This time, we head 1,000 miles north-west to the homeland of Björk, Eidur Gudjohnsen…and our latest Wanderer in Exile. Kristján Sturluson tells his story of falling in love with the mighty Blues.
English football is extremely popular in Iceland. Some have even joked that the national sport of Iceland should be English football. During the late 60s, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service started showing games on television and that got the ball rolling over here. One of my first memories of TV as a child in the early 80s is hearing the theme from Match of the Day followed by a football match. This season there was even a Liverpool-themed service at a church in Reykjavík – could that be a factor in their dominance this season?
But how did I become a Wycombe Wanderers supporter?
Well, while looking at the standings for all the leagues in England, the name caught my eye; it stood out as a bit unusual or special. The rise from non-League to the Third Division, straight to the Second Division and just missing out on a play-off spot also helped – this club was something special! The club colours I saw in a football magazine and I got to know the players’ names through Championship Manager on the PC. There was no turning back. I became a Wycombe supporter and, to use Rob Couhig’s favourite phrase: Yeah, I’m a Wanderer!
During the late 90s, I remember signing up for some mailing list and receiving short emails about Wycombe´s matches and results. The club website, along with the amazing Chairboys on the Net, also helped in this regard. Around that time, I wrote to the club and they sent me a matchday programme. Back then, internet access was mostly at school or your place of work. I remember leaving school on a Friday where I had read news about a large number of coaches taking supporters to the important match at Lincoln. It wasn´t until Monday when I went back to school that I got the news regarding the Great Escape. Patience is a virtue and what a relief!
The next season, an Icelandic consortium purchased a majority stake in Stoke City and appointed former Icelandic national team manager Gudjón Thórdarson as boss. His first game in charge was against Wycombe at Adams Park in November 1999. The visitors won 4-0 and clips from the match were shown over and over here in Iceland. Although painful, that was the first time I saw Adams Park and glimpses of Wycombe players wearing the quarters in action. A few months later. my parents visited London and asked if they could get me anything. I asked for a Wycombe shirt, having loved the Avec one I had recently seen. To my surprise, my parents came home empty handed from London! There were no Wycombe shirts in the shops…
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The 2001 FA cup semi-final was shown live in Iceland. It was the first full Wycombe match I saw and it was amazing to finally catch the likes of Taylor, Cousins, Ryan and Brown in action, the players I had read so much about. And for it to be against Liverpool in the FA Cup – the cup of cups – was unreal. That run was so special, from the replay against Wimbledon to the fairy-tale story of Roy Essandoh. I followed the Wimbledon match through a very basic live text feed on TEAMtalk which gave limited information. I remember feeling so optimistic when Taylor saved a penalty in stoppage time to take us to extra time, feeling gutted when they scored straight away, screaming when McCarthy equalised, then jumping for joy after the shoot-out.
About a year after the cup run, I got my first Wycombe shirt. Prostar, the supplier back then, had started to supply kits for some teams in Iceland. I contacted their Iceland retailer and asked if they could help me get hold of a Wycombe shirt. It turned out that they had been given one while visiting Prostar’s UK office. Long story short: I got it.
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January 3rd, 2004: a dream came true. I visited Adams Park and saw my beloved Wanderers play. While waiting for the bus to the ground, I started chatting with an older man who was amazed that there was someone coming over from Iceland for a game. He pointed out to me where Loakes Park used to stand and said he had been watching since he was a boy. I wish I had taken a photo of us together actually. I remember the game vividly: it was Nathan Tyson’s debut, Jermaine McSporran scored an amazing goal and loanee Luke Moore grabbed a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Grimsby.
In about 2004 or 2005, I saw online a post from the Supporters Trust looking for offers for a Steve Williams shirt. I enquired about it and got talking to the Trust chairman at the time, Francis Glenister. We became friends, I signed up for the Trust, and we’ve been online pen pals for years now – in fact, in 2008 he visited Iceland with his family and we met up.
In 2010, my friends and I wanted to do something special to celebrate our 30th birthdays. There was a difference in opinion of whether to visit Old Trafford or Anfield. I settled the debate by throwing in Adams Park as an option. Francis kindly hosted us for the match and beforehand we met up with Harold Lunnon, a volunteer at the club, who took us on a tour of the ground. Harold told me that he and his wife Marion were keen travellers but only during the summertime when there was no football. I told him that if he ever visited Iceland to be in touch, and a few months later we met up. In recent years, I have returned to Adams Park on a few occasions and have seen Francis and Harold and Marion and their daughter Claire. I have been fortunate to come over with my friends, wife and two boys.
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The iFollow service has been like winning the lottery for an overseas fan. For the last three seasons, I have been a subscriber and been able to watch us play every weekend, something I never dreamed of. And yes, I was watching on iFollow when Beany scored.
During the first season, there was no commentary, last season gave us that, and this season has given us replays. I wonder what the next one will bring! Phil Catchpole’s commentary adds something special and I always look forward to it.
My last trip to Adams Park was this February, ten years after my friends and I first visited. One friend from that trip came along and we enjoyed the 3-1 win over Bristol Rovers. Being superstitious, I wore my lucky first Wycombe shirt, which I wore for my first match in 2004. I know what I’ll wear next time!
Kristjan appeared on the Ringing The Blues podcast with Phil Catchpole in Feburary: