This is not as impossible as it sounds, since it is just one of the amazing things you too could witness if you supported a football team like Wycombe Wanderers.
Blogs about the trials and tribulations of local football fans are often dominated by ironic accounts of shivering for ninety minutes in a sparsely-populated stand at some obscure midweek away game in February, but there is much to be said for supporting one of our less fashionable football league clubs.
Before I start, I should point out that I believe we should all support our nearest club, come rain or shine, rather than our favourite Premiership club. The experience is far less cynical, more intensely satisfying and much more affordable.
Loakes Park, where Wycombe played when my uncle first took me to home games in the sixties, sloped 11 feet from side to side. It stood between the gas works and the hospital and, on those frequent occasions when the ball was booted over the roof of the low stand, us kids would race to recover it from the steep bank of stinging nettles behind it. In those days, the original match-ball would be reintroduced to play at the earliest opportunity. If too many clearances went the same way, they might even run out of footballs, so the game would have to wait until one could be retrieved. The record played over the PA before kick-off was always The Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill.”
We played in the Isthmian League in front of a few hundred die-hards. The older men stood on the sheltered terrace at the foot of the slope, smoking their pipes and rollies, while families and suits took seats in the wooden stand opposite. Youths stood on the open terrace behind whichever goal we were attacking. At half-time, after a cup of tea or a pint with a hot-dog or roll, they would stroll to the other end for the second half, passing their opposite numbers marching the other way. This was when the loud telephone bell would ring as the evening paper’s sports desk phoned for the latest score for their half-time edition. A few minutes later, the large painted letters displayed on the hoardings would be underpinned with the scores from the games they represented; if you’d bought a programme you would know that game A, which was nil-nil after 45 minutes, stood for Arsenal vs Stoke City.
Wycombe have enjoyed some great successes (by our modest standards), winning the non-league double one year, followed by a League 2 Wembley play-off victory the next. But enough nostalgia – here are three incidents from the 21st century alone that make Wycombe Wanderers unique:
Scoring two goals in nine seconds, without the opposition touching the ball (2000)
This otherwise dull game was distinguished by our goal with the last kick of the first half, followed by another only nine seconds after kicking off the second. Poor old Peterborough. And pity anybody who left their seat early to join the hot-dog queue and got back late. Read about it here.
Advertising online for a striker to play in the FA Cup quarter-final (2001)
Nobody expected Wycombe to win this tie at Premiership high-fliers Leicester City and the club was so short of fire-power that they advertised online for a striker. This was a big opportunity for Roy Essandoh, who had previously played for minor sides in Scotland and Scandinavia. He joined the Wanderers a week before the game and was given a place on the bench. It was almost inevitable that, with the scores level at 1-1, he came on as a sub and nodded home the injury-time winner. See the BBC story. In some bizarre circularity that infests the game, Peter Taylor, Leicester’s hapless manager that day, went on to manage Wycombe in 2008. That didn’t end well for him, either.
Coming back from 3-1 down to win 2-0 (2012)
Back in August, Wycombe were losing a league game 3-1 after 67 minutes, at home to Bristol Rovers, when Adams Park was hit by an intense thunderstorm. The Health and Safety official insisted the game be abandoned, for fear of lightning. Despite the visitors’ protests, the referee accepted this decision and the game was rescheduled for 1 December. You can probably guess the rest. Wycombe won 2-0. You can see the details here.
We take what pleasure we can from these rare moments in the spotlight. You are more likely to see Wycombe Wanderers’ name on Family Excellence or League Groundsman’s awards than on the European Championship trophy, but for a football club with average gates of 5,000, owned by its Supporters Trust rather than a billionaire, surviving to fight another season is a victory in itself.