Rough guide to
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'05-06 season index
Rough guide to... Wycombe Wanderers
14 June 2005
Rather like the other one in the Pet Shop Boys... not as famous or successful as (their) Tennant.
Wycombe finished tenth in the division. A season that was not too dissimilar to Grimsby's. Relegated; player clear-out; looking for a period of stabilisation and rebuilding. As with the Mariners, there was always the chance that if they strung a few results together they would hold a position in the play-off zone, but they never really did. Nine points from the last nine games left them seven points short.
The signing of Claridge was misjudged, and he simply did not perform. Gus Uhlenbeek was also brought in on a year's contract and provided some defensive stability as the rebuilding continued around him. A 2-0 home victory and 0-0 away gave them four points from our meetings, and their biggest attendance of 8,124 for the game against Chester was the consequence of a 'free for all' entry.
Wasps won the Zurich Premiership.
Famous for 'taking Grimsby's place' in the FA Cup semi-final when they beat us in the third round of the competition in the 200001 season, and the enduring image of Lawrie Sanchez celebrating their goal in the dressing room having been dismissed from the touchline.
Wycombe became the first side from the county of Buckinghamshire to enter the Football League in 1993, and gained promotion in their first season via the play-offs. Their fortunes can be followed by their succession of well known managers. Having guided them into the then second division, Martin O'Neill handed in a 'shock resignation' in '95. Fans' choice Alan Smith took over 10 years ago, and started eight seasons of mid-table performances until relegated alongside Grimsby in 2004. Twelve months of mediocrity and the worst start to a season for 89 years saw Smith dismissed in September '96 the final straw being a 6-3 loss against Peterborough after being 3-1 up.
John Gregory took over and oversaw Wycombe's lowest point as a League club, when they were defeated by Basingstoke in the cup. In February '98 he resigned in order to join Villa (some say they poached him). After 18 years in the game, first as a player and then on the backroom staff at Wycombe, Neil Smillie stepped up to the mark for the second time, having been caretaker before Gregory's arrival. His reward for second division survival was a three-year contract which was terminated in January '99 after five wins from 24 matches.
Enter Lawrie Sanchez. Avoiding relegation being his first successful objective, he then took his side on to their most memorable journey in the FA Cup, which ended in a 2-1 defeat against Liverpool at Villa Park. There was talk of a rosy future with money from the cup run, record season ticket and replica kit sales, but the following season finished with a disappointing 11th place. The wage bill was becoming a burden at the start of 2003 and experienced players were cleared out. A string of poor results brought the inevitable vote of confidence from the chairman, and Sanchez had gone by the end of September.
Tony Adams arrived in November, got them relegated, and, although it was later reported as a 'shock departure', just sort of packed in and left 12 months after taking over. It should be duly noted that his team's inspired 4-1 victory over the Mariners coincided with one of the most abject performances of the Paul Groves era, and undoubtedly contributed to PG's downfall.
Originally having been turned down in favour of Adams, John Gorman was offered the job again, and is the current incumbent.
Do we like them?
Well, why not? They gave Ronnie Bull a trial. It's a bit of a trek from Grimsby, but I've always enjoyed my 40-minute trips down the M40, if not the return journeys. Tidy ground, albeit at the end of an industrial estate, which can be tricky getting away from. You can find it by following the signs to Wasps. I doff my cap to the enterprise shown by the surrounding companies, which allow their car parks to be used and charged for by local charities. We've only played each other eight times, so not much chance of building a bitter rivalry. They're just there... we've got a couple of games against them... so just get on with it.
Ivor Beeks has been around since Wycombe's non-League days. The feeling among the fans is that having been around for so long he can't have been all bad, although he has made some unpopular decisions more recently, without any consultation with the fans. Notable among these was a change in the club's constitution to become a plc, which led them into a poorer financial state. He would also have taken part in negotiations which led to the sale of the Adams Park name. Brian Kane is a second board member who keeps a lower profile, but tends to agree with board initiatives.
Steve Hayes is the new MD and is now the main power behind the board as Beeks' responsibilities diminish. He seems to have addressed the 'promotion or bust' question by stating that the club aims to be debt-free in five years, and is splashing the cash with three high-profile signings for the coming season (see 'Yeo dude' below). Two further members, Ian Mather and Keith Blagborough, directly represent supporter interests.
Inevitably the board acts as landlord for London Wasps a rugby union club that shares the ground. Rumours and counter-rumours abound over the recent negotiations regarding their tenancy, and both parties are hiding behind the shroud of confidentiality, although an extension to Wasps' stay has been announcewd. While a rent of around £300k will come in handy for WWFC, the football club is still picking up the tab for stewarding, ground maintenance and matchday staffing. The long-term future requirement for Wasps is to be in a 15,000 capacity ground by 2010, and while the tenancy agreement is for 22 years, this is dependent on ground improvement.
One wonders how this will be financed and filled, but interestingly Wasps' attendances are now marginally higher than Wanderers', and their admission prices have rocketed from £6 on the terrace three years ago to £18 now.
Since teetering on the brink of administration seven months ago, Wycombe's board has injected cash to bring in three 'high profile for the fourth division' names. Tommy 'Loves to Score Against Grimsby' Mooney has departed from the sinking ship further down the M40 and signed a two-year deal. The style of football was not to his liking at the Kass Stad, and Mooney went on to say: "I think the way that John (Gorman) wants to play is certainly the right way to play football and if we can between myself and Nathan Tyson get some goals at the end of some flowing football that would be the ideal scenario."
Stefan Oakes has been brought in from Notts County with the intention of providing goals from midfield. Meanwhile, Tyson, last season's top scorer with 22 goals (who incidentally made his debut in the aforementioned 4-1 match), will be the man to button down. Finally, the latest signing Kevin Betsy about whom an Oldham fan remarked: "We didn't re-sign him because of the ridiculous wages he was asking for" is the cause of much discussion amongst the Wycombe faithful on two accounts: If Oldham can't afford him, then how can we? and Would he actually get into the first team?
It's goodbye to Gus Uhlenbeek and Steve Claridge, whose combined wages may go some way to satisfying the new intake.
With the new signings, hopes are high of a successful season, and the bookies agree, pricing Wanderers at 12/1 for the title. With this success the fair people of Buckinghamshire will rediscover their football club and choose the cheaper weekend sporting alternative. There appears to be a drive and determination around the club this year, and a play-off berth beckons.
Why don't you just switch off from the football and go out and do something less boring instead?
But, of course, there's a museum. And yes, it's got lots of chairs in it. Everything from old hand-whittled stuff to G-plan furniture. Well that's the obvious done. The surrounding area is damn fine walking country, through the beech woods and along the Ridgeway, offering stunning views across the Thames Valley, and the site of Red Kites wheeling high above. Nip down to Marlow and strut your stuff with the hoi-polloi on the banks of the Thames. The village of West Wycombe is resplendent with history, and is home to the National Trust site of West Wycombe Park, which is the former home of Sir Francis Dashwood.
Stroll across the road to the reputedly haunted caves, the end of which lies 300 feet below the church on the top of the hill. Dashwood formed the roguish Hell-Fire Club, who held their meetings in these caves or in the golden dome atop the church above. Venture further up the valley to Hughenden Manor, the former crib of Disraeli, or a little further on why not go to Chequers and call on his Blairness?
Check out what's on at the Swan Theatre for your after-match entertainment.