David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Wycombe Wanderers’ Category

Where Next?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

GA

Second derby of the season against cross-county rivals Oxford United has come and gone, with this time yet another home loss to add to our ever-increasing troubles with serious thoughts as to whether we can avoid the drop into non-league football. Wycombe.

I’m very confused. Dazed. One of our best performances of the season, yet it’s another home league loss this season, and leaves us dangling in 20th, just two points off the drop into the pit that is non-league football.

Subject to what is swiftly becoming known as ‘standard league two refereeing’, Steven Craig was sent off after just twenty minutes for a dubious elbow decision that landed nowhere near John Mullins’ face. Straight red for the Scot recently back from a calf injury, ended by a shot of calf’s blood to the calf area. Madness. Prior to this Oxford has somewhat dominated proceedings, but sensing the disappointment in front of the home fans, Wycombe regrouped, and went at the game all guns blazing, the Gareth Ainsworth way. Aggression, passion and determination to pick up what would have been a massive three points considering the league position of the two sides, and the 1,500 Oxford fans who turned out in  force, but silent, who claimed this “wasn’t a derby”.

At half-time, the stats were in our favour. Having had more of the ball with one less man, and one more shot on target, showed we were by no means out of this game, and confidence was amongst the supporters for one of the first times in months. The second half began with Oxford once again taking the front foot, and with Ryan Williams causing a constant threat all afternoon, Wycombe’s back five had to be alert at all times. A number of chances fell both ways, but none more noticeable than when the ball bounced down to Gary Doherty six yards out, only for him to fire straight at the onrushing Clarke in the Oxford goal. The one person you don’t want in that position.

With Craig off the field, the front five in Lewis, Scowen, Arnold, Bloomfield and McClure, put in a shift and a half. Tired legs crept in after the hour mark, after what can only be described as a determined performance by the quarters. From here, Oxford began to dominate proceedings again, picking up a number of bookings to block off any potential counter attack Gareth Ainsworth’s men threw at them. Again, good wing play from Williams kept Sam Wood, our left-back, pinned back inside our own half. Arguably, after both picked up a booking for an altercation late in the second half, Williams could’ve, and probably should’ve, seen red, after a number of dives that were only frowned upon by the match referee, Brendan Malone, who had a poor game.

But, the sucker punch looked like it was coming. A few chances from Williams, Rigg and Constable left Oxford wondering what they had to do to get past Matt Ingram. But, on the 87th minute, it arrived. Some good build up play from the visitors, Nicky Wroe found himself in too much space on the edge of the box. A sweet strike, it must be said, went sailing to Ingram’s right, and left Wycombe fans mulling over a seventh home league loss, out of 13 home games, and without a home win since October 12. Poor.

As much as we played well and Saturday and were unlucky to lose, it was yet another late goal that put us to the sword. It was the eighth goal we’ve conceded in the final team minutes of games already this season, the most in the league. But why? Is it fatigue? Is it tactics? Poor substitutions? For me, I think all of these contributed at different times. Fatigue was the reasoning for Saturday’s late goal, but why didn’t Ainsworth make the substitutions when you realise that Lewis and Scowen are unable to run their feet into the ground anymore? There appears to be a real lack of tactical knowledge in the Wycombe backroom staff, with Ainsworth in his first managerial role, Richard Dobson being there because his old role wasn’t needed, and Lee Harrison leaving two weeks ago, Ainsworth is left to making all footballing decisions on his own, and instead of potentially taking notes and getting this across to his team, he prefers the “run up and down the line like I’m still playing approach”, one which I’ve personally never seen in professional football.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Gareth Ainsworth, and after his marvellous football league career, he has the potential to be a good coach and a good manager, but whilst he’s in his first few seasons in charge, an experienced, knowledgeable head is something that me, and many other fans would like to see, just to settle the ship, and avoid the drop.

So where do we go from here? The next few weeks and some of the most important games since I started attending Wycombe matches at the age of 6. In the next four games, we face 17th placed Mansfield, 21st placed Portsmouth, 19th placed Bury, and we end this run with 18th placed Accrington Stanley. Absolutely massive.  There is definitely the potential to get 12 points from these games, but the passion from Saturday needs to be shown in these four games, and the rest of the season.

