Wanderers in Exile: Dan Clark

After venturing to Switzerland and Iceland, our series returns to native shores. Dan Clark (designer of the Chairboys Central logo, no less!) has never seen his team promoted in person, and he might have a while to wait yet, but he’s with us every step of the way up in Lincolnshire – and it turns out he’s also had to follow from much further afield than that…

At 4:31pm on an April afternoon just two years ago, Dom Gape smashed the ball home to the joy of more than 1,100 jubilant travelling supporters in the deepest depths of Derbyshire. At the same time, just 70 miles away, a 28-year-old man is explaining to his partner and two young children why he has just screamed the house down with tears of pride in his eyes after seeing the very same goal through an iFollow stream on a VPN in the Wycombe fans Facebook group. This is the life of a Wanderer in exile.

That moment meant a significant amount to me. League One, whether we were to survive it or not, meant we were playing a lot more northern clubs – a lot more away games for me to attend! Raising a young family makes it a bit harder to justify ticket money and travellling hundreds of miles when you have other priorities, and sometimes football has had to take a back seat. My kids were getting to the age where they might start to show an interest, so it was as good an excuse as any if the games were closer and an even better excuse to get them into Wycombe, rather than Hull (the less said about them the better).

I’ve been away from Buckinghamshire now for more of my life than I’ve been in it due to moving around, but my love for this club has grown a hell of a lot stronger. Growing up as a kid in an era when you had to explain who Wycombe were and why you supported them when you could just support Man United builds quite a bit of mettle when it comes to talking about football, and my defiance and love for the club grew. Thankfully, for my son at least, there are a lot more kids now who support lower league clubs and are proud to do so. In that respect, as an exile, you take notice more when you see Wycombe fans around the country while working or travelling about – there are a lot more of us than you think.

Spreading the word

When Rob and Pete talk about the Worldwide Wycombe Phenomenon, it is true. It exists and it is growing; it has been for years, just not as quickly. I work in an office full of Hull and Leeds fans and they’ll always look out for our results on the weekend (this season has been especially delightful). When I tell people who I support, they’ll always seem to know a Wycombe fan from somewhere and they’ll remember you for that too – it’s a cracking conversation starter and I’d be happy to talk about us for hours. I think that when you’re inside the Wycombe bubble in Bucks, you don’t see as much of the influence that Akinfenwa or Gareth and Dobbo’s work in bringing us up to challenge for promotion this season has on drawing in support and raising awareness. For many people, we’ve become a team to look out for now – and that can only be positive. 

The growth in people looking at us is also down to our fans. I speak a lot with different Wanderers supporters on Twitter and you can see the impact there (take Jeremy Lance, for example, who follows us from Cincinnati – he put out a plea to ask English fans why he should support their club) purely down to the fact that our fan base will embrace others to join them. I love the community we have, even though I’m hundreds of miles away. I took my son to his first ever Wycombe game against Rochdale in September and that familiar High Wycombe accent (yes, there is a specific accent) and the fact the people are generally good people reminds me of home. I see the same faces that I saw when I went as a seven-year-old more than 23 years ago. My seven-year-old son is now hooked and we’ve been to more games since. He’s now asking me to make his room into a Wycombe room – can’t complain with that!

I think we tend to do well in garnering support because we’ve always maintained the ‘little old Wycombe’ tag. We’re a team that, although small, battle against the odds and quite often succeed; people like the underdog story. The awareness about our club is growing – I hear of more and more people supporting us (even if they aren’t attending the games all the time) – it just needs to translate into attendance growth. In the meantime, I’d like to think of us exiles as missionaries spreading the good word about a phenomenal little club.

Make the most of getting down to Adams Park

The coronavirus outbreak, in some respects, has probably given you a glimpse into what it is like to be a Wycombe exile, although watching games from afar where possible is better than absolutely nothing at all. 

Hopefully soon we can all get back to normal as much as we can – and I hope it brings more people to Adams Park. At the moment, attendance figures can only go one way. If you look at the difference in atmosphere compared to a year ago, it’s very infectious and I’m sure our crowds will grow. That atmosphere and good feeling around the place can be seen from hundreds of miles away. I’ve never known a club to have such a feeling of community and sense of togetherness no matter how far away you are from it, something which can be seen through the fantastic Chairboys Live shows Matt Cecil has hosted in the last few weeks. It’s so clear how tight-knit yet welcoming this community is, from the fans through to the players. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been proud to support this club for nearly 24 years.

Looking Forward

This season has certainly been a strange one. Considering we topped the league for a lot of the season, to have that null and void and count for nothing would be a shame. I hope we get to play out the rest of the campaign and fight in an exciting promotion race.

I’ve made a commitment to attend as many of those games as I can, if I can (corona-depending and if we aren’t playing behind closed doors). I’ve actually never seen Wycombe get promoted live. I’ve either been elsewhere in the world (I lived in Spain and Australia for some time ans woke up at 4am to watch from Sydney as Jermaine Easter slipped the ball past Hilário in our 2006 League Cup semi) or circumstances have meant I’ve been unable to attend. I did make an attempt to see us go up in 2015 when we went to Wembley, but we know how that turned out…

Since my first game on 25th January 1997 (we beat York 3-1 at home with Paul Read scoring two) through to the hundreds of games I’ve attended since (including that 2-1 at Filbert Street and many more), none of those have been promotion games. I don’t want this to be another year where I have to settle for a stream.

Hopefully, this year will be the year.

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