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10 years to the day since Torquay

Things are quite a lot better, aren't they?




  • I remember watching from behind my sofa after failed attempts to convince my mother to drive me there (as a 15 year old not living in High Wycombe, it was just about my only option). Sheer relief when Jeff Stelling told me we were safe. Got my first season ticket for the following season (that was fun!) and been on the rollercoaster ever since. What a journey

  • Just the greatest day of my life as a Wycombe supporter. Despite it being 10 years ago I still have so many vivid memories of that day. A few random ones - in no particular order:

    • Jesus and the BELIEVE sign pre kick-off
    • Oxford scoring early to lead Northampton leading to an awkward moment where we realised we may forever be indebted to them if they saved us. Of course, they weren't able to hold that lead.
    • Matt McClure's superb chip to put us 3-0 up. I'm not sure I registered a single moment of the match after that, until Bloomfield was celebrating like crazy in the centre circle.
    • The visceral roar in the away end when the Mansfield win was confirmed. I'm not sure I've ever felt a celebration like it - just pure relief all round.
    • The support and solidarity from the Torquay fans on the way back to the car, who only had messages of positivity and congratulations, despite their own relegation. I truly hope they return to the EFL someday soon and we can repay the kindness they showed that day.

    Many football fans will go a whole lifetime and never have a day as raw, emotional, and ultimately, amazing as that sunny day in Torquay. What an amazing club we support.

  • Was my favourite football day by a very long way.

    Good news this week that a consortium to buy Torquay out of administration seems to have been found. Long road ahead but at least some hope. Let’s hope they survive and continue to serve their community.

  • edited May 3
    • Matt McClure's superb chip to put us 3-0 up. I'm not sure I registered a single moment of the match after that, until Bloomfield was celebrating like crazy in the centre circle.
    • The visceral roar in the away end when the Mansfield win was confirmed. I'm not sure I've ever felt a celebration like it - just pure relief all round.

    you've missed out an awfully long period of torture between those two events. As amazing as the scenes were at the end let's not kid ourselves that the two hours that preceeded them were anything but absolutely agonising. Each to their own, obviously, and I can see where people are coming from but I'd always say that the Torquay 'match' was one of the worst experiences I've ever had as a fan. Just felt gut-wrenchingly sick throughout.

    Fair enough though, afterwards was pretty decent!

  • I totally agree with the comments above, Torquay’s directors and fans were absolutely brilliant to us that day and I will always remember how dignified they were considering their own club’s demise. Something of a contrast to the attitude of the Bristol Rovers fans the week before….I think they call it karma.

  • It was truly horrible waiting for the result to come in from Bristol. The relief when that roar finally went around the away terrace really was something else.

    I also really vividly recall the 'Believe' sign and the guy dressed as Jesus bouncing in behind the goal pre match. I've no idea who it was but they're and absolute legend!

  • It’s clearly subjective of course but describing it as the greatest day in your life as a Wycombe Wanderers supporter just blows my mind.

    It was such a desperate situation, with the very future existence of our club in the balance. As @eric_plant says it felt like torture and we were in purgatory until that visceral roar when we knew we’d escaped such a fate.

    I would include the “Mission Impossible” relegation escape at Lincoln City in 1999 in any list of “greatest / most memorable” moments in our history but Torquay United deserves its own category, something along the lines of “we made it, now let’s never speak of this again.”

    I suspect I’m very much in the minority here, but it didn’t feel worthy of celebration then and doesn’t now.

    The way Gareth Ainsworth learned from that experience and the wonderful ride of the following season is cause for celebration.

  • Think I've posted this before but that visceral roar is around the 5.30 mark here:

    We only went down there because we'd already booked a hotel (anticipating a stress-free end of season game) and my wife couldn't even bear to come to the actual match. Like others, my respect and affection for Torquay and their fans remains huge and I really hope they are now seeing the light at the end of their very long and dark tunnel.

    No, it wasn't enjoyable, but sitting on a rooftop bar overlooking the sea that evening remains one of my favourite Wycombe memories.

  • I think it’s fair to say it has become a great day in retrospect. Had we been relegated the next season, or spent the decade since then in the middle of L2 I’m not sure we’d have such fond memories.

    As it was, the first page of the Ainsworth Legendarium was written in the Torquay sunshine. And what a story it turned out to be.

