Wycombe Wanderers 2019-20 Season Review

Wycombe Wanderers have been the major story of the 2019-20 EFL season. To reflect on their campaign and consider the future, Gabriel Sutton interviewed Tom Hancock (@Tom_Hancock) from the excellent Chairboys Central (@ChairboysCentrl), top podcaster Alex Broom (@AlexBroom_) and all-round Chairboys devotee Sam Hills (@SimplyWycombe).

Gab: Remarkably, Wycombe Wanderers are eighth in League One and, perhaps importantly, have the division’s third best points per game ratio. Having been tipped by many for relegation (guilty), you must be incredibly proud to be a Wanderer?

Tom: Proud was the operative word last season and that hasn’t changed – well, apart from I’m even prouder now. We were rightly tipped as relegation fodder before the Couhigs came along, but no one could have foreseen the journey we’ve been on since. This been my second-favourite season as a Wycombe fan, but who knows, it might yet become my – and maybe everyone’s – favourite…

Alex: Yes, I am always very proud to support my local team but I do love seeing us do well. I was expecting a bit of a struggle once the club had announced the budget cuts at the end of the 2018/19 season. There were only a handful of outfield players on the first day of this pre-season so anyone could be forgiven for predicting a relegation battle. That feels a lifetime ago now though. American businessman Rob Couhig gave the club significant investment last summer in an attempt to win over the fans ahead of a proposed takeover. That allowed Gareth Ainsworth to not only get some well needed bodies in the squad but some quality too. The likes of David Wheeler, Fred Onyedinma and Jack Grimmer have all been brilliant and would have been well out of financial reach if it were not for Couhig. I am very proud to see such a talented squad on the pitch so thank you Mr Couhig.

Sam: Proud does not begin to explain how it feels to be a Wanderer. Being a Wycombe fan brings its highs like when Gapey got the goal that brought us up to League One or seeing the Beast walk out as a new signing all those summers ago. It also brings its low’s when we got beat in the 4-3 thriller at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup back in 2017. I think however as with every football club, with the great heights there has been the pain of defeat, but the lows just make the highs higher. This season has seen Wycombe defy many critics that tipped us for relegation but that is something we thrive upon and do not let it affect the performances on the pitch come 3pm Saturday afternoon. Write us off at your peril I say. This season has allowed many a Wanderer to dream and ask ourselves what if. Credit must go from the new owners, to the greatest manager in the EFL, to the players, the fans and the surrounding community within Wycombe.

Gareth Ainsworth has done an incredible job… if you had to pick out two or three of his main qualities that have allowed him to inspire this team to massively overachieve most seasons, what would they be?

Tom: More than anything, he keeps the players – and, crucially, himself – grounded. Some of our own supporters have criticised the ‘Little Wycombe mentality’, but spending most of the season there or thereabouts – including nine weeks top of the league, of course – hasn’t made us a big club all of a sudden. We got to where we were – where we still are (we’d be promoted on points per game) – on merit, but Gareth hasn’t allowed any delusions of grandeur to creep in.
I’d also pick out his ability to adapt to the opposition and his taiolred use of certain individuals to maximise that adaptability. Our win at Rotherham is a great example; we deployed an ‘inverted’ trapezium 4-3-1-2/4-3-2-1, which I attempted to dissect here.
Alex: Without doubt Ainsworth’s main quality is his man-managing skills. I read an interview a while back from Joe Jacobson when he said: “It is impossible not to feel motivated playing under Ainsworth, the whole squad wants to run through walls for him.” I think that is the best way to sum him up as a manager. He creates such a great dressing room atmosphere where all the lads get on well with each other. Players have described it as a “dressing room like no other” which is huge testament to the work which Ainsworth puts in, not only on finding a good player, but someone with a good attitude, too.
I have always been a big fan of how Gareth remains so level headed. It definitely helps that he was in charge when the club was in its worst state in recent years. We were struggling massively financially and in real danger of dropping out of the EFL which may have ended up being fatal! He knows what it is like to work under a tiny budget – meaning that the loan market has been vital. Those experiences have allowed him to build up his liaising skills with academies from other clubs. Bigger clubs look at the successful loan moves that players such as Alfie Mawson, Jamal Blackman and Eberechi Eze have had under Ainsworth and want to trust him to help coach more of their young stars. Ainsworth is well respected within English football which helps in securing loan targets for his team.
Sam: The first quality, I would associate with Sir Gareth of the Ainsworth is that he genuinely cares about the club from top to bottom and is one of very few that can have a successful transition from player to manager to legend as he has had. The fact that at times clubs will have no doubt offered him more money to join them, his head has not been turned once. Instead, he has remained fully focussed on what he and Dobbo have been doing and now as seen with staying up on the last day, to promotion to league one, to staying up in league one and for this season allowing us to dream, Wycombe Wanderers are beginning to reap the rewards and sincere thanks must go to Gareth Ainsworth.

