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Grimmer life just grand for champ Jack

By Alan Beresford

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FOOTBALL may be more important than life and death, as the saying goes, but for one young talented footballer family was definitely first at his moment of greatest professional triumph.

Jack Grimmer (26), was one of the Wycombe Wanderers team who defied the odds and secured a place in the Championship by winning the League 1 play-off final at Wembley on July 13, beating Oxford Utd 2-1.

His first thoughts on entering the pantheon of club history was not his own glory but a desire to share the moment with his fiancee Sammy and his grandparents Dorothy and Ron Shepherd, who live in Cullen. Joining the couple on their trip north from their London home was Grimmer's most valuable possession – his winner's medal – which has rarely left his sight over the last fortnight or so.

The Advertiser caught up with the Aberdeen-born Grimmer when he made a quick journey to catch up with his grandparents and other locally based family.

"The calls were spontaneous, I wanted to share the moment as best I could, times like these are very precious," he said.

"In a way I was lucky there were no fans in the stadium or I wouldn't have been able to make the calls due to the noise. It was the polar opposite of the play off final winning team I was in with Coventry when Wembley was full and there was no way you could've made a call.

"All of the players were doing what I was doing, contacting family and friends. Wycombe is a family club so it was all very much in keeping with what we do and who we are.

"Both Facetime calls were very emotional. The first to Sammy was very tear-filled, I don't think I actually said that much. By the time I called granny I'd calmed down a bit. It's an experience you can't really put into words, though."

It was a welcome bolt from the blue for Shepherds as they followed their grandson's progress from afar

Dorothy said: "I wasn't expecting a call from Jack just after the match, to be honest.

"I was so surprised when there he was on Facetime speaking to his granny.

"It was a very emotional call for us both. We're all fair chuffed for him, he's always been a very hard-working boy.

"We're hugely proud of everything he's achieved, especially as he's had some really hard times in the game. The family are all looking forward to seeing him play in the Championship next season."

The crowd ban at football matches meant that Sammy was not able to be there to share her other half's special moment of triumph in person.

"Unfortunately there was no exception for close family members so we had to watch the game on TV. That was very nerve-racking.

"I'm so proud of him and Jack won't let his winner's medal out of his sight – he even took it on holiday with us and we had to keep it in the safe at the hotel."

Wycombe's league campaign was always going to be a test for Grimmer and his team-mates, with the majority of pundits suggesting they might consider themselves lucky to stay in League 1 never mind make history at the other end of the table. The league shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic meant that a huge degree of uncertainty surrounded how the remainder of the season was going to be settled – it was eventually agreed to decide league placings using a points per game weighting system – and whether the play-offs would indeed take place.

Grimmer recalled: "It was an agonising wait and horrible thinking that all our hard work could be undone.

"We'd been in the top two for most of the season so we were a bit aggrieved when we were denied automatic promotion. However, that fuelled us going into the play-off, we used it to fire us up and get us over the line.

"I'd been there before with Coventry City and had experience of a play-off final. The manager asked us all of us who'd been involved in play-off finals to stand up and it turned out a majority of the squad had been there. it did help to be able to have that experience to pass on.

"I was still nervous, though – everyone connected with the club is relying on you to go out and do a job. The kick-off wasn't until the evening so we were in the hotel all day which allowed the pressure to build a bit.

"We were a team of underdogs and I think that spirit helped get us through."While Wycombe's playing style has caused some pundits to look down their noses to a certain degree, Grimmer was refreshingly unrepentant and echoed the sentiments of first being first and second being nothing articulated many years ago by an iconic Scottish football manager.

"We did it our way, I guess you could say. Oxford were one of the best passing sides in the division but we stuck to doing what we're good at and won the games we needed to.

"At the end of the day, they're in League 1 next season and we're a Championship side. Ultimately, I'm sitting here wearing a winner's medal and that's what counts."

A season of discovery beckons when the Championship gets under way on September 12, lockdown permitting, as Wycombe make their debut in the division. While Grimmer has played there before, his experience despite his relatively tender years will prove even more invaluable to a squad where few have trodden a similar path.

"I'm eager to have another go – I was too young to appreciate it when I was last here with Fulham.

"No-one gave us much of a chance of even getting here so who knows where we'll go next?"

As history unfolds for the Adams Park Stadium side, Grimmer is not a stranger to making his mark in on the record books. At the age of just 16, he became Aberdeen FC's youngest debutant in 2010, coming on as a striker to replace Steve MacLean against Rangers at Ibrox. He now plies his trade as a full back or wing back with a nose for attacking.

Hard work has brought Grimmer success but he also has some gold stars from the school of hard knocks to sit alongside his medals. Typically, he views them as an ultimately positive learning experience and inspiration for the future rather than a source of bitterness.

Indeed, as a player who is as perceptive and intelligent as he is passionate about the game, Grimmer is very much at peace with life on and off the field.

He continued: "I was just 18 went I went to Fulham from Aberdeen; I saw myself as an adult but I didn't realise how much of a kid I actually was.

"It made me grow up very quickly. I've had a tougher football journey than most so I don't take my football career for granted.

"I appreciate the highs as I've had the lows and it's made me more determined. At 26 I'm roughly at the midpoint of my career, there's a lot of things I want to achieve.

"I'm very much at peace at where I am here at Wycombe. The club have a reputation for doing things differently, everybody is encouraged to be themselves.

"Off the park, I'm settled in London with Sammy and we're looking forward to getting married."

The couple had originally intended to wed next June, although these plans have had doubt cast on them due to the pandemic and the potential knock on effects on the new football season.

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