  • We'll have to agree to disagree, but I feel sorry for you if you didn't feel like celebrating that day. After that Rovers game everything felt so desperate and I travelled to Torquay that day with no expectation of survival but wanting to mark our last match as a FL club (possibly ever). The 2nd half was absolute torture but that only made the ending of the match more euphoric - I've genuinely never had another feeling at football like that one. To go from such despair to such relief/elation in 90 minutes makes it comfortably my best day as a Wycombe fan.

    Of course you can argue that we should never have been in that position, but we were, and our survival that day was as much down to "football fortune" (thanks Mansfield) as anything we did ourselves. The fact that we learned our lessons and have gone from strength-to-strength since only makes it all the sweeter for me.

  • Despite my username, I don't do drugs (except caffeine and alcohol) but I can't imagine there's any drug in the world that could equal that moment of euphoria when the Rovers score came in.

  • Thanks for posting that clip @MindlessDrugHoover not sure if seen that angle before. Hearing the roar from the crowd sure makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up.

  • I still watch that video from time to time. Often wondered who was the numpty who managed to get himself thrown out on the final whistle and hence missed the celebrations.

    as I recall rumours were swirling the week before that at best we would have to go part time in a largely full time conference and very possibly go out of existence altogether. I very much went along, not really in hope but to say “goodbye”. By half time our game was won but I still very much expected bad news by the end. The second half was agony yes, yet exquisite agony as hope gradually grew before that final collective roar of release and joy as the final whistle blew 100 miles north. Objectively we were only celebrating finishing 90th on goal difference but really that wasn’t the point. We had a second chance when all hope seemed lost. It was bloody marvellous.

  • My favourite day supporting Wycombe...

    Resignation - Hope - Agony - Elation

  • Oh don’t get me wrong, I celebrated like crazy but it was almost totally out of relief. Those last few weeks were an emotional, footballing trauma. As you say, we should never have been in that position. It represented failure. We weren’t even in control of our own destiny. 🙏 Colin Daniel.

    It was very much a ‘sliding doors’ moment and without it we wouldn’t have been promoted in 2018 and again in 2020. Those moments were truly euphoric though and based on success. Success tastes much sweeter to me (as did 1991, 1993, 1994, 2001, 2007, 2009 & 2011).

  • Despite the success since (two promotions, a season in the Championship, four trips to Wembley, Villa Park, White Hart Lane) this still remains one of the best days. There was something so raw about it - away from all the glamour of those aforementioned trips, from the despair to the glory. I wrote this piece about it at the time for Shoot magazine's website - it's not on-line any more but here is a copy if anyone has a spare few minutes for my rambling


    With two games of the season remaining, Wycombe’s status as a league club was up in the air. It looked like it would become from three of Wanderers, Bristol Rovers and Northampton Town to go down with Torquay, and by virtue of Wycombe playing Rovers in the penultimate game, each side actually had their fate in their own hands.

    With the Blues not being in the best of form, it looked doubtful they could survive. Fans realised the visit of The Pirates could well be the last league game at Adams Park, at least for a while. Rovers took an early lead. Wanderers equalised soon after. In the second half the Blues enjoyed most of the possession and chances – Matt McClure shot wide, Anthony Stewart shot straight at the keeper, Steven Craig headed over. They weren’t taking their chances – an all too familiar story this season and in the 75th minute, disaster struck. McClure made a hash of a defensive header, Clarkson pounced and Bristol held on. Utter despair for Wycombe, utter jubilation for the visitors. With Northampton winning at Dagenham, Wanderers found themselves in the relegation zone for the first time all season and three points adrift. The fans trudged out with ‘Goodnight Irene’ ringing in their ears as Wycombe’s 21 year stay in the football league looked all but over. Social media and message boards were not a pretty site as everyone but no-one took the blame. ‘It’s the fault of the Trust – they’ve ruined the club!’ some commented while others tried to point out that ‘the previous owner left us on the brink of ruin and now we’re paying for it’. Many pointed their fingers to happenings on the pitch. ‘Ainsworth is clueless – he should have been sacked months ago’ while a few others rounded on the players stating that ‘they don’t care, they didn’t want it enough, they’re just picking up a pay cheque’. Even the referees didn’t escape the anger as key decisions that had gone against Wycombe on numerous occasions this season were highlighted. Everyone it felt, had played their part in the clubs demise.

