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Death is but a door, time is but a window, I'll be back - Interview
Tuesday, 9th Mar 2021 11:46 by Clive Whittingham

A predictable season of struggle for Championship minnows Wycombe in their first crack at this level of football, but still plenty for QPR to be wary about and Rangers favourite Gareth Ainsworth to be proud of according to The Wanderer fanzine editor Jonny King.

How has Wycombe’s season been?

Pretty much as I expected – bloody tough. We weren’t under any illusions going into this - we knew we’d be in a relegation battle and one that we were likely to lose. To an outsider, you can look at our results and all the defeats and say we’ve been rubbish and out of our depth, but actually, on the whole, the performances have generally been there. I must admit, I was a little concerned at the start of the season that we’d be getting pounded every week, but there actually haven’t been that many games where we’ve really been outclassed and only two teams (Blackburn and Brentford) have absolutely hammered us. Otherwise, I’ve been pleased with how well we’ve competed against clubs with far more spending power than us. Of course I wish we were doing a bit better than we are, but looking at the bigger picture beyond this season, the future looks incredibly bright for Wycombe.

Wycombe league results so far…
Wycombe 0-1 Rotherham Ihiekwe 90
Blackburn 5-0 Wycombe Armstrong pen 16, 33, 83, Dolan 20, Williams 67
Wycombe 0-2 Swansea Ayew 13, Lowe 23
Luton 2-0 Wycombe Ruddock 59, Lee 89
Wycombe 1-2 Millwall Kashket 9 – Wallace pen 48, Leonard 63
Reading 1-0 Wycombe Joao 63
Norwich 2-1 Wycombe Pukki 3, Vrancic 90 – Kashket 12
Wycombe 1-1 Watford Stewart 66 – Sarr 52
Wycombe 1-0 Sheff Wed Wheeler 45
Birmingham 1-2 Wycombe Roberts 40 – Kashket 75, Pedersen og 90
Forest 2-0 Wycombe Taylor 28, 74
Wycombe 0-0 Brentford
Wycombe 0-0 Huddersfield
Derby 1-1 Wycombe Holmes 36 – Bloomfield 81
Wycombe 0-1 Stoke Powell 71
Preston 2-2 Wycombe Barkhuizen 14, McCarthy og 87 – McCleary 48, Kashket 75
Barnsley 2-1 Wycombe Styles 30, Woodrow pen 61 – Jacobson pen 49
Wycombe 1-2 Coventry Jacobson pen 61 – Kelly 34, 45
Bournemouth 1-0 Wycombe Stanislas 68
Wycombe 1-1 QPR Mehmeti 88 – McCarthy og 28
Bristol City 2-1 Wycombe Martin 23, Diedhiou 87 – McCleary 68
Wycombe 2-1 Cardiff Tafazolli 33, Wheeler 63 – Hoilett 90
Wycombe 1-3 Boro Ikpeazu 3 – Browne 30, Tavernier 36, Akpom 81
Brentford 7-2 Wycombe Pinnock 9, Toney 41, pen 56, 86, Fosu-Henry 50, Canos 81, Dasilva 89 – Ikpeazu 14, Muskwe 43
Wycombe 0-0 Birmingham
Wycombe 0-3 Forest Murray 7, pen 54, Knockaert 72
Sheff Wed 2-0 Wycombe Rhodes 34, Reach 76
Huddersfield 2-3 Wycombe Bacuna 18, Mbenza 41 – Mehmeti 45, Jacobson pen 63, Knight 87
Wycombe 1-2 Derby Ikpeazu pen 48 – Ikpeazu og 16, Wisdom 90
Millwall 0-0 Wycombe
Wycombe 1-0 Reading Onyedinma 49
Wycombe 0-2 Norwich Pukki 51, Idah 87
Watford 2-0 Wycombe Gray 14, 57
Stoke 2-0 Wycombe Norrington-Davies 64, Souttar 69

Always going to be a tall order to stay up, have you given up hope or think you still might pull off another miracle?

I’m a pretty optimistic fan, but even I think we’ve been down for a while now. We’ve been bottom most of the season and we’ve all had plenty of time to get used to the idea. We won’t give up of course and will keep fighting to the end, but we’d basically have to show title-winning form for the rest of the season to have any chance of surviving. I’m not too down about it though; seven years ago I travelled down to Torquay thinking I was going to see our last game in the Football League, possibly even our last game, such was the financial state of the club at the time. Instead we stayed up, slowly recovered and are now a playing in the Championship for the first time in our history. Compared to where we were, I can handle relegation from the second tier. That season we got turned over by Chesterfield, Dagenham and York and nearly went bust, so yeah, this is nothing compared to that.

What have been the main differences that have made the step up hard?

The step up in quality is huge. The gap between League Two and League One is negligible, but between League One and Championship its vast. Even the teams down at the bottom have that bit more quality than us. We’ve given our all in every game and sometimes that’s got us something, but we don’t have that extra gear we can go up if things aren’t going our way. We go in at a hundred per cent and that’s it. Of our squad at the start of the season, twelve of them played for us in League Two and they’ve gone up against multi-million pound, international level, Premier League standard players and generally held their own, but on this occasion we’ve not quite had enough quality. I suppose it comes down to money. I don’t want to make excuses, but it’s a fact that we don’t have the financial muscle to compete with most of the clubs at this level. We have to find a different way.

