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Wanderers' first European cup game
Wednesday 24th September 1975
A.C. Monza 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0
Anglo-Italian Trophy - 1st Leg
(First published by chairboys.co.uk on 24th September 2015)
An historic day in the history of Wycombe Wanderers Football Club took place on the evening of Wednesday 24th September 1975 when the Club played their first ever competitive match in Europe - travelling to the north of Italy to take on A.C. Monza in the 1st Leg of an Anglo-Italian Trophy tie.
Wanderers had been invited for this one-off trophy as Champions of the Isthmian League by Gigi' Peronace, the famous Italian football agent resposible for bringing the likes of John Charles, Jimmy Greaves, Dennis Law and Liam Brady to play their trade in Italy. Peronance had first instigated the Anglo-Italian tournaments in the early 1970's, with invitations made to English Football League Clubs but this was the first occasion the invite had been made to non-League clubs.
Despite regularly travelling into Europe for end of season tours, Wanderers were first of all concerned with the costs of taking part in what some described at the time as a 'glorified friendly'. However, the Wanderers Committee passed the decision to travel in August 1975, with Club Secretary Tony Mahoney saying: “We are going ahead with our plans because we feel this a unique honour for the Club to be represented in football in Europe." Meanwhile Wycombe Treasurer estimated that the Club would need a gate of between 3,000 and 4,000 in the return leg at Loakes Park in order to break even. Manager Brian Lee went on to add: "We normally average about 2000 - so if we do well tonight, we should get possibly twice our usual crowd at Wycombe. But if we lose heavily, much of the interest will go out of the second game. I’m pleased we accepted the invitation because it is a great honour and I’m optimistic enough to think we might not be hit too hard financially."
To cut down costs Wanderers travelled out from Heathrow Airport on the Tuesday before the tie with a squad of 15 players and just four officials (Manager Brian Lee, Assistant John Reardon, Secretary Tony Mahoney and Treasurer Roger Lee). The team would take on a semi-professional Monza side that competed in the third tier of Italian football and had finished as runners-up in the division the previous season. The two sides would be competiting for a trophy valued at the time at close to £3,000, with medals also being provided by the genorosity of organisers.
A report provided by the Club to the Bucks Free Press said: Wycombe Wanderers have every reason to feel pleased about their first venture into European football. Although they went down 1-0 to A.C. Monza in the first leg of the Anglo-Italian Trophy on Wednesday, they gave an excellent performance and thoroughly enjoyed their three-day visit.
The Italians certainly gave the players and officials a royal welcome. Met at Milan Airport on Tuesday evening, they stayed at a first-class hotel and received various gifts from both the club and the town of Monza. The Mayor presented Wanderers treasurer Roger Lee with an emblem of the town on a marble stand while the officials received a silver tray from the Monza club with smaller trays for themselves. All the players received small mementos while the Monza supporters presented skipper John Delaney with a silver plaque. Wanderers will reciprocate in the return match at Loakes Park on October 8.
The match itself was of the highest standard. Monza were the equivalent to one of our Division 2 or 3 clubs and an excited 4,000 fans gathered for the game. There was quite a surprise for the Blues when they walked out to a tremendous reception at 8.30 in the evening. Several rockets were fired into the air and hundreds of horns — the trademark of European spectators — sounded off.
The Italian fans soon had a glimpse of Wycombe’s power in the first 30 seconds. Geoff Anthony rounded the full-back almost straight from the kick-off and crossed to Dylan Evans. He controlled well and sent in a shot on the turn which whistled past the post with the home defence caught cold. Monza were quick to retaliate, the essence of their game was support and teamwork. They attacked at speed with short, accurate passing and both full backs overlapping regularly. Wycombe’s defence managed to hold them until the 26th minute when Monza forced a corner. The ball was cleared but from the resulting cross [Peressin *] headed powerfully past John Maskell.
A goal up and with their fans in full voice, Monza piled on further pressure but Wycombe defended bravely. Maskell saved well on a number of occasions while Terry Reardon, Wycombe’s man of the match, did his best to set up more Wanderers’ attacks. Too often, however, the forwards were unable to penetrate inside the box. The Blues had several problems with their offside trap. Both linesmen were slow to spot Milan’s forwards when they were in an offside position and this meant the defence was not able to mark as tightly as usual. The Italians made the most of this with lightning quick attacks which often troubled the visitors.
If the first half had belonged to the Italians, the second was Wycombe’s. They attacked regularly and Howard Kennedy crashed in one drive which the ‘keeper did well to save. Mick Holifield also went close and Tony Horseman just failed to reach one cross from Paul Birdseye, who with Ray Eaton, often joined in the attacks. In the last quarter Monza hit back strongly in search of more goals to bring to Loakes Park. Once again, however, the Blues defence resisted all their attempts to keep the score down to 1-0.
Considering the alien conditions, with temperatures up in the 70s, Wycombe were well satisfied with their performance and feel they have a good chance to lift the £3,000 trophy when the return is staged next week.
Wycombe Wanderers line-up before game in Monza - 24th September 1975
Back row: Keith Mead, Terry Reardon, Dave Bullock, John Delaney, Derek Cotterill, Howard Kennedy, John Maskell, Dave Alexander, Tommy James
Front row: Paul Birdseye, Geoff Anthony, Tony Horseman, Ray Eaton, Dylan Evans, Mickey Holifield
2nd Leg - Wycombe v Monza - Wednesday 8th October 1975 - 2nd leg report
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