Not only does the subject of our next article have a stand named after him, but the whole ground is too, as NICK WELLS explains.
Twenty-years ago, Wycombe Wanderers unveiled a commemoration to the man who helped save their club.
The Frank Adams stand, in Adams Park, was unveiled on the stadium’s Woodlands side in 1996 as a two tier stand.
Outside of Wycombe, the story of Adams and his contributions to the team are not as well known.
“Without him, we wouldn’t be in existence,” said Trevor Stroud, the chairman of the Wycombe Wanderers Trust.
In the club itself, it’s hard to miss his name.
“Over time, there’s a pride to being part of [Wycombe’s] long history. Frank Adams is a big part of that history,” said Mark Rogers, the first international player to play for the club and a centre back who racked up more than 130 games for the club. “You can’t go around the club without seeing his name.”
Frank Adams was born in a village a stone’s throw from Wycombe itself in 1891. After leaving school at the age of 12 and helping provide for his family, Adams signed with Wycombe at 19.
It would be the start of a roughly seven-decade affair with the team, briefly interrupted when Adams joined Isthmian league club Shepherds Bush for a year in 1913-1914.
But his love for his hometown club remained, and in 1914 he rejoined Wycombe and was chosen as the team’s captain.
In all, he would make 331 appearances netting 104 goals across a 13-year spread that was interrupted by the First World War.
After an initial start as a right half, he would go on to playing primarily as a centre-half – the rough forebear to the relatively modern centre back position – lifting the Spartan League Championship twice and helping the club gain acceptance into the Isthmian League.
He would go on to become a club patron and continue his involvement with the club.
Despite his successful playing career with his hometown club, arguably Adams’ greatest contribution would come two decades after retirement.
In 1895, eight years after the club’s formation, the team moved to Loakes Park in the centre of the city.
The move came with a downside. The ground was located on land leased from Lord Carrington, leaving the club with a degree of financial insecurity.
With the end of the Second World War, Adams opened negotiations with Carrington to acquire the leasehold and give Wycombe the ability to own their ground and therefore ensure their future.
On April 19, 1947 in an Isthmian League game against Corinthians Casuals, Adams formally presented the club with the deed to Loakes Park.
“If future generations obtain the same enjoyment out of Loakes Park as it has given me in the past, then this gift will have been worthwhile,” he said in a speech to the crowd.
Although the match finished 1-1, the board was optimistic about the future.
“But although this gift has been made to the club, it can be looked upon indirectly as a gift to the whole town,” CP Vine, president of the club said in a commemorative dinner two days later. “Week after week thousands of the people of the town find their chief relaxation at Loakes Park.”
Adams died in 1981 at the age of 90, with luminaries such as Sir Stanley Rous having paid tribute to him on his recent birthday.
“His contributions to the Wycombe Wanderers Football Club are legendary,” Rous said shortly after Adams 90th birthday.
Nine years after Adams’ death, Wycombe’s fortunes were on the up.
Under the guidance of Brian Clough-disciple Martin O’Neill, the club was in the Conference and looking to grow.
The ground ownership would come to be important as well. The local hospital had been looking to expand since the late 1960s and the ground located near the centre of the city made perfect sense for the hospital.
Adams, according to his son Jack, was initially opposed to moving away from Loakes Park but by the end of his life, had come to terms with the concept and understood what the Wanderers had to gain from selling the land.
The club took the plunge and sold the ground, using the money to pay for a new stadium on the outskirts of Wycombe.
Adams Park was opened in August 1990, named in tribute to Frank Adams.
By the early 1990s, the club had been promoted to the Football League for the first time and had claimed the Football Association Trophy. It was time to grow.
Opened in 1996 overlooking the pitch, the Frank Adams stand was hailed as a fine tribute to the man who had helped the club.
“It made sense as a recognition of all his time at the club,” said Stroud about naming the stand after Adams.
Holding roughly half the ground’s capacity, the stand contains the family section of the ground, executive boxes and a large upper area giving panoramic views of the pitch.
It’s part of the Woodlands side of the ground and built into part of the nearby hillside.
“The view from the stand is superb, you get a real aerial view of the game,” said Stroud. “I try to sit there whenever I can.”
Having the family section as part of the stand helps build the community connection, he added.
The naming of the stand serves as not only a reminder of Adams’ intertwined fate with the club he joined as a boy but also serves as a representation of the nostalgia of days where clubs and their players represented their community.
“Sadly we’re in another era now. A lot of people see football clubs as a way of making money,” Stroud said.
But for Wycombe, they’ll always have the memory of the centre-half turned benefactor who helped save their club.
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