Does Ainsworth retain the support of the fans despite the struggles?

Absolutely! I mean, I can’t speak for everyone and I have seen a few Negative Normans on social media who seem to have lost all sense of perspective, but I think the overwhelming majority of our fans recognise how far we’ve come and what an incredible job he’s done. Of course he doesn’t get everything right, his brand of football isn’t always the easiest on the eye and he undoubtedly has some weaknesses, but there’s no way we’d be where we are without him. Importantly, he has the public backing of the board too and even if we don’t win another game all season he still probably has the safest job in football. We’ll probably go down this season, but he’s absolutely the man to take us back up again. My only worry with him is how much longer can we realistically hope to hold on to him and what will happen to us when he does eventually go?

What January transfer business did you do?

Not a huge amount to be honest. We brought in the delightfully named Admiral Muskwe on loan from Leicester, signed Jordan Obita from Oxford and brought Nnamdi Ofoborh back on loan from Bournemouth. Muskwe is a young Zimbabwean international striker and while he hasn’t played a huge amount since joining, he’s shown a lot of promise when he’s featured. Obita was an unusual one, as we had him on trial in the summer when he was a free agent but didn’t sign him. He’s a proven Championship player though and it’s nice to actually have two left backs on our books for the first time in about six years. Ofobohr is a Nigerian U-20 midfielder who we had on loan last season and is a real star of the future. He’s set to join Glasgow Rangers in the summer. We also extended the loan of defender/midfielder Josh Knight, also from Leicester, and Wycombe fans are hoping that might become permanent.

Summer Ins >>> Uche Ikpeazu, 25, CF, Hearts, Undisclosed >>> Jason McCarthy, 24, RB, Millwall, Undisclosed >>> Daryl Horgan, 28, LM, Hibs, Undisclosed >>> Ryan Tafazolli, 28, Hull, CB, Free >>> Giles Phillips, 23, CB, QPR, Free >>> Curtis Anderson, 19, GK, Unattached, Free >>> David Stockdale, 34, GK, Birmingham, Free >>> Anis Mehmeti, 19, AM, Norwich, Free >>> Garath McCleary, 33, RW, Reading, Free >>> Dennis Adeniran, 21, CM, Everton, Loan >>> Josh Knight, 23, RB, Leicester, Loan

Summer Outs >>> Sido Jombati, 32, RB, Oldham, Free >>> Jamie Mascoll, 23, LB, Bolton, Free >>> Craig Mackail-Smith, 36, CF, Bedford, Free >>> Jacob Gardiner-Smith, 23, DM, Released >>> Curtis Anderson, 19, GK, Walton Casuals, Loan >>> Giles Phillips, 23, CB, Aldershot, Loan

Winter Ins >>> Jordan Obita, 27, LB, Oxford, Undisclosed >>> Admiral Muskwe, 22, CF, Leicester, Loan >>> Nnamdi Ofoborh, 21, CM, Bournemouth, Loan

Winter Outs >>> Josh Parker, 30, CF, Burton, Free >>> Sido Jombati, 32, RB, Oldham, Free >>> Nick Freeman, 25, CM, Orient, Loan

Where is the team strong and weak?

We’ve been really poor at the back this season and that has probably been our biggest downfall. We’ve conceded 57 goals in the league so far this season – the three teams just above us have conceded 43. It’s disappointing, because under Ainsworth our defence has usually been our strongest area, but we’ve been uncharacteristically sloppy at the back and conceded a lot of really soft goals, particularly from set plays, an area of the game we usually pride ourselves on. Going forward, we simply don’t create enough. It’s not that we can’t get the ball down and play, we just seem to go into panic mode a bit and whack it long instead of taking a second to look for a pass. Our biggest strengths are the same ones that got us up last year; our work rate, organisation, team spirit and attacking set pieces. The togetherness among the players is great to see and they won’t stop fighting for each other.

If you do go down, is the squad equipped to go strongly into League One or do you think there’ll be a bit of a break apart and rebuild? Will that be under Gareth?

We’re going back to League One with a much better squad than the one that got promoted. Barring the handful of players who’ll probably be on their way, most of our squad are under contract for next season, so I don’t think we’ll need a big overhaul, just five or six quality (Championship standard) additions. None of us expected to go up last season and the club have been sensible with the windfall, spending some, but keeping most of it back. We could have blown the lot on players who might have kept us up, but the Couhig family, who took over the club last season after a vote by the Supporters Trust, have been clear on their intention to run the club sensibly and sustainably. Chief Financial Officer Pete Couhig said we’re ‘prepared to yo-yo’ and I think that’s the right approach. Take the money and run and use it to challenge for a return to the Championship. This isn’t the end – we’ll be back!

Links >>> Wycombe Official Website >>> Gasroom – Forum >>> Bucks Free Press – Local Paper >>> Chairboys Central – Blog

The Twitter @J0NNYKINg, @WandererFanzine, @loftforwords

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TacticalR added 13:53 - Mar 9
Thanks to Jonny.

Good to hear that the fans have some perspective despite the results. Having said that, Wycombe have had some good results (e.g. against Huddersfield, who completely outplayed us).

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