In terms of squad, we currently have a mid-table to play-off places, type of squad. Where we are in the league, isn’t where a squad of our calibre should be. But, as we all know, in league two,  theres always a player who can improve every position on the pitch. We brought in Jordan Mustoe on loan from Wigan on Friday, to fill up the left-back spot which may allow Sam Wood to push forward into left midfield with the absence of Paris Cowan-Hall, who was rejected by JLS before signing in the summer. But the market can be exploited even further. On the rare occasion we create chances, nine times out of ten, there’s been no one there to put the ball in the back of the net. In McClure, Craig, Kuffour, Morais, Pittman and Morgan, we have plenty of options, but none have really marked this season with any type of consistency in scoring goals. Just two years back, the loan signings of Paul Hayes and Marcello Trotta were very close to keeping us in League One. We’ve already missed out on Paul Hayes, who re-joined Scunthorpe after becoming a free agent for a short period of time, but a potential loan for a Premier League or Championship striker is still an option open to Wycombe. For me, it’s a must.

Lets just hope we can start to turn things around!

Written by George Stokes, We Are Going Up’s Wycombe Wanderers Blogger

George tweets at @georgestokes13

Rejuvenated by One Man

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

GA

When Gareth Ainsworth took over as player manager back in late September 2012, the fans were just overjoyed with Waddock being sacked, that anyone could’ve been placed in charge and we would’ve been buzzing. The extra buzz came from it being Ainsworth, someone we loved on the pitch in the last few years of his career, through his passion and commitment. The ‘Gareth Ainsworth way’, known throughout the football league as being this hard-working, tenacious, passionate style of play that gets results. It was a tricky start for Ainsworth though. His first game away at Dagenham & Redbridge saw us lose that game 3-0, and the initial excitement was replaced by, “what if it’s the players? What if he can’t help us?” as we sat bottom of the Football League. Bleak times.

The first season under Ainsworth’s control, for me, was summed up when we met Dagenham & Redbridge at Adams Park on the 19th January, four months after the 3-0 beating. The score line was only 1-0 to us, but the football we played that day was some of the best I’ve ever seen at Wycombe. The mentality Ainsworth had thrust upon the players was one of hard graft, and every single player brought into that (bar Dennis Oli). To turn around a four goal deficit, no matter who it’s against, is a very good achievement, especially within the same season. This led us onto a three game unbeaten streak, followed by a poor end to October and start to November, but after that we went from strength to strength. We really improved as a side , and our steady climb up the League Two table, actually gave us an outside chance of making the play-offs. The point is, when we wanted a new manager, we would’ve taken absolutely anyone because of the hatred that had built up for Gary Waddock, but, if the board of all Wycombe Wanderers supporters had picked anyone else, we could be playing our football now, not in the football league, but in the non-leagues, against the likes of Luton Town and Welling United, and not looking forward to League Cup games against Leicester, and Tuesday night away trips to Fratton Park.

The way Ainsworth has gone about reconstructing our side, is not through making any huge marquee signings, because we don’t have the money to do so! It is through the style Ainsworth played with throughout his career, with hard work, passion, belief and determination. His first move was recalling Josh Scowen from Blue Square Bet South side Eastbourne Borough. No one knew why, but looking at it now with hind-sight, it was like making a £200,000 signing. Scowen was arguably the player of the season last year, and fitted Ainsworth’s style right down to the last word. His tenacious running and battling saw him pick up a booking almost every game, alongside his midfield partner Stuart Lewis, who’s now club captain for this season.

We had the hard-working type of football, with outlets in Grant and Andrade who could change the game if they got the ball. When the summer came around, it was going to be a struggle to keep Joel, as his performances had helped us get out of trouble. He left for newly-promoted Championship side Yeovil Town, whereas Andrade returned to QPR as his loan expired. It was devastating, as you saw in my previous article, but they’ve been replaced by very similar players, and from first viewing, they’ve really impressed me.