Secondly, man management. There is no point in being a manager if you cannot motivate a team and create more than a football club, a family if you like. Look at what players have come to Wycombe and where they are now. Alfie Mawson has played in the Premier League, Ebere Eze is in my mind a future England starter and that is down to parent clubs trusting the ethos and philosophies of Gareth and allowing them to nurture on loan at Wycombe. Recruiting names like Bayo Akinfenwa and Dom Gape from Southampton is a true testament to Ainsworth and players are standing up and saying I want to come and play for Wycombe.

The joy at Adams Park this season has not been confined to on-field matters, as the club have completed a 75% takeover from Feliciana EFL Ltd led by Rob Couhig. Would you agree that the reduced financial reliance on the Supporters Trust – likely for years to come – is just as important as what we are seeing on the pitch now?

Tom: Definitely. Fan ownership is a nice idea but just didn’t work for us. Well, that’s an udnerstatement actually; we were in pretty dire straits. The Couhigs have been brilliant from day one and I am absolutely confident that we’re in the right hands as we go forward into an uncertain time for the game. We’ve got a good platform on which to build and I’m excited about the future despite that uncertainty caused by the current crisis.
Alex: Absolutely. The Trust ownership was good but there was only so much it could do. It was very important to find the right investor to take over after some troubles with previous owners in the past. I believe that the Couhig family are the right people to lead the club forward off the pitch. They proved this with their willingness to make improvements within the match day setup, being keen to meet the fans and, of course, backing Gareth financially.

Sam: Firstly, sincere thanks must go to the Supporters Trust, for absolutely everything they did over the years. Whilst they did not run the football club, they were able to create an environment in a number of ways that allowed Wycombe to succeed and are a significant part of where we are currently.

The takeover however brings a new era and period and it’s safe to say that the takeover was just as important as what we Wycombe fans were seeing on the pitch.

One imagines that the key priority for the Couhigs will be to put the correct infrastructure in place… certainly introduce youth and reserve teams, perhaps upgrade the facilities and improve the accessibility of the club, both literally and figuratively. Are you excited to see if some of those changes can come to fruition?

Tom: For sure. A ‘B’ Team is already in the pipeline and we’d become only the second EFL club, after Brentford, to have one – and hey, it seems to have worked out pretty well for them! I’m sure we’ll continue to see a lot of improvements around the ground, following on from the success of the Chairboys Village.
Alex: A youth team would be absolutely massive for Ainsworth. He is very good at working with young players on loan so I would be very excited to see what he could do with some of our own. This would definitely help to provide more depth in the squad too. An introduction of a youth setup would be brilliant for the club long term. It is unusual for an EFL club not to have an academy. Only Brentford, Wycombe and Crawley Town are EFL members without one.
Sam: Having watched an interview with Rob Couhig recently where he answered fans questions, I cannot wait for the changes to come to fruition. The U23’s, introducing a youth and reserve team is a signal of intent and will allow us to recruit a new generation of players. It will also allow us to keep key players under contract. And the fact that new grass is being laid as we speak is just one of the first of many upgrades to the improvement of facilities we can expect. Improving the food in and around Adams Park as well as the implementation of the big screen has also helped.

