Due to the international break this past week the limelight has been solely on Leagues One & Two, with one story particularly standing out. Daniel Marsh takes a look at one of the early season success stories.
So much about Wycombe Wanderers bucks the trend of the modern game. Manager Gareth Ainsworth has been at the helm in Buckinghamshire for just shy of an astounding seven years, making him the second longest serving manager in the English game, especially impressive in an era where time is often unattainable for most.
Under Ainsworth’s stewardship and the patience of the club hierarchy, Wycombe have risen steadily and sustainably to the third tier after narrowly avoiding slipping out of the Football League completely in 2014.Embed from Getty Images
This past weekend a new chapter in the history of the club was written as they climbed to the top of the third tier and their highest ever league position. They achieved it in style, outwitting a Lincoln City side tipped by many for another promotion thanks to a set-piece masterclass from veteran Joe Jacobson.
Anyone who pays close attention to the lower leagues perhaps won’t be as surprised as those who don’t to see Wycombe at the right end of the league, even if few would have envisioned the club at the summit of League One at this – or any – stage of the season.
I’d struggle to name many clubs in the Football League who conducted finer transfer business than Wycombe this summer, with Ainsworth – who has form for fine work in the transfer market – particularly outdoing himself, securing players of the calibre of David Wheeler, Fred Onyedinma and Paul Smyth. Another signing, Rolando Aarons, arrived on loan from Newcastle United and caught the entire league’s attention. It seemed unlikely the club would be in a scrap for survival.Embed from Getty Images
Of course, there is never a guarantee that this will translate fluently on to the pitch, but Wycombe have excelled. Ainsworth has moulded one of the league’s most exciting attacking sides, with only Ipswich bettering their 13 goals so far and their average of 17.7 shots per game is the highest in the division. In the third tier, the club often feel as though they’re punching above their weight and the blueprint for this season seems to be paying off with their swashbuckling approach and potent returns.
Considering clubs the size of Sunderland and Portsmouth play in this division with playing squads and budgets vastly superior to the Buckinghamshire outfit, for Ainsworth’s men to sit at the summit of League One at any occasion is an achievement which, quite frankly, should be being commended by more people.
However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and people won’t be rushing to back Wycombe to the hilt based on the season’s opening month, with the club perhaps not possessing the required squad depth to compete in a gruelling promotion race. Then again, not many would have predicted Luton Town storming to promotion last year but League One is often the hardest of all the leagues to predict. Wycombe’s perfect home record of four wins from four can be a catalyst for greater things this season however they were shackled by their poor away form last season, winning just four of their 23 games on the road. That must be improved this season however their first three away matches have all ended in stalemates.
Regardless of what the remainder of the campaign may bring, it’s a refreshing sight to see a club like Wycombe, who have built and persevered astutely for the past seven years, to be perched at the top of the third tier. It couldn’t have come at a more fitting time.
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