Date: 6th August 2009 at 12:29pm
Written by:

This Saturday, Wycombe Wanderers return to action in the third tier of English football for the first time since 8th May 2004, when they drew 1-1 at Peterborough United, with relegation having already been confirmed a few weeks earlier.

The Chairboys’ opponents this weekend are Charlton Athletic who have to go back as far as 2nd May 1981 for their last League fixture at this level, a 2-1 home win over Gillingham which saw the Addicks promoted in third place.

Having spent 12 of the following 28 seasons playing at the highest level of English football, Wycombe’s opponents on Saturday are no doubt somewhat shell-shocked by their sudden fall from grace.

It all started to go wrong for Charlton when manager Alan Curbishley left the club in Summer 2006.

Curbishley was replaced by Iain Dowie, who was sacked after winning only two of his first twelve league games.

Next up was Les Reed who only managed to stay in the post for six weeks as the Addicks sunk further into the mire.

Reed’s tenure was also notable for the Carling cup quarter final match against Wycombe in December 2006, which is the only time the two clubs have ever met. Jermaine Easter scored the only goal of the game at the Valley that evening as the Chairboys hammered another nail into Reed’s managerial coffin by thoroughly outplaying the Premiership side on their own turf to clinch a semi-final place against Chelsea.

Alan Pardew took over from Reed but couldn’t prevent Charlton from being relegated to the Championship.

Their first season back in the second tier saw the Addicks finish in a disappointing 11th place.

With financial problems mounting last season, Charlton were soon at the wrong end of the table and Pardew left to be replaced by current boss Phil Parkinson, who couldn’t prevent the club from being relegated in last place, 12 points clear of safety.

Wycombe Wanderers embark on their first season back at this level having endured a summer of discontent, which has seen the supporters lose any remaining say they had in the way the club is run.

Following threats from ‘benefactor’ Steve Hayes to put the club into administration if he wasn’t given 100% control, the Supporters Trust reluctantly (some would say too easily) gave way and with their blessing London Wasps owner Hayes won the vote and can now do whatever he likes with the club and the stadium.

Hayes’ supporters are convinced this will see the club soar to previously unobtainable heights, while others are not so sure that’s his primary objective. Only time will tell.

These events took the shine off what should have been an exciting summer for Blues fans and indeed the affair nearly cost Wycombe the services of manager Peter Taylor. With Taylor apparently unable to obtain his budget for the season from Hayes until the outcome of the takeover battle was clear, his hands were tied in the transfer market and he has been quoted as saying he missed out on several players he had lined up.

Against this back-drop, Wycombe have acted belatedly to strengthen their midfield and to replace key members of last season’s defence, having lost Mike Williamson in January and captain David McCracken during the summer.

Last season’s promotion was won mainly because of the Chairboys’ excellent defensive record of only conceding 33 league goals. It certainly wasn’t gained up-front, where they only scored 54 goals. This was an area Taylor had hoped to improve upon when he took over the reigns from Paul Lambert whose side had scored 56 the previous season. Given the Wycombe manager’s failure to even match Lambert’s meagre tally of goals, it’s a fair bet that he would have brought a new striker or two to Adams Park this summer if off-field circumstances hadn’t conspired against him.

With a difficult start to their campaign which includes fixtures against Charlton, Leeds and Norwich on the first three Saturdays of the season, the last thing the Chairboys needed was an injury crisis, but that’s what they’ve got.

Key midfielder Tommy Doherty, new signing Ian Westlake and first choice right-back Lewis Hunt are likely to be out for a few weeks as are fringe players Lewwis Spence and TJ Moncur.

Defender Craig Woodman only has 45 minutes of pre-season football to his name, while centre-half Leon Johnson and midfielder Stuart Green are also just returning from injury.

Striker Jon-Paul Pittman is also nursing an injury and keeper Scott Shearer broke his nose last Saturday but should be fit to play.

Last Season’s League Records:

Charlton Athletic (Championship)……..Won 8, Drawn 15, Lost 23, Scored 52, Conceded 74, Points 39, Position 24th

Wycombe Wanderers (League Two)….Won 20, Drawn 18, Lost 8, Scored 54, Conceded 33, Points 78, Position 3rd

Ins and Outs

Charlton: New Faces

Veteran defender Christian Dailly joined on a free transfer after being released by Glasgow Rangers.

Spanish defender Miguel Angel Liera signed-up after turning down a contract extension at Franchise.

Defender Frazer Richardson joined after being released by Leeds United.

Charlton: Significant Departures

Last season’s captain, defender Mark Hudson has joined Cardiff City for £1.25 million.

After making over 100 appearances for Charlton, midfielder Darren Ambrose has joined Crystal Palace.

Goalkeeper Nicky Weaver has joined Dundee United.

Top Chinese international midfielder Zheng Zhi has left the club after failing to agree new terms.

Striker Svetoslav Todorov was released and has rejoined Bulgarian side Litex Lovech.

Wycombe: New Faces

Defender Michael Duberry has joined after being released by Reading.

Former Ipswich Town and Leeds United midfielder Ian Westlake has signed from Cheltenham.

Midfielder Stuart Green has joined after being released by Blackpool.

Defender Chris Westwood signed after his contract with Peterborough was cancelled.

Midfielder Lewis Montrose has arrived on a free transfer from Wigan.

Young Defender Joe Cobb has joined from Leicester City.

Former youth team strikers George Daly and Dan Fitchett have both been included in the first-team squad.

Wycombe: Significant Departures

Defender and last season’s captain David McCracken has joined Franchise.

Veteran Midfielder Gary Holt was released and has joined Colchester United.

With no recent form to compare, let’s have a look at how the two sides have fared on the opening day of the season so far this century. Comparing the opposition the respective clubs have previously faced must be quite depressing for Addicks’ fans.

Charlton Athletic’s Opening Day Fixtures

2000/01: Man City….(H) – 4-0 Win
2001/02: Everton……(H) – 2-1 Loss
2002/03: Chelsea…..(H) – 3-2 Loss
2003/04: Man City….(H) – 3-0 Loss
2004/05: Bolton……..(A) – 4-1 Loss
2005/06: Sunderland (A) – 3-1 Win
2006/07: West Ham..(A) – 3-1 Loss
2007/08: Scunthorpe.(H) – 1-1 Draw
2008/09: Swansea….(H) – 2-0 Win

Overall Record:- Won 3, Drawn 1, Lost 5, Scored 15, Conceded 17

Wycombe Wanderers’ Opening Day Fixtures

2000/01: Stoke City……..(A) – 0-0 Draw
2001/02: Cardiff City…….(A) – 1-0 Loss
2002/03: Notts County…..(A) – 1-1 Draw
2003/04: Stockport……….(H) – 1-0 Win
2004/05: Cambridge Utd..(H) – 2-1 Win
2005/06: Carlisle Utd…….(H) – 1-1 Draw
2006/07: Wrexham……….(H) – 1-1 Draw
2007/08: Accrington……..(H) – 1-0 Loss
2008/09: Morecambe…….(H) – 1-1 Draw

Overall Record:- Won 2, Drawn 5, Lost 2, Scored 7, Conceded 7

The Man In The Middle

Saturday’s referee is Darren Deadman, a 34 year-old civil servant from Peterborough. He joined the National list of referees in 2005 and his last game involving Wycombe was the 1-1 draw at home to Stockport County in the 2007/08 play-off semi final.

With a full strength side I would have fancied Wycombe to take something from this game, but with a midfield missing Tommy Doherty and possibly a patched-up, makeshift defence with little experience of playing together, it’s a more difficult prospect.

And It’s too soon to start predicting results!