David Stockdale is out of contract at Birmingham in the summer and might be open to re-joining. How would he compare with your other goalkeeper, Ryan Allsop? Will Cameron Yates ever get his chance?

Tom: I certainly hope he’s open to rejoining – although on his current wages, there’s no way in hell that’s happening. As for how he stacks up against Allsop, the reputation he’s built up as a top Championship ‘keeper precedes him. At the end of the day, he’s a better shot stopper and – most crucially, as this is Allsop’s weak spot, at times to our detriment – much more commanding. Distribution-wise, they’re probably similar – Allsop’s kicking is his main strength – but it should come as no surprise that Stocko is the superior ‘keeper, and the only reason he’s not tied down the number one spot since coming back on loan is that he’s not match fit.

As for Cameron Yates, I can’t comment as he’s only ever played in the EFL Trophy – so, like the vast majority of our fans, I’ve never actually seen him in action. Gaz and Dobbo seem to rate him, though, as we gave him a contract extension until June 2021 last summer.

Alex: I think Stockdale is on very heavy wages at Birmingham so we shall have to see if he is willing to take a bit of a cut. Allsop has been solid enough when he has played this season but competition for places is always welcome within the squad. Yates does have some promise but I am not sure if he is ready to challenge for a first team place. Yates was good for Leicester City’s youth teams and may well make it as an EFL goalkeeper but I do not think he is ready for League One football just yet.

Sam: Having two vastly experienced goalkeepers in Rocky and Stockdale doesn’t help Cameron Yates, however I believe a loan deal to a side challenging for promotion to the football league will help Cameron out and sooner rather than later he will get a chance.

There was a period midway through the season when right-back Jack Grimmer’s injury really hindered you going forward, as Sido Jombati is not simply not built to replicate his attacking qualities. Would you agree that you’d now be midtable without the re-signing of Jason McCarthy?

Tom: It wasn’t even necessarily the loss of Grimmer’s attacking drive which hindered us; Sido just isn’t a right-back, despite having come to the club as one. McCarthy has, of course, brought his unwavering forward gear we all know him for, but he’s solidified a position that became our Achilles’ heel when we had no choice but to play centre-backs there – more regularly Giles Phillips than Sido, actually, but obviously it was far from ideal in either case.

Alex: No, I do not think that is a fair statement. McCarthy is a quality player but he is just one in a well drilled team. Jombati’s best position in as a centre-half so it was not ideal having him to replace the excellent Grimmer at right-back. Despite that, I do not think that would have cost us enough points to fall away from a play-off challenge altogether. A big percentage of our goals come from set pieces with the wand that is Jacobson’s left boot, so having a less attacking right-back may not have impacted the goal return as much as some may think.

Sam: The signing of Jason McCarthy for me shows a player that wants to come back. He loves the club and the area, more importantly his family love the area. It would not surprise me if the money allows it to see Jase come back on a permanent deal. But then what do you do because pre injury Grimmer was one of our best players. I was absolutely buzzing when he came in on trial last summer and was the one trialist who I said we must sign no matter what. Having both at the club would give Gaz a selection problem. However, Jase can slip in at centre back or further up the pitch at rm. His signing was certainly a timely boost as Grimmer was injured, Phillips was being played out of position and Sido is more defence orientated rather than pushing forward or overlapping.

Wycombe sometimes have this reputation of being a direct team and sometimes that’s fair, but you look at somebody like Anthony Stewart… is he more accomplished in possession than he would get external credit for?

Tom: Of our two first-choice centre-backs, he’s the most ‘gung-ho’, but he’s got a sublime long pass in his locker – see his assists for Paul Smyth v Bolton on the opening day and Scott Kashket v Rotherham. He also showed great trickery to get into position for the former, but I think our fans generally recognise his technical ability.

