would still rather take the train. I like trains and I like walking around in new places so a stroll through Wycombe would be quite nice, I think. Not that I have any intention of going back there. When everything is open again I want to go and explore some grounds I’ve never been to and there are a lot of those, my friends.
A WORD ON WYCOMBE’S CREST
It’s a duck* eating gold and then shitting it out. What’s up with that?
*Ok, it’s a swan but it’s still shitting gold.
I’ll have another Wycombe-centric piece coming out soon as the April Challenge over at Tony Jameson’s Discord is a season with ‘bottom at Christmas’ Wycombe Wanderers. It’s fun…if you like losing.
NEXT: Euro ‘96