    Yet from the despair, rose a glimmer of hope. When Monday morning came around, the disappointment had subsided somewhat and the picture was a little clearer. Wycombe weren’t relegated – not yet – and a victory at relegated Torquay coupled with a home defeat for either Bristol Rovers or Northampton would steer Wanderers to safety. It wasn’t probable, but it was possible. The fat lady was on stage, but she wasn’t singing yet. The trip to Plainmoor was going to be historic one way or another – either the last league game for the club or a historic escape act. Tickets were sold. Travel was arranged. Differences were set aside. Whatever views Wycombe fans had on who or what was to blame for the predicament, it was realised that nobody wanted the club to go back to the non-league so let’s all pull together and, at very worst, go down fighting. Let’s be proud of what the club stands for and what it has achieved in its 21 years as a league club.

    The sponsors dinner on the Tuesday was a slightly sombre affair. ‘How are you?’ I said to the club captain Stuart Lewis. ‘I’ve been better’ came his honest reply. Honesty was to play a part in the evening as he revealed how tough training had been over the past two days. When he asked me what I thought of the season as a whole I told him ‘we’ve underachieved, there is no two ways about that. But it’s not over yet. If you go to Torquay and leave everything on the pitch and it doesn’t quite happen for us, then so be it. Just don’t have any regrets’. We told him of Wycombe’s great final day escape from relegation in what is now league one in 1999 and spoke of how Bristol Rovers could be vulnerable as their reaction to their win suggested they felt safe. A similar fate befell Gillingham in 2010 when an unlikely series of results, including a 3-0 defeat to Wycombe, pulled down along with the already relegated Chairboys. I had long been saying that I felt someone would be sucked into the final relegation spot right at the end and maybe I would be right.

    In some respects it was good to see that the players were so down. It proved that actually they did care and to them it did matter. As Lewis pointed out, this is their livelihood and relegation could have a big impact on that. It might be supporter’s passion, but it’s a player’s life and these aren’t Premier League stars on five year contracts earning six figures a week. The evening ended with us feeling a little more hopeful. Gareth Ainsworth said as he walked out ‘if we win, somebody will slip up.’ Hopeful words, but he was optimistic. Maybe we should be too.

    Saturday arrived and, aside from my family and the two friends I travelled with, the first person I spoke to was a Manchester United fan in a High Wycombe petrol station who was en route to Old Trafford. A brief discussion on our plight ended with him grumbling that ‘we’ll probably lose to Sunderland’. I won’t pretend I was in any way sympathetic.

    Upon arrival into the ground, we were handed a free programme - a nice touch from a relegated side with no money. The defiant message on the front read ‘We’ll be back!’. I thought the programme would make a nice souvenir of our last game in the league. ‘Will we be back?’ I pondered before remembering that, in order to come back, we’d have to go there first. This was when the nerves really kicked in. The players were warming up and there seemed to be something different about them - a determination, a look in their eyes. Ainsworth had opted to play impressive loanee Aaron Pierre, a centre back by trade, at left back, which would allow Sam Wood to push up. Could this give the midfield the balance that had been so desperately been missing all season?

    The game kicked off and right from the first whistle, Wycombe looked up for it. They knew they’d need to get at the Gulls from the start. It took just four minutes to make a breakthrough as Wood converted a Matt Bloomfield cross. Joy in the away end and the nerves were settled somewhat. We also knew that this goal would filter through to the Memorial ground and Sixfields and get pulses there racing a little higher. Three minutes later and we saw the first change in the standings. Oxford had scored against Northampton, lifting the Blues out of the danger zone. ‘There’s only one Gary Waddock!’ the Wanderers fans chanted in reference to the former Wycombe boss, now in charge of the U’s. The joy was short-lived though as Oxford had a man sent off before the Cobblers scored twice. Wanderers were back in the mire. Then it changed again. Mansfield had taken the lead up the M5 in Bristol. The Wycombe fans celebrated once more. Shortly before half time, Wanderers were awarded a penalty. Steven Craig stepped up. I remembered that we hadn’t missed a penalty all season and opted not to share this fact in case I jinxed it. Craig slotted home – 2-0. It was a little worrying how well it was going. Half time came and went and Wycombe embarked on what would feel like the longest half of football in their history.