Alex: Sometimes we do go fairly direct but why not play to a team’s strengths? Adebayo Akinfenwa is probably the best target man in the lower leagues. ‘The Beast’ offers a superb outlet when he is playing so it would almost be daft not to use him. His presence drags defenders away from the quicker players such as Onyedinma or Kashket so they have more space to run into. All in all, the direct approach can work very well. Centre-halves Stewart and Charles can be a big part of that way of playing. Stewart has shown he is comfortable on the ball but the longer passes are often the most effective way of playing for this team. It is very rare that Wycombe had more possession than their opponents this season (only once has it happened) so playing out from the back is not necessarily something that we specialise in.

Sam: His assist’s against Bolton opening day and against Rotherham show the qualities on the ball Anthony Stewart has. There is not a better centre back partnership in League One than Anthony Stewart and Darius Charles.

Do tell us about centre-back Darius Charles’ story, as it’s quite inspirational…

Tom: The bloke’s an absolute legend. From effectively being told he’d never play football again because of his arthritic hip, to being one of our players of the season, his is a truly inspirational story. After initially only re-signing on a six-month deal, he’s now contracted until June 2021 and I hope he gets to see that out – because frankly, sometimes he looks in agony out there, even if it doesn’t stop him from performing imperiously.

Alex: Inspirational does not do it justice. After a recurring problem with his hip, he was told by a doctor that he should retire from football in May 2019. He had only made seven appearances for Wycombe in 2018/19 before leaving the club in tears after being advised to retire. However his never say die attitude has managed to keep him in the game. After hours and hours of hard work and training, he was able to prove his fitness with Ainsworth and earn a contract for the first half of the 2019/20 season. After a string of superb displays he has since extended his deal until the end of 2020/21.


The story of Darius Charles…

Had a serious potential career ending hip injury.

Was told he’d never play again.

Released but told if he could come past injury a contract would be on the table.

Gaz stuck to his word.

19/10/2019 scores the winner against Sunderland.

Once fit, other than Rob Dickie, Darius Charles is the best centre back in League One.

Naturally, Charles struggles to play two games a week effectively and sometimes you’ve got to rotate with Jombati, Giles Phillips and Jamie Mascoll. Which of those players do you think should be the default stand-in?

Tom: That’s the only downside; if he could manage two games a week, I reckon we’d still be in the top two. If I had to pick, I’d go for Sido; even though he’s prone to the odd moment of madness (see the penalty he conceded against Coventry), he’s more technically adept than the still-developing Phillips and just more experienced. Regardless, though, neither can hold a candle to Charles and we will need another centre-back of his and Stewart’s calibre if we’re to be competitive again next season – I expect Sido will leave on a free and don’t think Phillips will be back.

Sam: Out of those three Sido Jombati. Many feel as though Sido has fallen over the years. He is still able to do a job. Giles is still inexperienced given the fact that League One has become significantly more challenging compared to our first season in the league. Mascoll is the perfect understudy for JJ.

Mascoll – and Jombati as mentioned above – can also cover a full-back area… I thought Mascoll put in a solid shift at left-back against Blackpool in January. With Wycombe’s budget, are you glad to have players who can play in more than one position?

Tom: Mascoll is an out-and-out left-back, but of course having versatile players is invaluable. That’s largely been born out of necessity, but I think you could argue it makes them better players. David Wheeler is probably the best example, having played on both wings, in a couple of different striking roles, and most recently in the midfield three. To be honest, every squad should have a good utility man or two.

Alex: It definitely does help a thin squad to have players capable of putting in a shift in multiple positions. It can also work as an advantage tactically, too. Opposition managers may be left guessing the formation when they see the team sheet. One that sticks in mind was the 3-0 win away at Rochdale in September. We lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Onyedinma and Grimmer as wing-backs. This then changed to 4-3-3 about 15 minutes into the game to allow Rochdale to dominate the ball in their midfield and defence. Once they played the ball into their attack an intense press started to allow them minimum time on the ball within our defensive third. It was a stroke of genius from Ainsworth as despite only 29% possession we walked away with a clean sheet, three goals and three points!

