Wycombe Wanderers extended their unbeaten run to six matches in League One on Saturday, boosting the club’s hopes of an immediate return to the Championship.
A 97th minute strike from Ryan Tafazolli secured all three points in a 2-1 win versus Crewe Alexandra, ensuring the Chairboys retained their position in the second automatic promotion spot.
After Gareth Ainsworth’s side suffered a heartbreaking relegation as their first season in England’s second-tier ended in disappointment last term, can they defy expectation and back bounce at the first time of asking?
With nine wins and just two defeats from their opening 13 games this season, Charlie Gregory caught up with George from The Wycombe Way to see if promotion fever is already gripping Adams Park.
You’re currently sitting 2nd in the league after 14 games; how would you assess your start to the season?
“We all expected to start the season well, but third in the table considering the teams we’ve already faced is really quite impressive.
“We’ve faced all of Sunderland, Wigan, MK, Oxford and now Rotherham away from home, and still find ourselves in a really good place.
“There’s an unwritten law in football, make sure you pick up near maximum points at home and then see how you do away. We’ve done that so far and we need to ensure that we keep it up for as long as we can.”
You’ve won five and drawn one of your last six; are you starting to hit your stride now?
“We’ve made a good habit of beating the so-called weaker teams this season.
“We’ve only dropped points so far on the trickier road trips I mentioned before, and have beaten Shrewsbury, Cheltenham and Doncaster on the road and seem to have found our best formation and strongest eleven.
“Sam Vokes is back to full fitness and is looking like a real quality addition, and Daryl Horgan and Garath McCleary are both in good form either side of him.
“The defence is looking rather impenetrable, so we’re looking good all over the park.”
Given last season’s absence of fans due to Covid, how much would it mean to the fanbase to get promoted back to the Championship this season?
“I think a lot of people thought that last season may have been our one and only chance at that level, at least for a while.
“Based on last season, however, and the start we’ve made to this campaign, I think we’ll be back sooner rather than later.
“It was a strange feeling with the promotion a couple years back; an overriding sense of emotion, but also a slight amount of envy that we couldn’t be there.”
Last season you were written off before a ball was kicked but only missed out by one single point, how did that make you feel?
“Despite the relegation, last season put us in a great position for the next few years as our squad is now largely Championship quality, and one of the best in League One.
“We could take our relegation with a pinch of salt given the way Derby escaped punishment last season, but I can’t say that over the course of forty-six we deserved to stay up; we as a team weren’t good enough for large parts of the season.
“The experience was invaluable and next time we’ll know what to expect from the start. It would be great to see the lads gain promotion again, but to be able to celebrate with them would be incredible.”
Is promotion a reality? Can Ainsworth deliver an immediate return?
“It’s definitely a reality, and given our start to the season we’d surely be one of the favourites at this stage.
“We’re better off at this stage than we were in the 19/20 season. It’s also worth factoring in the games we’ve already played, five of the hardest fixtures in this league are already out of the way.
“One of Ainsworth’s favourite sayings if you like is “never too high, never too low” – if we keep our feet on the ground, we’ll be just fine.”
Given the calibre of clubs in League One what will be the key for Wycombe in securing promotion instead of those sides?
“It sounds like a cliché, but we need to ignore what the other teams around us are doing and concentrate on our own game.
“We did that in the transfer window when there was a lot of money being spent and a lot of big names coming into the league, and weren’t pressured into signing players that were available because of a name.
“Nor were we pushed into spending money we didn’t have on our prime targets. We’ve always gone under the radar regardless of what we’re doing but that seems to work in our favour.
“We’ve started the season really well where some of the bigger teams have struggled, and only Sunderland can match our home record so far.”
Finally, a word on Gareth Ainsworth after he’s just reached the 9-year milestone at Adams Park. How good of a job has he been doing?
“It’s difficult to put into words just how much good he has done, and how fondly the fans think of him.
“It’s also difficult to pin all of our good fortunes on just one person, but without Ainsworth at the helm, we’d likely be nowhere near the position we are now.
“We almost fell out of the Football League in 2013 but Ainsworth in interim charge kept us up and we have never looked back.
“We keep coming on stronger and stronger and who knows what we can achieve in the next five or 10 years.
“I could sit here all day rambling on about the excellent work he does on and off the field, and how much everyone at Wycombe loves the man to bits.
“Nothing lasts forever, but if he ever left us, it would feel like losing a loved one.”
The new Words on Wanderers Podcast is coming soon, where you can find out about all the latest at Adams Park and beyond…
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