Saturday was the first viewing, first game of the 2013-14 season at home to Morecambe. We played the same style of play as last season, and grinded out a victory. A very good performance, which could’ve resulted in 1 3 or 4-0 victory. We overpowered them. They hit the bar from a corner, and that was it. The style played didn’t give them any space to play. To be fair, they are one of worse sides in the league, but even if it was a top side, they’d have grown increasingly frustrated with constantly having someone at their feet, behind them, pestering them for the full 90 minutes.

All of this though, is leading up to one big game this week, Leicester. The Capital one Cup first round saw us drawn against Championship side Leicester City at home. They have some talented players, yes, but with (I hate to keep going on about it) our style of play, we can really contain their expressive football and put THEM on the back foot, not us. It’s very hard to find gaps along the floor through any of the lines in our side, from the attack, to the defence. It’s obviously not impossible to break through, but for a League Two side, it’s almost watertight.

There’s only one person to thank for this. Gareth Ainsworth. Legend. When the trust put him in charge of the side, it has been so noticeable it’s unreal. We have the same squad of players, but what Ainsworth gets out of them is amazing, and can actually put us in contention up the top of the league this season. The major thing Ainsworth has, which every manager needs, is backing from the players AND the fans. It begins in the stands. When we started losing games under Waddock, the fans got on his back, with clearly, gets to the players, and they start to lose belief in themselves, and then the manager, which can be fatal, especially for a struggling side. Ainsworth uses the term in almost all his interviews, ‘OneWycombe’ and that’s exactly what it is now. The management, fan ownership, players and fans are all just as important to the club as the next, it’s a great feeling. People working inside the club have said that, from March, they’ve never seen at atmosphere like it at Adams Park. In the terraces, in the changing room, in the ticket office, everywhere, because everyone is treated the same and they all play their part in keeping the cogs at the club running smoothly.

Long may it continue.

Written by George Stokes, We Are Going Up’s Wycombe Wanderers Blogger

George tweets at @georgestokes13

 

Grant’s departure a blessing in disguise?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

JG

When the Wycombe Wanderers Twitter feed confirmed the much-anticipated news of Joel Grant leaving the club on Wednesday, I think I speak for everyone, when I struggled to fight off the tears for a good few hours. Joel was the spark in our side, someone who could collect the ball and change the course of the match. Oxford United away last season springs to mind immediately.

The news of Grant’s departure completely overshadowed the arrival of Paris Cowan-Hall from Plymouth the day before. A very like for like replacement for the fast Jamaican, and will almost certainly be on less than half of Joel’s wage.

But, within a day, depression was replaced with jubilation through the fan-zone when American forward, Jon-Paul Pittman returned to the club two years after he left the club for reasons still unknown. He was a fan favourite in his first spell at Adams Park, scoring 14 league goals in 77 matches, and helped guide the Chairboys to promotion in to 2010-11 season. Pittman is still a very solid Npower League Two finisher, but has lost some form in the latter stage of his Oxford United career ( the dark side), but I have every confidence that whether it be upfront or out wide, John-Paul can offer us something.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget Pittman’s four-minute hat-trick against Chelsea in pre-season three years ago, I just hope he can show some of his form under Gary Waddock three years ago.

After the three-day manic, and eventually getting my head around Joel’s departure, I began thoughts of whether or not his departure is actually going to be a blessing. Well, after days of deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that yes, yes it is a blessing in disguise for two reasons. Firstly, Joel was a player who could play on the wing or in attack. The signings of Jon-Paul Pittman and Paris Cowan-Hall are two very good League Two level players, who can play wing or attack, for the same cost (roughly) as the wage we were paying Grant. That’s two for the price of one! Secondly, as much as I thought Grant was a stand-out player for Wycombe, when you actually look at the stats, in terms of goal scoring, he only scored 14 times in 68 league appearances, many of them penalties, which made me question, how good actually was he? Well, when Joel arrived, he had the challenge of taking over from Wycombe favourite Kevin Betsy. He didn’t live up to his heights, so for me, he’s nowhere near an all-time Wycombe side. He stood out in a struggling side last season, but his move to the Championship could be a push too far, nevertheless I wish him all the best. The point is though that Pittman and Cowan-Hall combined, potentially alone, can match the goal tally Grant achieved with some ease.