Sam: Mascoll, Wheeler, Freeman, Sido, McCarthy these are all the players who are capable of playing in a variety of positions. When they put in a good performance in a game it gives Gaz an extra headache.

Against Lincoln in September, Joe Jacobson became the first defender since Aden Flint in May 2015 to score a League One hat-trick. He must have reached club legend status by now?

Tom: He already was, but I think that secured it! Four-and-a-bit years after he almost did so by scoring the would-be winner in the play-off final. (What do you mean it was an own goal off the ‘keeper’s back?)

Alex: Absolutely. He has been a great servant during the six years he has had in Buckinghamshire. He has scored many important goals from set pieces for the club (including a stunning free-kick at Wembley in the 2015 play-off final). JJ has been labelled by Gareth as one of his ‘generals’ which shows how highly the manager values his Welsh left-back. He is almost guaranteed a spot in the League One Team of the Season which at 33 is a fantastic achievement.

Sam: Keeping it short and simple, for the past 3 or 4 years, I’ve said it on every occasion – JJ is the best left sided full back in the division. So, to answer your question – Yes without a doubt JJ has reached club legend status.

Talking of Wycombe legends, Matt Bloomfield continues to do the business at 36. How do you sum up his influence on the club over the last 17 years?

Tom: I was only nine years old when he arrived, so suffice to say I can’t really remember the early years, but he is Mr Wycombe for a reason. I’ll hold my hands up and admit I doubted whether he could carry on last season, but he’s never given anything less than his all for this club and 2019/20 has – as with many of our lads – arguably been his best ever campaign. A ‘defensive number 10’ is one of the least glamorous roles you could play, but it’s vital to the cause – and he’s still popped up with a couple of goals, producing probably our finish of the season in February’s win over Bristol Rovers. In Ryan Giggs style, he’s scored in every season he’s been at the club.

Alex: He has well and truly established himself as a legend here at Adams Park. You always know what you are going to get when Blooms is in the team – 100% effort, passion and a willingness to get stuck in. I think his attitude towards the club has been summed up when he broke his arm trying to dive for a header at York City in 2016. Luckily, his header went in and salvaged us a point. He has put in some solid shifts this campaign wearing the captain’s armband. He also managed to achieve his boyhood dream of playing at Portman Road. I am delighted for him as he got released from Ipswich as a 19-year-old and only made one first team appearance which was in the League Cup. Since arriving in Buckinghamshire in 2003 he has certainly made this place his home.

Sam: Matt Bloomfield is the ultimate professional. He simply is Mr Wycombe. Always puts that extra 10% in at his age and is even unafraid of sustaining a potentially serious injury as seen in the horrific clash of heads when we beat Lincoln. His influence on the club over the past 17 years cannot be underestimated. I can imagine he is the father figure in the dressing room. After Hayes left, Bloomfield and JJ are the last of the old guard in the sense that they have been around the club for so long. It’s great to have that experience in and around the club on a daily basis.

Dominic Gape and Curtis Thompson have played next to one another frequently over the last couple of seasons. Do they compliment one another’s game?

Tom: I’d say they’re more similar than people might think. Although Gape comes with an off switch and Thompson doesn’t, both are generally composed in possession but always aggressive out of it – as they need to be given that our midfield is markedly more about ball-winning than ball-playing. I guess they do complement each other, though, in the sense that Gape is the deeper-lying ‘sweeper-upper’ who shields the back four, while Thompson has more licence to roam.

Alex: 100% they do. Both are fairly defensive minded which gives the defence some solid protection. In the latter stages of the season we played a 4-4-1-1. Having the tireless energy of Gape and Thompson in the middle is vital to that system. Ainsworth has usually opted to play 4-3-3 with Wycombe so losing a body in the middle of the park could have caused concern. However, both Gape and Thompson have the legs to allow this not to be a problem.

