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Friday, October 02, 2009

Fan Files: Wycombe Wanderers

The next of our interviews with lower league supporters turns the spotlight on League One and Wycombe Wanderers.

The Buckinghamshire club were promoted from League Two last season after four seasons in the basement division.

Chairboys fan Tim Jenkins has been supporting the club for almost a decade.

He rates the club's 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the 2007 League Cup semi-finals as his best moment supporting Wycombe, saying, "Nobody could quite believe what was going on."

Unusually, one of his worst moments supporting the club was the final day of last season where, despite losing, the club managed to secure promotion on goal difference, in an experience he describes as "weirdly deflating."

However, with 10 games of the League One season gone so far, any deflating promotion looks a long way off with the club struggling at the wrong end.

So then, you’re back in League One after winning promotion last season, how’s life back in the third tier going?

Bad. As things stand, we're just not good enough, simple as that.

One of our best players - Tommy Doherty - is yet to feature this season. I can't imagine that he's singlehandedly going to turn things round though, especially when he's a holding midfielder and we're struggling to score.

What were expectations like in pre-season? You ended in poor form last season – was there a worry it might carry over into this?

We slumped over the finish line in the least dignified manner possible. It was loanee John Akinde's goals that got us through in the end, and we have no-one of equivalent quality at the moment.

So the problem's obvious - but of course good strikers are like gold dust.

I wasn't worried at the time, and I thought we'd done OK in the close season transfer market, but as it stands we're not quite there.

What about the manager, Peter Taylor, he must be under pressure after the disappointing start to the season?

Yes. The fans are starting to boo, do the "Taylor Sort It Out" chants, although it's not reached full on "Taylor Out" yet, but give it time.

Last year, we played for the 1-0 win every time, very direct play, nab a scrappy goal, defend for the remaining X minutes. This season we can neither score nor keep a clean sheet, so we have problems.

The experienced Taylor won promotion in his first season with the club

I honestly don't know what the solution is. I don't think sacking Taylor (left) is the answer, but unless we fluke an amazing loan striker from somewhere to save us, I can't see it going any other direction.

Is there a part of you that wishes you hadn’t got promotion? Is it not more fun watching your side winning games at Accrington and Macclesfield than losing at Leeds and Norwich?

No, not really. As much as anything, it's nice to have a change of teams to play. We've never managed to build up much of a rivalry with any of the current League Two teams so it's not like I miss any of them.

I do genuinely enjoy the comedy value that League Two-quality football brings up, but by the same token you do end up thinking, "God! Why am I paying to watch this?" sometimes.

But we'll be back down there sooner or later, so I'm not getting too comfortable in this division.

Having seen life in Leagues One and Two in recent years then, what do you see as the main differences between the two divisions? Is the gap becoming smaller?

I have a standard answer for this one, but I think it's borne out by what I've seen so far this season.

Basically, it's the quality of strikers, and to a lesser extent defenders.

You can make - and god knows we did last season - defensive howler after defensive howler, and the quality of finishing is such that you'll still get away with it 50 per cent of the time. Not in League One.

We've conceded a shedload of set piece goals so far this campaign, and that can't all just be bad marking or whatever. It's more that players are better able to take their opportunities at this level.

Wycombe are facing the likes of Leeds in League One this season

I don't think the gap is becoming smaller at all. Things are a bit skewed this season in League One, what with the number of big, well-resourced clubs for this level - Leeds United, Charlton Athletic, Norwich City etc.

I don't really see any of our fellow newly-promoted teams doing much more than consolidating. This division is a clear step up from the fourth tier, and maybe a bridge too far for us.

You got a new owner over the summer in Steve Hayes, what plans does he have for the club? Is this the start of something big?

Well he was already our Managing Director and he
also owns our tenants Wasps rugby club.

He basically wanted to own the club so he could do what he wanted with it without even the merest suggestion of any opposition. Which is worrying - if the plans made sense, surely the fanbase would back him?

The long-term idea is to build a massive white elephant 'Darlodome', in conjunction with Wasps and the local council.

We will no longer be the owners of the ground as it will be a three-way split - uh-oh - and Steve Hayes's property company will make a killing.

It's easy to knock him as another Firoz Kassam or Alex Hamilton, but I don't totally understand why he wants to do this.

He was already worth £100 million when he flogged his company, so surely there must be easier ways of getting even more cash? Still, who knows.

I think he's kind of had enough of bankrolling us, though. We made an unbudgeted-for £1 million in the close season, through two Premier League transfer sell-ons.

Roger Johnson went to Birmingham and Mike Williamson to Portsmouth, but we didn't get any of that cash for the squad.

Adams Park - Wycombe's home, but for how much longer?

After many years in Non-League, Wycombe have spent the majority of their time in the Football League in League One. Is that where you see the club’s natural level as being?

Well, another of my stock answers to this question is we're either an above-average League Two side, or a crap League One one. Our record best finish was 6th in the third tier under Martin O'Neill.

I think we'll just yo-yo between the two, but probably spend more time in League Two as the years go by, just because it's harder for us to get out of League Two upwards than to drop down from League One.

We are in debt to Steve Hayes too - if he pulls the plug then the Non-League scene may beckon once more.

And finally then, what’s the best thing about being a Wycombe supporter?

The best thing is kind of also the worst thing. We are a small and friendly club, which also means that no-one cares about us rivalry-wise. But considering the utter rubbishness of the town, it's quite impressive that Wycombe has a league football club at all.

Tim, thanks for chatting to Soccer AM/MW.

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