WITH Wycombe Wanderers poised to play their first ever match in the Championship tomorrow, John D Taylor the Vice-Chairman of the club’s ex-players Association remembers one of the legends from the 1950s, Jim Truett, who passed away on August 31 aged 87. John writes:

“Ask current Wycombe Wanderers’ fans for their greatest moment and most are sure to plump for July’s amazing Division 1 Play-Off victory over Oxford which propelled the club to the dizzy heights of the Championship. One step from the Premier League and – suggested the super optimists – only two seasons away from European football!!!

The lockdown meant no supporters could watch at Wembley. But the live television coverage and constant replays means Bayo, Bloomers, JJ and the rest will be forever etched into the club’s Roll of Honour. And deservedly so.

But there are many other heroes too that have earned their places in the 133-year golden memory book that stretches back from Frank Adams and Reggie Boreham a century ago to slightly more modern headliners like Tony Horsman, John Maskell, Mark West, Dave Carroll, Keith Ryan, Paul Birdseye and Steve Brown.

But the sad death last week of Jim Truett has reminded Wycombe supporters of an older generation of some other heroes from even a bit further back in time. Any football fan like me, growing up in the town in the 1950s, would have been drawn to Loakes Park to watch a set of players who would become very special in their minds – and mine.

Two Isthmian League titles under Sid Cann established the Blues as a real force in amateur football. The 1957 FA Amateur Cup trip to Wembley, which drew 90,000 fans inside the famous old stadium, only reinforced that claim despite defeat to Cup Kings Bishop Auckland. A bumpy trip that afternoon in an old laundry van driven by my Dad’s pal only confirmed my growing allegiance to men like Bates and Trott, Lawson and Tomlin, Wicks and Westley, Syrett, Smith, Worley and – of course – the Truett brothers.

When I had the audacity – along with RGS school chums Martin Priestly and Graham Dorsett – to politely ask Mr Cann if we could train with his team, I found myself actually playing alongside the men I had idolised. Cann, a stern disciplinarian, was obviously in a good mood that day – or he needed new young blood to form a defensive wall while hot-shots like Dennis Atkins, Paul Bates or Norman West practised their cannonball free-kicks! Only a little later – and still bruised - starting out as a cub reporter on the BFP, I was actually travelling with and writing about my heroes. Even sometimes cheekily pointing out where they’d gone wrong!

So when Alan Hutchinson, the club’s former media chief, asked me nearly 50 years later to help launch Wycombe’s Ex-Players Association, my first port of call was to these same wonderful chaps. Every survivor agreed to join. Happily, we’ve been feting them ever since. They’ve turned up regularly to all our events along with other favourites from the 50s like Dennis Atkins, Ken Brown, Ray Howson, Gerry Free, Dick Tunmer, Arthur Burgess, Mike Brown and Steve Hyde. Sadly, in decreasing numbers. Jim’s death leaves only four survivors from that ’57 Wembley team – goalkeeper Dennis Syrett, centre-half Mike Wicks, Chalfont wing wonder Len Worley and the irrepressible Cliff Trott who, despite the knocks he took on the field, celebrated his 91st birthday only last week in his care home in Devon. Regretfully, because of lockdown, none will be able to say a final farewell to Truett their old teammate next week. Jim wouldn’t have minded. He was just grateful for their company in ten great years at Loakes Park when he made 237 appearances alongside them winning trophies galore. And for the friendship they kept for a further 60 years. Renowned for his tough tackling, he regarded himself as a labourer in a team of artists which included his younger brother Geoff who went on to a good professional career with Crystal Palace.

Jim also regarded himself as lucky to have made the Wembley match. Having married his beloved Sheila in August 1956, he defied dour Coach Cann by refusing to cut short his wedding day celebrations to play that afternoon. He was ostracised for several months and only moved back up from the reserve side when vice-captain Jimmy Moring – a former BFP advertising manager - broke an arm that was to keep him out of the final stages of the ’57 Wembley run.

Jim had another three seasons at Loakes Park, then turning out briefly for Chesham and Oxford City before a successful spell two-year spell as player-manager at Princes Risborough, who he led to a league title and where he is still fondly remembered. As hard working off the field as on it, Jim was a joiner and carpenter who amazingly found time virtually single-handed to build his own house at Coleshill where he and Sheila brought up son Jamie and daughter Lynne. Sheila died in 2010, and Jim was able to find slight consolation on the golf course, playing regularly at Winter Hill with his big mate and former Wanderers’ teammate Jackie Tomlin.

Along with other ’57 squad survivors, he was made an Ex-Players’ Life Member in 2017 – 60 years on from the club’s historic first ever appearance at Wembley. That night, in front of a packed Vere Suite including members of the Blues’ 2007 League Cup semi-final team and such club legends as Gareth Ainsworth, Martin O’Neill and Paul Lambert, he brought the house down with his dry sense of humour in response to probings from our chairman Alan Hutchinson.

A phone call to Jim – the last one only a few weeks ago – always meant at least an hour with lots of funny stories. But it was time well spent. I, all former teammates and WWEPA members, will miss the droll comments of a true football man. The thoughts of all are with Jamie, Lynne and the Truett family at this time.”