Gape’s passing range is an underrated attribute of his. He has no problem pinging the ball 40 yards to Akinfenwa or one of the other forwards. Thompson’s aggressive nature is great to watch, he is a master of keeping the opposition’s playmaker quiet, as shown when Marcus Maddison was substituted early against us.

Sam: The perfect duo in the middle of our park. Thompson and Gape compliment each other so well. Add in Blooms, Oforborh, Wheeler or Freeman and our midfield looks very strong on paper and almost every game delivers week in week out.

Nnamdi Ofoborh has stepped in for Gape or Thompson at certain points. He’s clearly aggressive with a strong build, if lacking in certain areas… would you want him back from Bournemouth?

Tom: I’d have him in on a permanent deal if we could pull it off. He’s raw, yes, but he’s an excellent reader of the game – both in terms of anticipating balls out of possession and picking passes himself (e.g. to Samuel v Ipswich) – and his passion is something else. For me, he’s deserved more minutes than he’s had.

Alex: I definitely think Nnamdi has huge potential. I must admit, I was not convinced with him at first but he has definitely proved me wrong. He is an imposing figure in midfield and can pick a pass too. For someone so young, he does look like he has played at this level for a while. I definitely would consider getting him back once his loan expires.

Sam: Without a shadow of a doubt. Nnamdi is a fantastic young talent. He has developed so much already this season. A fair few Bournemouth fans were shocked that he moved two divisions down as there was already talk of him breaking into their first team at some point this season. So yes 100% I would love Nnamdi Ofoborh to come back to Wycombe.

Nick Freeman made a huge impact from the bench in a sequence of games early in the season. How do you feel he has fared since when entrusted with a starting berth?

Tom: I’ve always been a Nick Freeman fan, so I guess it was inevitable that I’d rave about him after his early-season performances against MK and Southend in particular – but I wasn’t the only one! He’s a flair player, a creator, so he doesn’t slot seamlessly into our hard-scrapping midfield – although you might be surprised by how much he gets stuck in – but it’s still been disappointing that he hasn’t consistently pushed on from those dazzling displays. At 24, though, he’s still got time on his side and I’d back him to truly ‘break out’ next season if we start to move away from our direct football.

Alex: Freeman has perhaps what he would think is an unwanted reputation of being a ‘super sub’. He was one of Wycombe’s key players at the start of this season and a massive reason why we were doing so well. He is not blessed with electric pace so that may be a factor why he is so effective coming on from the bench – the game is stretched and the opposition defence are tired so he can use his technical qualities to expose them. He has great footwork and a desire to always play the ball forward.

Sam: Nick Freeman is one of those players who because of the sheer number of players we have does not start week in week out. Nearly every time he comes off of the bench or is afforded a starting position, he has lit up games and at times has won them single-handedly for us.

You’ve achieved your results this season often without the likes of speedster Rolando Aarons and creative midfielder Alex Pattison… obviously Aarons is at Motherwell now, but has Pattison done enough in his appearances to earn a renewed contract?

Tom: A pre-Couhig signing – our first of the summer – he really impressed on his debut with his drive and willingness to shoot from distance – something we just don’t really do – but his opportunities have been limited. I’m not sure he’d be at the top of the list for a new deal.

Alex: Pattison has shown promise in some of the games which he has played in this season. He has a great passing range which often has gone unnoticed. I’m not sure where the manager stands on him after he has had a spell out of the team. I do think Pattison will go on to have a decent EFL career whether he gets a new deal or not.

Sam: Alex Pattison is an intriguing one. There is without a doubt a very good player in there. I would certainly keep him around given that Blooms won’t be able to play week in week out, JGS more than likely to get another loan and potentially Ofoborh going back to Bournemouth. There are however as with most players areas of his game that need to be taken to the next level but name a better manager than Ainsworth who is capable of unlocking that talent.

Jacob Gardiner-Smith seemed to enjoy his time on loan at Braintree, but it could be a stretch for him to jump up from the sixth-tier to the third – or second! Do you expect him to get a new contract and then a more advanced loan spell, or could he be released?

