Somebody once told me that reading is the best way to improve your vocabulary, so when I fell into commentating and felt the need to extend my arsenal of words to describe the beautiful game, I became a book worm. Whether the effects of this come across on any of my broadcasts, only the listeners can say, but I am constantly searching out new books to get stuck into. Imagine my joy to discover ‘Small Town Dreams’, a book about Wycombe Wanderers’ famous FA Cup run set to the backdrop of an avid fan’s once in a lifetime trip around the globe (the planet, not the pub in Baker Street). It immediately positioned itself on the top of my reading list.
Back in January 2001, the book’s author, James Cumming, bolstered by some redundancy money, took off for six months to see what lay beyond the confines of the Chair Metropolis. Thailand, China, Australia, Easter Island, Chile and New York awaited. The night before his departure, he packed his bags listening to the Wanderers on the radio as they won their FA Cup replay away at Grimsby to get past the third round for the first time. It had always been James’ dream to see his team progress in the FA Cup and on the eve of a wondrous voyage, he now felt torn with a huge fear of missing out. James just didn’t quite know the magnitude of what would actually happen back home whilst he was away…
The book is an autobiographical novel, which perfectly captures the high drama of the Wycombe games that took place whilst the author was thousands of miles away, either hovering over a squat toilet or ticking off the wonders of the world. Its hugely self-deprecating and laid back style make this an easy read and had me chuckling on my sun lounger in-between its gloriously tear inducing nostalgic moments.
Supporting Wycombe Wanderers is not a prerequisite to enjoy this book. Any football fan can tap into the raw emotion that is laid down in spades across the pages of Small Town Dreams, and that includes followers of today’s visitors Grimsby, once they get past the painful prose about the aforementioned replay. The book kicks off with memories of James’ first game – the sights, sounds and smells of dear old Loakes Park. Throughout the book, the supporting cast of the author’s match day crew underlines the important social role that football plays with lifelong friendships formed on fantastic adventures to places like Bromsgrove. As I turned the pages, these tales constantly prompted me to remember my own early football adventures. We can all relate to these experiences, however old you are or whichever football outpost first hooked you in to the cult of football fandom.
Martin O’Neill had his silly little dream, whilst Gareth Ainsworth still believes in fairy tales. To this day, J F Cumming has still never physically seen Wycombe Wanderers get past the third round of the FA Cup, his dream remains unrequited. And that is surely what football is for most of us fans too, a chance to dream and escape the day to day realities of life. Dream on dreamers.
You can buy the book from Amazon and you can also purchase a copy from the shop at Adams Park where all the proceeds will go to the club.
A possible glimpse into the future of J F Cumming