As much as I rate Joel Grant as a silky footballer that he was, personally I believe that the two new additions are more financially viable for us as a club in our current state, and can fill the gap left by Grant. Of course any side would miss a player of his class, but as a lower league football fan, you grow to understand that players will move on. It’s happened all too often for my favourite Wycombe players; Roger Johnson, Kevin Betsy, Matt Phillips, Jermaine Easter, Nikki Bull, the list goes on. Under Gareth Ainsworth’s vibrant, hard-working style of management, along with his tenacious style of football, the hole Grant leaves will be shrunk very quickly.

In conclusion, I will, of course, miss having Joel Grant in our side. I don’t believe in some people’s views that it shows a backward step by the club, instead it could be seen as a step to assuring the club is around for a lot longer. I’ll miss his silky feet and dirty step-overs, mesmerising full-backs on a regular basis, but his talent is more than matchable, and as the title suggests, Joel Grant leaving is certainly a blessing in disguise for Wycombe.

Written by George Stokes, We Are Going Up’s Wycombe Wanderers Blogger

George tweets at @georgestokes13

The comedy of defensive errors

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

After a reasonably successful December with goals aplenty – six in four by Fulham loanee Marcello Trotta, it appeared Wycombe Wanderers’ fortunes were on the up and we had got our Christmas present early. Out of the relegation zone, a squad full of confidence, things couldn’t have been better, apart from the fact the next fixture was due to be against Stevenage.

Up until the eve of 2012 the team had been playing attacking exciting and relatively successful football,  it was clear that Stevenage were not going to allow them to continue this.  In the build-up to the encounter most of the talk and discussion was of Graham Westley’s side’s tactics and physical mentality. In the previous seasons encounters both sides celebrated victories on each other’s patch, Stevenage’s victory at Adams Park was my first site of their style of play and I was certainly less than impressed.

Yet again, 8 months later I was feeling equally frustrated and also slightly bored of the Borough boy’s bullish manner. I expect any ‘new’ fans in attendance at either of these encounters would be considering whether live football was worth it. The only credit you can give to Stevenage is that they are well organised and work hard. Unfortunately they also slow down and effectively kill the game.

Professional fouls and constant little kicks unsettled Wycombe’s passing game and soon the men in blue began to send aimless balls towards the oppositions defence. The more Wycombe became frustrated, tired and out of ideas, the more they began trying to actually win. Their troubles in this match and for the subsequent fixtures were not helped by the loss of Big Dave Winfield who seemed to of regained confidence and form in this match – his style of defence is similar to that of Stevenage’s – went off injured.

With just one centre half on the field and a suspect Alice band wearing midfielder back in the side it was inevitable that for all Wycombe’s work and efforts, they would lose again and end the mini revival. John Halls failed to clear a simple cross confusing Laurie Wilson’s shout for the ball as one of his Stevenage teammates who dispatched it with ease.

At the time while deeply frustrated with the defeat and the way it was secured, it was clear the players tried hard and so a visit to Bournemouth, who at the time had a home record worse than Wycombe, seemed to be a good opportunity. In the end I was just glad I visited the beach. The Stevenage game clearly had made mental and physical damage to the squad. Right from the off most of the side looked hurt and uninterested.

Confidence had gone, wingers seemed scared of running, the ball boys saw more of the possession than the visitors. Another poor defensive goal was conceded, the ball yet again not cleared. In the second half boss Gary Waddock had to change something, either motivationally or tactically. Out came the same team in the same formation, surely then the players will all look interested now then? This was not the case and after an early goal was conceded in the half more players lost care.

