Wycombe Wanderers Season Preview: Akinfenwa the key

With the 2018-19 League One season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Wycombe Wanderers fan Russell Cox (@RussWWFC) from groundhopping blog The Wycombe Wanderer

2017-18 saw Wycombe clinch promotion to League One. Given that you’ve been in contention for much of the last three seasons, did you feel it was deserved?

Yes, plenty of hard work went into this and it was against the odds, given our supposed budget. I expected lower reaches of the playoffs, so to get automatic promotion with a game to spare is excellent.

Your squad last season had an average age of 29, the oldest in League Two. Do you think Gareth Ainsworth should consider adding a bit of youth?

I think its needed, but the older players showed great fitness and there were never really any issues with tired players.

So much of your play last season revolved around Adebayo Akinfenwa. Because his physique is so unique, do opposing centre-backs not quite know how to handle him?

Some have marked him out of the game, but he does tend to be a focal point, either scoring or holding the ball up for others.

When Akinfenwa missed the 4-0 defeat to Accrington in April, it was palpable that none of the players knew what to do with the ball without that focal point. Are there risks attached to being so reliant on a 36-year-old?

We do appear to be a lot worse off without him in the few games that he missed, there are risks but he’s managed to keep fit for the most part

Full-backs Michael Harriman and Joe Jacobson are clearly excellent at delivering balls into the box from deep areas. When you don’t have that target to aim for though, do they give you enough pace and width?

I think width is the one thing we lack to be honest, our home pitch is geared up for that and is very narrow.

Captain Adam El-Abd looked like a strong influence on the side last season. Are you confident he can step up?

He had a flaky start, but finished the season as our strongest defender. Given that he had a good season in League One with Shrewsbury before he joined us, I’m not worried.

You weren’t quite able to find a consistent centre-back partner for El-Abd last season, especially after Anthony Stewart’s long-term injury in December. Are you happy for Sido Jombati to take on the role against Blackpool, or will new signing Darius Charles slot in?

Sido has been really strong at centre back, but I’d prefer Stewart back. Charles seems a sensible signing, but I’d rather go with what I know and trust initially.

Paris Cowan-Hall appeared to get back to his best last season. Do you think he’s over the injury problems that hindered him at Millwall?

Fingers crossed he has, he’s a real asset when he is at his best.

Nick Freeman was used from the bench 17 times last season. Was he unlucky not to start more often?

Yes, I’d have liked to see him get a few starts, as he’s one of the younger members of the squad.

Luke O’Nien seems to like popping up into goalscoring positions. Were you pleased with his return of seven last year?

Yes, it’s impressive considering the main part of his game is getting stuck in and helping out the defence.

Marcus Bean always appears to be a passionate character while Matt Bloomfield has been at Adams Park since 2003. Is it important to have people like that around the club?

Certainly, with the whole emphasis of out game built on hard work and scrapping for every ball, it’s very important.

Goalkeeper Ryan Allsop did well at Lincoln last season. Having signed at Adams Park, are you intrigued to see what he can do in League One?

Yea, I think he will be an improvement on last seasons keeper Scott Brown, he certainly has more of a presence.

Chairboys aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League One season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

Not really, looking at the bookmakers odds, they appear to have called it right, it’s not really familiar territory for me to be honest.

Where will you finish?

I’d guess around 18th and that would be a real achievement considering we have gone straight back down the last three seasons we have played in League One.

Thanks to Russ for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Wycombe can be found on We Love Betting from late July.