Over the years, Wycombe Wanderers have produced a list of Golden Greats – stars who are remembered long after their playing days are over. In 1975, Alan Hutchinson wrote a series for the club’s programme entitled Star Gallery, interviewing many of those Blues’ true greats.

In Nostalgia over the coming weeks we will be reproducing some of those articles written by Hutch, with additional material provided by his Wycombe Ex-Players Association colleague John D Taylor. As many readers will know, Hutch has links with the Wanderers which go back over 70 years – he was a former club secretary and ex-media chief at Loakes Park and Adams Park.

Paul Bates – a natural goalscorer
Once in a while a player comes on the scene with a natural talent for scoring goals. Paul Bates possessed this exciting brand of football. 

He is the Wanderers’ second highest scorer of all time behind Tony Horseman, collecting 314 goals in 431 appearances for the Blues during his two spells at Loakes Park between 1953 and 1962 and from 1964 to 1968.

Born in High Wycombe on 10th March 1935, the son of a former Wycombe player and committeeman, Harry Bates, he was a pupil at Green Street School and then Mill End. His first appearance at Loakes Park was for Mill End Road School in the 1949-50 Thurlow Cup Final. By 1952 when he was 17 he had already won youth international honours while with Castlefield Minors.

At the age of 18, while doing his National Service at RAF Halton, he was spotted by a committee member and in 1953 signed for the Wanderers.

His first game in a Blues’ shirt was for the reserves against Leytonstone, a match they won 4-1 with Paul netting twice. Shortly after joining the club he was selected to play for an FA Youth XI against the Public Schools at the Oval. 

In front of Tommy Lawton and many other top managers of the day, Paul scored five goals in a 10-0 win. Lawton, an England international and a Chelsea great, commented after the game: “Bates has a great future. With his shooting power and hunger for goals he is one of the best prospects I have seen for a long time.”

But this was only the beginning. An England Youth cap followed against Wales at Swansea, where the local paper described his performance as ‘dangerous, exciting, a real handful.’ With his constant goal scoring for the reserves, 45 in his first season, it was only a matter of time before a regular first team place was made for him. 

For a while he played on the left wing, inter-changing with Malcolm Hunt at centre forward, a position he loved to play. His big break came when Malcolm Hunt was forced to retire from football after a bad injury and Paul became the automatic choice for the leader’s spot.

Under Sid Cann he developed into one of the best strikers in the country. Paul said: “Sid was a great bloke and a lot of my early success was due to his guidance.”

He never looked back, finishing leading scorer for the next six seasons - winning two Isthmian League medals and two Berks and Bucks Senior Cups.

It was in 1955 Paul first tasted the atmosphere of big cup-tie football. He was a member of the Wanderers’ team that played at Doncaster in the Amateur Cup semi-final against Bishop Auckland.

Although the Blues went down 1-0, a hint of greater success was just round the corner. Two years later he played a vital part in taking Wycombe to Wembley with a blistering performance in the semi-final at Highbury against Corinthian Casuals, scoring twice in the epic 4-2 victory.

Of the Wembley final, again against their bogey side the Bishops, Paul said: “Although we lost 3-1, this was the greatest moment of my playing career. Although I played there again for Sutton later there is nothing like the first time, and the reception the lads got when we arrived back in Wycombe is something I shall remember for the rest of my life.” 

He did have a great deal to celebrate in the year 1957 however, when a few months after the Wembley final he married June Standage.

The couple went on to have two daughters, Julie and Kim. They remember being taken by their Mum to watch Paul play both football and cricket around Wycombe and district.

Bates was Amateur Cup runner-up again in 1963 when he moved to briefly rejoin legendary ex-Wycombe boss Sid Cann at Sutton Utd.

But he won virtually every other honour in the amateur game, touring with the British Olympic party and gaining two full amateur international caps for England. 

Although he grabbed a record 45 goals in the 1965-66 season, he then wound down his football career by becoming manager of the Wanderer’s reserves, before short stints with Chesham Utd and Aylesbury.

However he carried on for many more years with his other great sporting love of cricket, starring for Ernest Turners, where he worked for many years, and Bledlow Ridge.

The only football he watched was on the television, watching his beloved Aston Villa, a passion he passed on to his grandsons – Daniel 18, Connor 17 and Dominic 13 and even granddaughter Rachel 16.

All are sports people in their own right with Connor, who plays at Wycombe Cricket Club with his brother and cousin, having just signed a semi-professional contract with Northants. Mum Julie says her Dad Paul would have been so proud of him and all the grandchildren.

Paul and his wife June lived in Totteridge Avenue. June was also extremely active behind the scenes at Loakes Park for many years. She died in June 2015, seven years after Paul passed away.

Jackie Tomlin, who played alongside Bates in that memorable 1957 Cup Final, was amongst those to pay tribute to his former team-mate when he died aged 73 on March 19, 2008.

Jack said then: “We had a lot of exceptional players at Loakes Park in the 1950s including Len Worley, Cliff Trott, Frank Smith, Mike Wicks and the Truett brothers. Sid Cann made us all play to a plan.

“Paul Bates was the exception. He was a maverick who was allowed to do his own thing up front. Our success and his scoring feats prove that as usual Sid was correct.”

If you have any other memories of Paul, or other Wycombe greats who we will be featuring later, then please pass them on to Alan Hutchinson or John D Taylor (john@calcioitalia.co.uk / 02494-562413).

WWEPA will be delighted to hear from anyone with old Wanderers’ photos or memorabilia.