Cod Almighty | Article
by Pat Bell
1 July 2006
Wycombe Wanderers? Who might they be?
Wycombe are an oddity among Football League sides away from the big cities. They have relatively little trouble generating favourable publicity; they attract fashionable, if not necessarily successful, managers (Tony Adams once gave an interview in which he explained in great detail how his players were too thick to understand the effect of eating an apple, and no doubt too thick to read the paper in which the article appeared, as well). They are thought of as progressive and upwardly mobile, but are stuck in the lower divisions, beset, this last year at least, by appalling circumstance. Wycombe are perhaps the earnest but not necessarily intelligent boy in a not very good school, or, to take a literary turn, Jude the Obscure, or Paul Pennyfeather in Waugh's Decline and Fall, the divinity student doomed through no fault of his own.
We carried the seeds of our failure to gain promotion inside ourselves, and in the end got exactly what we deserved, no matter if the deliverance came late. If you want a genuine hard luck story, talk to a Wycombe fan.
For the first half of the season, Wycombe were much the best as well as the most successful side in the division, going 21 matches before their first defeat. It seemed they were going to ride with comfort the sale of the widely admired striker Nathan Tyson to Nottingham Forest. Misfortune came off the field, first in January, when midfielder Mark Philo was fatally injured in a car crash, and then with the death from cancer of manager John Gorman's wife. By the time the step was taken to relieve him of his duties, a six-match losing run had sent Wycombe out of contention for the automatic promotion places and grateful to retain a play-off spot.
In Cheltenham they faced a side in form, and found themselves 2-0 down in the home leg. A late Tommy Mooney goal gave them hope, and they dominated the second leg (at least someone gave the Robins a game in the play-offs) without managing a goal.
Anticipate with relish
Relish? We'll be playing a decent side so it could be a good game, but the prospect of an away win is slim. So what is there to relish on the way? Adams Park, a BBC guide notes, is perched on the end of an industrial estate, some way from the town centre. After listing a ski slope and a golf course, the BBCs throws itself on the mercy of the court: "What can you do in Wycombe before or after the match? Send your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org".
Wycombe is probably a really lovely place. It's just that the one time I went there, I got soaked walking back to the station.
Anticipate with dread
Tommy Mooney. Nuff said.
The way forward
The Chairboys are yet to appoint a replacement for Gorman, and the position of six out-of-contract players is yet to be resolved, with differing views as to whether or not managing director (do the Chairboys have a chairman?) Steve Hayes is trying to negotiate with them. Wycombe, however, is another country: they do things differently there, and seem content to announce that a new manager will be in place by the start of July. Imagine if our own John Fenty said that? The messageboards would be a carnival of nesbitry. Hayes has said: "We need someone with stability", presumably ruling out such slapstick heroes as Buster Keaton or Jurgen 'Whoops Where's Me Legs' Klinsmann.
I was inclined to think Wycombe would carry on where they left off in January, but I do like the idea of having a manager in place in time to sign a few players, and the talk of wage restructuring sends out a worrying signal. All in all, the Chairboys may be carrying a bit too much baggage, and not just because it's that time of year when footballers are heading for their holidays. A team doesn't become poor overnight though (unless they appoint Mike Lyons as manager) and Wycombe are due some luck. They will finish seventh and get promoted through the play-offs.