Wycombe Wanderers were tipped for relegation at the start of the season. They had finished 17th in League One in 2018/19 having clinched an automatic promotion spot in League Two the season before. What happened this season, though, is beyond the wildest dreams of anyone associated with Wycombe. Led by Gareth Ainsworth, their rockstar manager, the Chairboys will be playing in the Championship for the first time ever after their play-off final win against Oxford United.
Taking Wycombe Wanderers to the Championship is ‘Surreal’, Says Gareth Ainsworth
A Wild Ride
Since the season began, Wycombe were the surprise package. They led the way in League One for large portions of the season, beating the likes of Portsmouth, Sunderland and Rotherham United along the way.
Their form dipped as the season neared its premature end, but the luck of having a game in hand meant that when the final table was decided on a points per game (PPG) basis, the Chairboys jumped from eighth to third, thus claiming a place in the play-offs.
While this was deemed unfair by many, in the midst of a pandemic where football the importance of football was severely questioned, finishing with PPG was the only realistic option for many clubs.
Despite then being the highest-ranked team of the four play-off sides, Wycombe were still given little hope of overcoming Fleetwood Town, who themselves were a non-league side as recently as 2012.
Fortune favoured them, though, and a stunning 6-3 aggregate win over Joey Barton’s Fleetwood set up a tie with near-neighbours Oxford at an empty Wembley.
A Typical Wycombe Performance
Wycombe’s style of play won’t win them any beauty awards, but it’s what works for them and it has clearly got the job done this season. That was no different last night as their long-ball, defensively-focussed methods paid off.
Anthony Stewart’s first-half opener was cancelled out when Mark Sykes’ cross sailed in at the far post, but after Fred Onyedinma was clattered in the box, Joe Jacobsen stepped up late on to win it for the Chairboys and seal the most famous night in their history.
At the centre of it all is club legend Ainsworth. He took over the manager role in 2012, despite initially being registered as a player until 2013 and then re-registering himself a year later until 2018.
There can be no doubt that Wycombe would not be where they are without him, but even he was stunned by the achievement.
Speaking to reporters after last night’s win, he said: “It’s an amazing feeling. To take this club into the Championship is just surreal, it’s beyond my wildest dreams.
“Today is just the culmination of all the desire and heart of all those boys out there on the pitch. They absolutely delivered and then some.
“It wasn’t the greatest game we’ve played in the world. This was always going to be cagey. My goalkeeper has made two world-class saves, they really came at us and are a good side.
“But that was destined today. There are 25 individual stories that have ended in the Championship and I’m so proud of the boys. They’ve been amazing.”
Don’t Write Them Off Yet
Writing Wycombe off is exactly what spurs them on. They were one of the favourites to go down from League One and will almost certainly be the favourite to finish bottom in the Championship next season.
Wait and see what happens, though. Gareth Ainsworth has built something special at this club and the town of High Wycombe will be out in force to support them next season as they enter uncharted territory.