Nikki Bull took it upon himself to rally the troops, “Get one now and were right in this lads!”, well received by the fans, but by the looks of it ignored by the players. Such a dire display let fans creating their own entertainment, pretending that Wycombe had scored one and then a second, then a third. At the time it would have been unimaginable for the team to have changed their ways and got back into the match in such a fashion, yet just weeks before a spirited comeback against Chesterfield was made.

Press reports suggested that the players were sorry, and would change it in their next game, they suggested to the fans they would be watching a masterful performance in the next fixture, it’s what they deserved. Whilst writing apologies and fighting talk it appears no-one thought to look at who their next opponent was – Huddersfield Town and Mr. Jordan Rhodes.

Live on Sky the players should have been motivated, firstly to right the wrongs of the past fixtures but also to put themselves in the shop window. Mr Waddock should have prepared to ensure that a repeat of Wycombe’s last televised fixture with the Terriers was repeated. Someone should have been putting extra hours working on defending set pieces and clearances, maybe the signing of a new defender, maybe someone should of looked at videos of Jordan Rhodes and equipped themselves for battle. None of these were achieved.

The result was another gutless defeat made worse by the fact that all football fans looked on laughing. Jordan Rhodes was sensational, however he should never have scored five, how Huddersfield were allowed such freedom to run riot we will never know. So again what followed was more talk of getting back bigger and stronger, harsher words were spoken. In the process of the defeat the team also lost another centre half and they appeared in big trouble, but everyone at the club was talking of redemption away to Preston.

What didn’t help was the fact that we weren’t sure who would be in charge of the opponents, also the fact that the club seemed incapable of bringing in a defender, and the fact two current defenders couldn’t even keep a clean sheet against Chalfont St. Peter in the Berks and Bucks Cup.  However Graham Westley was not to be in charge and Anthony Stewart was rightfully given his debut at centre half alongside right back Danny Foster.

Wycombe made a promising start and Trotta netted his first in three games. However 8 minutes was too early for to open the scoring. Just before the break, from yet another corner came the equaliser. Bull came to collect the ball and missed it, Stewart behind him desperately readjusted himself to get a head on it, only to divert it downwards into Bull’s back before the ball was stabbed cruelly into the Wycombe net.

For the fourth time since Christmas it was a corner that wasn’t cleared. Waddock had to do something to change this before the game but failed, at half time he needed to restore confidence and try resolve this issue. A corner came in, Strevens and Basey failed to track their man and are beaten, Clarke Carlisle heads goalwards and mayhem on the line leads to the ball scrambled in, the fifth goal conceded from a corner in five games.

Wycombe were still in the game, but Waddock had to make a change and the defence had to work out how to defend set pieces. Even when Preston delivered another corner kick which did not lead to a goal, the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, to sicken the travelling support. Debutant Stewart was adjudged to have been too strong in battling for the ball – penalty. Even if it was a penalty, quite often referees ignore such challenges, but not this time. Paul Parry sent Bull the wrong way to make it 3-1 and despite a red card plus a late goal from Marcello Trotta, Wycombe were defeated again. The defence were the comic stars of the show, Marcello the leading man of the sub-plot who deserves so much more. Score two away from home and still lose.

With time running out many are beginning to question the leadership of Waddock. But would sacking him now make any difference? Any new manager would either have to work miracles with the current squad or find defensive equivalents of Trotta in the loan market. Safety is still very much possible, a win at home to Rochdale and the team may be back in contention with the others, leaving ‘Dale in their wake.

If Waddock leaves and a replacement is not found before that game or if they don’t have time to make the changes necessary Wycombe could well out of touch, with Chesterfield their competitors for 23rd spot. Whoever is in charge has to get three of the magic stuff in this game and a good performance is even more important, if only to slightly make up for previous displays that have disgraced the great quartered Oxford/Cambridge blue men.

Waddock is running out of time and so are Wycombe. I just hope I don’t have to quote Shakespeare and say “Proceed, Waddock, to procure my fall, and by the doom of death end woes and all!”

