The business end of the English footballing season is just around the corner. Though most of the focus is on the outcome of the Premier League, the playoff finals below will be tantalizing too. One of the most interesting teams present are Wycombe Wanderers. The Chairboys are helmed by Gareth Ainsworth, an enigmatic figure by all accounts.
Two years ago you were cheering us on from your sofas.
In two weeks you'll be right there with us at Wembley.
And they might even give us seats close to the pitch!
— Wycombe Wanderers (@wwfcofficial) May 8, 2022
Wycombe suffered relegation from the Championship in 2021, and are looking to bounce back immediately. Ainsworth has been in charge for almost a decade, one of the longest tenured managers in the EFL system.
His long hair, exuberant nature, and an array of colourful outfits have made him a cult hero. However, the most interesting thing is Ainsworth is in a band called ‘The Cold Blooded Hearts.’
🎶 𝐇𝐄'𝐒 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐖𝐀𝐍𝐃𝐄𝐑𝐄𝐑
Gareth Ainsworth is the lead singer of a rock band, a style icon and the second-longest serving manager in the Football League.
— bet365 (@bet365) April 23, 2022
Ainsworth will be relishing the chance to take on one of the Championship regulars in Sunderland. Having tasted victory through this same route in 2019-20, Wycombe will be banking on Ainsworth and co. to repeat.
A manager like none
Gareth Ainsworth has been involved with EFL football since a long time. A long and successful playing career with Preston North End, Port Vale, Wimbledon, and Cardiff City amongst others. Ainsworth was part of the Third Division Team of the Season and Second Division Team of the Season during his career.
Moreover, he was also named Port Vale Player of the Season in 1998. Ainsworth joined Wycome Wanderers as a player in 2009, playing four seasons. However, he had already been appointed as player-manager in November 2012. Ainsworth retired officially in the summer of 2013 and took on the managerial role full-time.
— EFL (@EFL) March 4, 2022
Therefore, his connections with the club runs deeper than most. The whole town is in love with their club, thanks in large part to their charismatic manager. Wycombe have been regularly punching above their weight, with the Championship experience being the highlight.
"Those fans, I want to give it to them" 💪❤️
Gareth Ainsworth says he loves the 'underdog' title that Wycombe would have if they get promoted to the Championship and they can still cause upsets for any team. pic.twitter.com/bvCtwh6SAT
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) May 21, 2022
Wycombe finished the 2021-22 season in sixth-place, winning 23 games and just nine losses. They stunned MK Dons in the playoff semis with a 2-1 aggregate victory. Sunderland will be a fantastic fixture at Wembley, and Ainsworth is more than ready.
Gareth Ainsworth is in no doubt of magnitude of the job at hand. Sunderland will definitely start as the favourites, given their history. However, Ainsworth is relishing being the ‘underdogs,’ as he himself stated to the Bucks Free Press,
“We’re going to be the underdogs and that is going to be our approach as that’s how we do things here. This is a David and Goliath without a shadow of a doubt.”
Wycombe have a cast full of experienced veterans and young talents who know the EFL scene. Top scorer Sam Vokes with 16 goals, was a regular for Burnley a few years ago. Left winger Jordan Obita was a mainstay at Reading previously, and the hero against MK Dons, David Stockdale has spent time with Fulham.
Gareth Ainsworth: “The owners and I share a plan to get us into the Championship and continue to build this club into something bigger and better than it’s ever been before.
— Wycombe Wanderers (@wwfcofficial) May 16, 2022
Therefore, this mesh of different, colourful characters has been vital to Ainsworth. He has been able to keep the spirits high and make Wycombe a daunting challenge for any club. Moreover, he is extremely adept in using a variety of system depending upon the match situation.
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 20, 2022
Adebayo Akinfenwa, the club legend, is brought off the bench towards the end of matches to influence matters. He solidfies the midfield pivot when his side need to defend a lead, as evidenced against MK Dons.
Premier League soon?
The ultimate dream for all involved. Gareth Ainsworth has not been shy of stating the targets of the club becoming a Championship regular,
“We’re taking 25,000 hopefully to Wembley, so I think calling us ‘Little Wycombe’ now would be wrong. I think ‘Growing Wycombe’ would be better because we’re definitely building something. There’s more kits in the town centre, more press activity, and I think we’ve got to start shaking that ‘little’ tag off.”
Ainsworth and his team have transcended the footballing side of things. There is a complete belief that this team can achieve the biggest things. Ainsworth has been attached with the club for a long time, so is enmeshed with the culture.
Two days to go!
Gareth Ainsworth has got his boys fit and firing for Saturday's final, and cannot wait to get out on the pitch at Wembley.
His full chat from this morning is now live on WanderersTV.#Chairboys
— Wycombe Wanderers (@wwfcofficial) May 19, 2022
He has developed a fan following with his image and connection. Even if Ainsworth and the team fall at this hurdle, there is no doubt that the support will remain just as strong. Wycombe are doing something special in recent times, and Ainsworth is the right man to lead the change.