Tom: The only time I’ve seen him play was at Barnet way back in July. He scored, but I honestly cannot remember the game – the first friendly of pre-season is rarely a classic! Honestly, I have no idea what will be next for him; I’m afraid you’d have to ask Gaz that one.

Alex: I have no idea how Ainsworth views JGS. To be honest, I am not even sure if I have seen him play since pre-season so it is unfair for me to comment on him.

Sam: Jacob Gardiner-Smith should be rewarded with a new contract and as you mention be given a more advanced loan spell. He is an exciting one for the future.

You’ve got back fit wide forward Fred Onyedinma, who managed four appearances in February. Did that give you a timely boost?

Tom: I’m just going to come out and say that Fred is our best player and probably better than League One standard. Had he stayed fit throughout the season, we might well still be top now. Duncan Alexander aka @oilysailor described him to me as “promotion juice” and he’s not wrong.

Alex: Yes, he is our most talented player. It is a shame he missed so much of the season with injury because I know he would have had such a positive influence for us. The extended break due to Covid-19 could potentially favour Fred as he did not look up to match sharpness in a couple of his appearances since injury. This time will allow him to ensure he is up to fitness and ready play a huge part in whatever football is to come.

Sam: I don’t think anyone can underestimate the impact Fred has on our team. When he’s fit he is our best player. Can play on either wing or even as experimented with at times this season, in the hole behind the striker. Without a doubt he gave us a more attacking impetus and we looked more dangerous going forward when he returned from his injury.

In your 2017-18 promotion season, Adebayo Akinfenwa started all but five league matches and your game revolved around him so much, that I almost felt like you didn’t know what to do when you were without him. With Akinfenwa starting just 20 times this year and Alex Samuel leading the line so well in certain games, have you been able to reduce the burden on Bayo?

Tom: I think so. We’ve had to manage how we use him and we’ve done it well – he’s still been involved in every league game this season bar the one when he was suspended. He’s still a huge part of what we do, but Samuel’s relentless pressing allows us to give opposing defenders nightmares of a different kind – even though the goal threat isn’t there with him because of the kind of player he is, probably the most selfless striker I’ve ever seen.

Alex: I think the better technical players that we now have has allowed Ainsworth to mix up the tactics somewhat. It is no secret that we were heavily reliant on Akinfenwa’s presence for a couple of years but it looks like we have other ways of playing now. Samuel’s press is key in games where the opposition like to play out from the back. He chases everything down so is a good player to have in those situations. I do think we are a better team with Akinfenwa in the side but it is nice to see the tactics mixed up when it is appropriate.

Sam: A number of Wycombe fans will know my opinion on the striker situation at Wycombe. Bayo is obviously our number one striker. Samuel does not cut it for me. I appreciate his hard work and his ability to run and run and run. Unfortunately, when Bayo is not in the team, Samuel’s goals are virtually non-existent, and we have relied on set pieces or a cross float over the keeper to grab a goal. With the way the league has gone this season, I feel a striker capable of hitting 10-15 to come in and play when Bayo hasn’t been able to would have been an added bonus. Kashket, Parker, Wheeler and Smyth all are fantastic players too and efforts have been great when played.

One of the things you need without Akinfenwa is an alternative reference point – and I’m sure you’d agree that neither Samuel nor Scott Kashket provide that. Does David Wheeler, who has such a good spring from either wide position, become more important when Bayo is out?

Tom: He’s definitely our biggest aerial threat after Bayo, but when the big man’s not in the side we tend to keep it on the deck a bit more and don’t necessarily look for that same kind of reference point. He’s a vital cog in the machine whether the Beast is on or not, to be honest. An unsung hero of the season – something I nominated him for – and he ended up going on NTT20 to talk about as a result.