  • edited May 3

    PART 2

    Torquay were soon reduced to ten men, but a third Northampton goal effectively shut off one avenue of escape. Yet one was still wide open. When Matt McClure coolly lobbed home, Wanderers had put the game to bed and all attention shifted to Bristol.

    There was a brief moment when the Torquay fans started cheering in a possible attempt to wind us up. Phones were quickly checked – nothing had changed. I turned to my fellow fans and joked that it wouldn’t be a final day without a fake score filtering through from somewhere. All eyes were on Twitter and the Sky or BBC feeds. ‘Mansfield, Mansfield park the bus!’ we chanted. Rovers were reportedly all over the Stags. They hit the bar. They hit it again. But they couldn’t score. We calculated that they were about a minute ahead of us so we’d probably know their result by the time our game finished. Five minutes to go. Those five minutes elapsed. Five minutes injury time. Refresh your smart phone. Wait. Refresh.

    And then – all of a sudden, it was over. Bristol Rovers had lost. Wycombe were still playing but even they weren’t going to concede three goals in one minute against ten men. ‘This is actually going to happen, isn’t it?’ I said to those around me. Yes. Yes it was. The final whistle blew. Wanderers were safe. A side who had struggled to score all season stayed up virtue of scoring more than the team that would go down. Oh the irony. Oh the small margins between success and failure in sport.

    The players knew instantly. The joy was un-confounded. One or two fans tried to get onto the pitch but the stewards stopped them, as did some fellow Wycombe supporters. Bristol Rovers fans had got onto the pitch the week before and subsequently were facing action from the F.A. That was the last thing Wanderers needed and we wanted the players to come and celebrate with us. They didn’t need asking twice. Ainsworth swung on the crossbar, a unified song about following Wycombe went up, fans embraced, grown men cried. Was this something to celebrate, escaping relegation by the skin of your teeth? Maybe not but this wasn’t so much the celebration of what had been achieved, but what was so nearly lost. We’d accepted we were down but the tiny shred of belief had grown into a miraculous recovery. We were a league club and would continue to be one. We appreciated what that meant, maybe for the first time since that status was realised. Yes we had underachieved, but the inquest and the re-building can wait for now. A season that could and should have been better could easily have been oh so much worse.

    I made my way out of the ground but, seeing Stuart Lewis coming up to the crowd I went back to the terrace to grab his attention. I didn’t manage to but someone tapped me on the shoulder. I didn’t recognise him, but he asked me if I knew Robin Graham. Robin was a neighbour of my in-laws with whom I had become friendly with through our love of football and Wycombe Wanderers. In 2006, aged just eighteen, Robin died in tragic circumstances just eight days before the start of the season and two months before he was due to start a sports journalism degree. I told him I did. ‘I was his best mate’ the chap told me before breaking down in tears. I did the same as we hugged and looked out at the jubilant scenes. ‘Robin would have loved this’ we both said. I will never agree with Bill Shankley’s quote that football is more important than life and death. Yet in this moment we were able to remember a friend taken from us far too soon and keep his memory alive through a unified love for something as trivial as a football club. Footballs insignificance and its significance were summed up in one moment in a sun drenched terrace on the English coast. We hugged again and went our separate ways.

    As we made our way out of the ground, the Torquay fans congratulated us and wished us well. It can’t have been easy for them to see their side relegated, finish bottom of the table and then watch us celebrate our great escape but their staff had been welcoming and helpful and now their fans were being gracious, sporting and dignified. A far cry from the ugly scenes a few miles up the road in Bristol.

    As we made our way home I asked my friend to check who had been relegated from League One – I had been too busy studying the Conference the week before to really notice. ‘Stevenage, Shrewsbury, Tranmere and Carlisle’. ‘Not Carlisle – that’s miles away!’ I said. Yet it seemed churlish to moan about such things at this time and anyway, 21 years ago we’d travelled up there for our first ever football league encounter, so it seemed apt.

    The motorway was littered with cars of Wycombe fans heading back to South Bucks, fans beeping when they saw fellow supporters and scarves being draped out of the windows. Oddly, it felt like the non-league days of the early 90’s when such scenes became common place on the road to Wembley in 1991 and 1993, a reminder of where we’d come from but not where we were going back to. Not yet, anyway.

