Wanderers in Exile: Mark Evans

Entry number two in the Wanderers in Exile series comes from Mark Evans, who explains how he’s come to support the Chairboys in isolation from 500 miles away.

Wanderers vs Exeter City on Boxing Day 2011 was supposed to be my last Wycombe match as a UK resident – and it all went so well. Nineteen-year-old Marcello ‘Rodney’ Trotta scored a hat-trick in front of his family who’d flown in from Italy for the occasion. Wycombe may have been in the relegation zone, but in that heart-warming 90 minutes, all troubles were forgotten.

Not a bad match to end with, I thought. Only the club had done a special offer: free tickets for the home game on New Year’s Eve against Stevenage if Trotta scores against Exeter. With not just one but three goals to his name ,that free ticket was well and truly in the bag and my attendance was confirmed. The Blues went down 1-0 in a game that I can scarcely remember but I suspect was as miserable as the result suggests.

Two days later, I relocated to Switzerland to begin a new job in Geneva (a city which really should be French; when you look at a map it’s as if Switzerland has extended its border into France specifically to include Geneva into its neutral lands). These were the days long before the joys of iFollow, so I knew my chances to watch the Blues were going to be limited. Fortunately, just four days after I arrived, Wycombe were hosting Huddersfield Town in a game live on Sky Sports. Fantastic – I thought – I’ll head to a British pub, meet some like-minded fans of the English lower leagues and watch us romp to victory. A few hours later, I left the pub having sat alone, talked to no one and watched Wycombe get taken apart in an utterly miserable 6-0 home defeat.

For a long time I was convinced that there must be other Wanderers fans in Geneva. After all, it’s a cosmopolitan city – surely there must be a fellow Chairboy/girl or two? I was excited about starting the Swiss branch of the Wycombe Wanderers supporters club. I posted on the expat forums: “Wycombe fan seeks fellow Wycombe fans”. Eight years later, I believe those posts are still waiting for a response.

I would try to get to games whenever I was back in England, but I also had to travel frequently for work which was not always compatible with the fixture schedule. In May 2015, I had to work in Madrid for a few days, including the Saturday when Wycombe were playing Southend in the League Two play-off final. Having decided this match was definitely more important than my career, and with what I took as some kind of approval from my bemused manager, I found myself leaving Madrid at 5am and was at Wembley Stadium nine hours later. Through tired eyes, I watched on as Southend equalised in the last minute of extra time and won the inevitable penalty shootout that followed.

My job at the time was involved with the FIFA video game franchise and meant working with some fairly high profile footballers. Flouting FA rules on ‘tapping up’, I would always make a point of planting seeds for a possible link-up with the Chairboys. Anyone reading this who is concerned about our future transfer activity, rest assured that Messrs Messi, Hazard, Bale, Lewandowski and others have all been told that there’s a very special club by the name of Wycombe Wanderers that would be a great fit if they’re looking to wind down their careers in slightly lower profile surroundings.

Supporting a lower league club in a foreign country is interesting. I always feel that the famous cup runs of the 2000-01 and 2006-07 seasons should have engraved the name of Wycombe Wanderers into the mind of anyone even mildly interested in English football. Unfortunately, a conversation with a Swiss person about English football invariably goes: “Do you support a team?” “Yeah, but you won’t know them.” “I think I will. Who is it?” “Wycombe Wanderers”. “Wi…cum Won…ders. Funny name. Who is your proper team, though?”. Maybe, with the Couhigs in charge, the promised land of the Championship in sight and the spread of the “Worldwide Wanderers phenomenon”, this might all be about to change.

The launch of iFollow has been a game-changer for exiled Chairboys living abroad. I can now watch any Wycombe game for just £5. In Switzerland, that barely gets you cup of tea, so it is without doubt the best value entertainment on offer on a Saturday afternoon – although it must be said that my fiancée and young daughter still need some convincing.

I can’t sign off without using this opportunity to put a call out to any Chairboys fans who live out here to get in touch. I now live in Zürich, and the Swiss branch of the Wycombe Wanderers supporters club has been stuck at one member for far too long…

Hills, a river… It’s not so different to Wycombe…

Zürich photo: Thomas Wolf via Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.
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