Written by Cameron Quigley, We Are Going Up’s Wycombe Wanderers Blogger

Cameron tweets at @squigley93

Christmas shop needed for Blues

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

As the nights become bleaker, so do the fortunes of Buckinghamshire’s finest football club. Things are better off in League One than this time two seasons ago but the feeling of pessimism is the same. Three league wins provide nine of the club’s thirteen points as they sit second bottom. It is easy to say it should have been more, some performances have been adequate and poor defensive mistakes, plus the lack of clinical finisher have cost Wycombe too often.

But in visits to Tranmere Rovers, Yeovil and Oldham and Conference outfit Fleetwood Town in the F.A Cup, Wycombe seemed to not really bother, with striker Scott Rendell baffling many with his statement saying “they wanted it more.” Is it simply a question of motivation, or are these professional sportsmen funded with the hard earned cash of fanatical football men, women and children just simply not good enough for this level?

The start to the season suggested Wanderers had quality; the side looked strong and capable of putting up a fight. The third game of the season away to Leyton Orient left many supporters full of hope that maybe it might not be quite as difficult in League One this year. The club are not expecting to compete with the big budget sides of the division of course, but perhaps they could match the stature of  the Hartlepools and Oldhams, well above Yeovil, Rochdale and Stevenage. The visit of Bournemouth on Saturday is big. Defeat and heavy reflection is required as the team could be bottom of the league and slowly losing ground.

The obvious problem is that Wycombe. Former manager Peter Taylor said he couldn’t bring goals to the Park, Gary Waddock has said the same. The team certainly scored goals in their unsuccessful attempt to beat the drop back to the basement in 2010, the only issue was that until the final month they insisted on allowing the opposition to increase their goals for tally. Last year the goals dried up but the team looked solid, promotion was achieved and everyone was delighted.

What was hard to argue was how to move in the transfer market. Scott Rendell top scored with 19, very good considering injuries and personal circumstances. The issue was his performances did not match his £125,000 price tag and a lot of his goals came from 12 yards and from the same spot. Stuart Beavon was given a contract extension ahead of John Paul Pittman, the right decision. However the club then signed local lad Elliot Benyon on a season long loan, replacing pace, power and a genuine goal threat -and admittedly physio room regular – with a small, slow, low on confidence player who once did form a good partnership with Rendell.

Youth striker Matt McClure has promise and was sent out on loan to build confidence and experience, it started well until injury struck. Joel Grant and Kevin Betsy have both previously played ‘up front’ but there goal records aren’t too impressive either. Up steps youngster, Jordan Ibe. Fifteen years old is incredibly young, but he shone like a beacon last year in the reserves and youth team and began training first team this summer. He’s now been given his chance. He’s got a whole lot to learn obviously but his goal against Sheffield Wednesday proves Wycome have got something to look forward too.

However does playing a school kid in big fixtures ahead of other strikers not show signs of desperation? He’s clearly talented but at the moment he’s starting, a 15 year old boy is playing in League One for Wycombe. Not to forget the club’s two other strikers, Ben Strevens and Stuart Beavon, who are probably their best two frontmen, although both are possibly ‘too hard working’ and can end up way out of position leaving opposing defenders marking themselves.

In the away match at Hartlepool they showed an abundance of promise that has since vanished. Beavon has the better first touch of the two and sublime vision, but often his teammates aren’t on the same wavelength. Ben Strevens, when feeling confident is a decent goal poacher at this level but for 85 minutes of the game he will drop too deep, leaving Beavon to work a goal out of nothing – sometimes he can do it but a team cannot rely on the one individual.

Now even the defence is looking weak and the wingers, who looked promising during pre-season do not seem able to consistently supply goals and chances. The middle of the park also has so much potential, but too often have been beaten physically leaving the team open to attack. Nicolas Bignall joined on loan, came on as a substitute against League leaders Charlton Athletic and looked as though he might make a difference, displaying strength, pace and hunger.

However another injury struck and now the Blues are back to their defensive attack, toothless strike force and unproven proven goal scorers, survival should be a breeze, after all it is Wycombe Wanderers.

Written by Cameron Quigley, We Are Going Up’s Wycombe Wanderers Blogger

Cameron tweets at @squigley93