In 2014, Wycombe Wanderers signed a 20-year-old centre back called Alfie Mawson on the eve of their first game of that season.

Nine years later, the defender would hang up his boots with nearly 300 career appearances to his name, four Wembley outings, promotion medals, and an England call-up.

None of this would have been possible if his move to Adams Park did not go ahead.

This is how Wycombe Wanderers helped Alfie Mawson, and how Alfie Mawson helped Wycombe Wanderers.

The beginnings in 2014

A few months after the Chairboys escaped relegation to the Non League, manager Gareth Ainsworth knew that changes were needed if they wanted to avoid their difficult 2013/14 campaign.

In all, 10 faces left the club that summer on a permanent basis, whilst 11 new names came in.

This included a fresh-faced Alfie Mawson who, in reality, no-one knew.

He had made his debut as a professional the summer before for Brentford, when the Bees lost 5-0 away at Derby County in the League Cup, before playing one game for Luton Town in December 2013, when the Hatters were playing in the National League.

A brief loan spell Maidenhead Town followed before he moved to Welling.

He played nine games and scored one goal at the back end of that season.

So when Wanderers were looking for a centre back, one day before the 2014/15 campaign began away at Newport County, a call was made about landing him on loan and in a matter of moments, Mawson was a Chairboy.

Given the number 26 shirt, he immediately came into the squad and started in the 2-0 victory for Gareth Ainsworth’s men over the Welsh club.

And this would just be the start of things to come.

So close yet so far

As the season went on, it was clear to see that Wycombe had a real talent on their books.

Regularly impressing the Wanderers coaching staff, Mawson played in all but one of the club’s league games that season, keeping 15 clean sheets.

His positional play, reading of the game, challenges and amazingly, his goals, kept Wycombe in the top seven throughout that year.

His contributions saw him bag an incredible six goals in the final 15 matches of the season for a centre back, which included four in three and two in four.

However, despite the run, it would not be Wycombe’s year as they narrowly lost the League Two play-off in heartbreaking fashion.

Bucks Free Press: Mawson after the 2015 play-off final loss against Southend Mawson after the 2015 play-off final loss against Southend (Image: Anita Ross Marshall)

The Chairboys fell to a 7-6 penalty shootout defeat versus Southend United, with Mawson playing the entire 120 minutes.

Getting noticed

Prior to the 2015/16 campaign starting, rumours began to circulate that Mawson was due to return to Adams Park on a permanent basis following his brilliant year in Buckinghamshire, where he was named the club’s Player of the Season.

A fee had been agreed for the defender with Brentford, but after clubs in League One and the Championship began to take notice of his performances, it was clear that a move back to Wanderers was in doubt.

In the end, Barnsley offered the Bees a figure they couldn’t refuse and Mawson was officially unveiled as a Tyke in the summer of 2015 for an undisclosed fee.

Wycombe's loss was Barnsley's gain, as his time at Oakwell was a tremendous success.

He played 58 games (the most one player made that year for the club), scored seven goals and won the Football League Trophy and the League One play-off final – both at Wembley Stadium.

It was, on paper, the best season of his career and after scoring two more goals in five matches at the start of the 2016/17 season, teams from the top flight began calling.

A Premier League starter

In two years, Mawson went from playing in the National League as an unknown central defender to being signed by an established Premier League side for £5,000,000,

He once again impressed as he featured in 27 PL matches in the 2016/17 season and scored four goals.

One of those strikes included a brilliant volley versus then reigning champions, Leicester City in February of that year, which turned out to be Claudio Ranieri’s last PL game in charge of the Foxes.

The following season was bittersweet for Mawson as he played in every single one of Swansea’s league games, and earned a call-up to the England squad for two friendly matches against the Netherlands and Italy respectively. 

However, he never featured in those fixtures for the Three Lions, whilst the Swans were relegated at the end of the season.

Injury issues begin

Following Swansea’s demotion to the Championship, newly-promoted Fulham secured Mawson’s services for £20,000,000 in the summer of 2018 and he was back in the top division.

But his first year in West London proved to be difficult as he featured in just 16 matches, whilst missing four months of the season due to a knee injury.

The Cottages were relegated at the end of the year.

A season later in the 2019/20 campaign, Mawson played 28 times and featured heavily for Fulham before he suffered another serious knee injury in January 2020.

The pandemic hit, no football was played for three months, and Mawson would watch from the sidelines as Fulham won the Championship play-off final, defeating his old side, Brentford, 2-1 at an empty Wembley Stadium.

He still received a medal for his contributions that season.

A rebuild that didn’t work

However, he would have to wait until September to play competitive football once more, as he was signed by Bristol City on loan.

He started all 14 games he played in, but struggled to find any real form.

His time at Ashton Gate ended when he was sent off in his last game for the club in February 2021 against Sheffield United.

A forgotten man in West London

More injury issues hit Mawson as he didn’t feature in a competitive game until August 2021 when he return to Fulham, who had once again been relegated back down to the Championship.

He played in three consecutive games that month, three more games in September, one in October and one in November before he disappeared from the scene as the club were promoted back to the Premier League.

Vindication – a poetic end for the fan favourite

His release from Fulham in the summer of 2022 immediately linked him back to Wycombe, a rumour that was positively met by the supporters.

This was eventually confirmed on August 11 that year when the then 28-year-old penned a one-year deal and took the number 20 shirt, previously worn by Adebayo Akinfenwa.

His return to Adams Park was greatly appreciated by fans far and wide, and after achieving eight clean sheets in 21 games, along with a handful of assists, and several shirt sales, it’s fair to say that Mawson rightly ended his brilliant playing career at the club that put him on the map, and most importantly, made him fall in love with football once more.

Good luck with your next chapter, Alf.