    It has been a tough season and the inquest and rebuilding will begin shortly. Yet the emotional journey of the last seven days show what it can be like being a football fan, the downs and the ups and a big portion of the reason we do it. As we arrived back in Wycombe, I saw signs to Adams Park. I’ll be going there again in August to watch a game. It will be in the football league. It’s a great feeling. It’s a beautiful game.

  • Wonderful scenes, thanks for sharing.

  • my goodness, that got me right, as they say, in the feels

    Football is amazing

  • edited May 3

    I often get called out for seeing the world differently but for ten years I’ve always assumed that the ‘Believe’ character wasn’t Jesus but his Dad - white long beard, floaty white robe. After all isn’t it he in whom we are encouraged to ‘believe’ and surely it can only have been the intervention of some higher entity that saved us that wonderful sun lite afternoon?


  • 10 years ago at The Miracle of Torquay, Matt B. got an assist in the 6th minute.

    10 years later he wins Manager of The Month for League 1 in his first full season, starting the campaign with a huge cut in budget.

    At home for the first home game against the Mighty Grecians, delirious with excitement over Tim Breckin.

    Exeter fans singing, We are Going Up after 9 minutes of Kamikaze football, arguably not the start we wanted, or Blooms.

    Gets up at 04.40 when he's not sleeping on the couch at the training ground.

    Nobody cares more, works harder than Matty B, we are privileged to have him.

  • Torquay will start next season at the same level as Chesham. How different it all could have been.

  • Visceral and primal emotion. EVERYTHING would’ve changed had we gone down and it’s not even worth thinking about now. Just the most incredible day. ‘The best’? Certainly the most emotional I’ve felt watching WWFC, trumping even the successes.

  • So many memories watching Wycombe since Torquay. Had we been relegated they certainly would be different - and maybe there would be none at all.

  • edited May 3

    Someone termed the phrase "gutterall roar" to describe the noise that went up when the Rovers game was confirmed over.


    As was watching Bloomfield punching the air jumping around with the game still on.

  • edited May 3

    We don’t have a moto under our badge, like Villa have ‘prepared’, perhaps we could add ‘believe’?

  • I seem to remember you were against going to the game the week leading up because we were doomed?

    I retained a small smidgen of hope but the fact a point would have been enough for Rovers & Northampton had me pretty resigned. Oxford never likely to do us a favour and Mansfield likely to be on the beach.

    Still my personal favourite Wycombe game. OK perhaps not the feeling of pride in subsequent promotions etc, but the sheer joy and outpouring of relief when the Rovers match ended was just indescribable.

  • You're probably right, but it had to be done. I certainly had no expectations of survival as we made our way down there.

  • edited May 4

    We as a family went down there with absolutely no hope of survival but wanted to attend our last ever FL game before the club went bust. It was like driving a long way for a funeral. Got there super early for a full English, went to the beach and then spent the next couple of hours staring at a stone wall in the car park as my eight year old son decided he wasn't feeling very well and fell asleep with his head on my lap on the back seat of my car. At one o'clock we decided to go to the match, wife and daughter went off shopping and my son and I drove the rest of the way to the ground. Went into the clubhouse with the locals whom I must say were very welcoming & friendly despite the fact they were already relegated. After a beer we went behind the goal with our fellow supporters. The match got underway, but my son was still feeling very unwell. I asked a steward if he wouldn't mind looking after my son whilst I popped to the loo. This steward could see both our distress levels and amazingly offered to take us through the gate to take us to the seated part of the ground whereupon my son dozed through the rest of the match with him "laying down with his head on my lap". I spent the majority of the second half staring at my phone watching for the Bristol game and kept refreshing the screen waiting for the inevitable, which as we all know didn't happen thankfully. Very difficult to capture my personal emotion as whilst wanting to celebrate, I had at the time an ill son to deal with. I was so happy that we went back to the beach side and celebrated with an expensive fish & chip tea before setting off home.

    Even though we drove down the A303 past Stonehenge, we resolved to return to High Wycombe via the M5 & M4 just so we could sing "let's all wave at Bristol" on the way past. What a day that was and is definitely up there among my top 5 games alongside Wimbledon away, Lincoln away, Tottenham away and Villa away. A recurring theme there, all being away!

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