If you ask any supporter of English football the vast majority will agree that the FA Cup is a special competition, steeped with history, prestige and of course lower league opposition facing Goliaths of the game for a chance of a fabled ‘cupset’.
As a supporter of Wycombe Wanderers, one thinks back to 2001 in which the FA Cup journey was cut short a game shy of the final following a famous 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, with the likes of Heskey, Fowler and Gerrard finally seeing off a spirited Chairboys team. Since then, the cup hasn’t been too kind to the mighty Blues. With defeats to non-league Hereford and Fleetwood – albeit spearheaded by one Jamie Vardy, the closest the Wanderers had come to cup glory was last season as they succumbed to a somewhat dishevelled Aston Villa team in a third round replay.
With such a poor start to the season this year, a trip to Portsmouth in the first round definitely wasn’t the type of draw supporters of the Chairboys were jumping for joy over, especially following a 4-2 drubbing earlier in the season. However, a 2-1 victory against Pompey, a 5-0 away thrashing of League One strugglers Chesterfield, and a less than convincing 2-1 home victory against plucky FA Cup underdogs Stourbridge gave the reinvigorated Wanderers team a fourth round berth for the first time since 2001.
So after one of the most nerve-racking experiences on the terraces during the third round tie with Stourbridge, when Tottenham Hotspur appeared alongside Wycombe Wanderers on the night of the fourth round draw, both supporters and the squad itself (a video of the Wycombe squad learning the news of their opposition went viral) were ecstatic, and FA Cup fever took a hold of the town.
So on the morning of January 28th 2017, myself and the rest of the sold out allocation of 4,035 fans sporting the famous light and dark blue quarters journeyed to White Hart Lane, with no one really expecting anything more than a straight forward Tottenham victory, despite the wholly impressive 16-game unbeaten wave the Chairboys found themselves riding. What followed was truly unforgettable.
|Over 4,000 Chairboys fans flocked to the Lane for a piece of the action|
Paul Hayes, a man who has somewhat been slated by supporters this season and for his inconsistancy, appeared on the team sheet. And just a mere 40 seconds into the game saw his free header crash against the crossbar. Was today a fairtale in the making?
Despite the growing Wycombe pressure, and a back line struggling to deal with ‘The Beast’ Adebayo Akinfenwa, alongside the carnival atmosphere coming from the wall of blue positioned in one corner of White Hart Lane, Tottenham had the first opportunity, with Son missing a sitter.
Then ‘it’ happened. The sweetest volley he’ll ever strike. Paul Hayes of all people. Limbs everywhere behind the goal. I couldn’t believe we’d gone ahead, nor could the rest of White Hart Lane for that matter. Never had a goal been celebrated quite like that one.
12 minutes later. Dreamland. Hayes from the spot this time. Spurs silenced. Wycombe rampant. Tears of joy from some in the stand. Gobsmacked. We were beating Tottenham 2-0 in their own back yard. Only the FA Cup.
Yet, we were far from confident. And low and behold following the introduction of Dele Alli and Moussa Dembele, Spurs found themselves level midway through the second half, fully expecting a battering to ensue.
Instead, with seven minutes to play, the truly unthinkable happened. Myles Weston stormed down the wing, delivered a delightful cross for Garry Thompson another of the old guard to head home. I’ve run out of superlatives, an amazing feeling. An eerie silence came over three quarters of the ground.
|Garry Thompson puts the Light-Dark Blue army ahead|
With one minute to play, still celebrating what we thought was the winner – the cries of ‘Que Sera Sera’ were shortlived. A poor goal kick from a nervous Blackman let Alli dance through the deep Wycombe back line to slot past the on loan Chelsea keeper in net.
A replay it was then. Surely?
But alas. into the 97th minute of the game, hearts were broken. Son drilled past Blackman. The final whistle blew just too late.
Full time. Tottenham 4, Wycombe 3.
Football can be cruel. Distraught was an understatement. The life had been sucked out of the men in Blue.
The Wanderers had nothing left to give, and were rightfully clapped off by both sets of fans, in a game that they undoubtedly deserved something from, despite the late Spurs onslaught. After all the League Two outfit were the first team in some two-and-a half years to dispatch three goals here.
Walking back towards the train station, the bittersweet feeling kicked in. The way in which the defeat came was sickening. But what I witnessed on that hallowed turf on a winters afternoon was a team high in spirit, character and talent. Days like that make me proud to be Wycombe Wanderers supporter.
Who says the cup doesn’t matter anymore?