Alex: Wheeler is good in the air but when Akinfenwa is not in the team we tend to be less direct. Wheeler is a very important player for us as he can play multiple roles very well. He has the ability to play as a traditional winger, an inside forward or in the middle just off the main striker. I like him playing put wide where he can drift inside and pick up the second balls. He is also excellent off the ball. His positioning is almost faultless and I have really enjoyed watching him play for my team.

Sam: David Wheeler for me is in contention for player of the season. Without a doubt he does not get the credit he deserves. A fantastic player and with Grimmer as well two fantastic additions to a team that were one of the so-called favourites for relegation. Able to hit Wheeler up top with winner against his old club MK and the equaliser against Ipswich on New Year’s Day in particular showed that Bayo and Wheeler can play well together.

The common theme in Paul Smyth’s career is that he seems to perform well in teams that are looking to upset the odds… he did it to an extent at QPR, then with Accrington Stanley and now your lot. He’s a bundle of positive energy really, isn’t he?

Tom: He certainly is. We haven’t seen as much from him as we would have liked – not just because he spent a chunk of time on the sidelines but also because he had to play on the left as Fred continued his recovery. The right is definitely his position and in our win at Bolton in February, the first time in goodness knows how long that we had him there and Fred on the left – his strongest position – they both tore it up. I’d 100% have him back here next season.

Alex: Smyth is another player who I really like. I can see that he has a great attitude and is really hungry to learn and improve. He is blessed with natural pace as well as quick feet. He will go far in the game, I am sure. He needs to keep up his hard work because he certainly has the natural ability to be a big player for QPR.

Sam: Whilst some may argue he may not have hit the numbers in terms of goals, he’s a breath of fresh air is Paul Smyth. On Paul Smyth and Wycombe all I will say is watch this space. Let’s just say if the season were to finish now, I would not be too upset regarding Paul Smyth as I don’t think we have seen the last of him in a Wycombe shirt.

Some might suggest that Josh Parker is a touch fortunate to have another year left on his contract. I don’t know if other clubs will come in for him when recruitment starts again, but if not, it’s surely vital for his career that he takes his opportunities next season?

Alex: Parker has not played badly this season he just has not really had a fair chance. When I have seen him, I like what he offers and I can understand why he featured for promotion winning Charlton last season. I hope we see more of him in a Wycombe shirt but I would not blame him if he wants to leave to chase first team football.

Sam: In my personal opinion, anyone that says Parker is a touch fortunate to have another year left is absurd. If he had been given the amount of chances Samuel had been given, I can comfortably say he’d have double if not triple the amount of goals Samuel has. Parker’s versatility can also help Gaz out and he certainly impressed with the chances given and I know a vast majority of fans agreed that he should have been given the chances in the team that Samuel had been getting.

Regardless of the outcome the authorities decide, how do you reflect on the bulk of 2019-20 for Wycombe Wanderers?

Tom: Football is about the ride and we’ve been on one heck of a ride – and it’s not over yet. Regardless of what happens, for the third time in as many Mays, I am thoroughly proud to be a Wycombe fan – especially with all that’s going on right now, as we as a club have conducted ourselves in a way others could learn from.

Alex: This season will only be remembered with fondness by all Wycombe fans. It is the campaign where we have achieved our highest ever league position, left trust ownership and led the division for a couple of months. Massive credit to the Couhigs, Gaz, Dobbo and the players for putting a smile on all of the fans’ faces.

Sam: To keep it short and simple. 19-20 has been a fantastic season for Wycombe. Regardless of like you say the outcome the authorities decide, Wycombe have defied the odds, exceeded expectations and allowed us the fans to dream. With the takeover and key contracts being handed out to Ainsworth and players such as Gape the future is going to be shining bright at Adams Park for a number of years to come.

If it doesn’t don’t worry and panic, we’ll just go back to our so called “little Wycombe tag” and keep flying under the radar. A message to the rest of the League One teams , “We are Wycombe Wanderers, you may not like the style of football we play, but we have earned our place so sit up and take note, we are not going anywhere anytime soon, well maybe the Championship if this season gets back underway at some point”.

Exciting times are coming for Wycombe.