As Wycombe manager Gary Waddock pursues the new signings he hopes will put the finishing touches to a promotion winning team, he’s surely paying particular attention to those players who will form the spine of his new-look side.
Almost all successful sides possess a strong spine, which should ideally consists of the following…..
The Goalkeeper, who should be a fit, reliable, confident and agile individual whose occasional breathtaking saves and commanding communication with his defence, particularly at set pieces, will save your team a shed-load of points over the course of a season.
The commanding Centre-Half who boasts a reasonable turn of speed, is good in the air, comfortable with the ball at his feet, and who effectively organises the back four and ensures they maintain their concentration throughout the full ninety minutes.
The midfield maestro who always seems to make himself available to receive a pass, and can break up play one minute, before spreading the ball around with style the next.
The focal point of the attack. This is normally a fairly sturdy target man who chips in with at least 15 goals a season (not counting penalties). It can however be a nippy little striker who terrifies big defenders and bangs in 20 goals a season. The basic criteria is that your main front-man has to be a real goalscoring threat.
Now in my opinion, Wycombe had a particularly poor spine for the vast majority of last season which is why they were relegated. Ever since we lost the services of Mike Williamson, David McCracken, Leon Johnson, Gary Holt and Tommy Doherty we’ve been a pushover.
Here’s how our spine looked last season
The Chairboys conceded 88 goals in all competitions last season and kept only 8 clean sheets in 50 games. If it wasn’t for the arrival of keeper Tom Heaton on loan from Manchester United in the middle of February, who knows what the final damage might have been.
Heaton was responsible for 6 of those clean sheets in only 16 appearances for the club and although his arrival was too late to save us, he clearly demonstrated what we’d been missing when compared to the sluggish and nervy performances of his predecessor who has since been released by the manager.
Our central defence was a real disaster zone as well. The shockingly disappointing Michael Duberry was soon found out and eventually shipped off to Scotland where he only has to contend with the likes of John Sutton.
Luke Oliver, everyone’s most improved player in pre-season, soon reverted to type and starred in some of our more spectacularly horrendous defeats this season, all of which featured some truly comical defending.
Good old Leon Johnson only managed 5 league games due to a series of unfortunate injuries and we really missed his presence in my view.
Chris Westwood can read the game brilliantly which goes some way towards compensating for the fact that he has the pace of a snail and the turning circle of the QE2, and when you consider he was probably our mainstay in central defence this season, it paints a sad picture of how far our standards have dropped in this department.
Adam Hinshelwood arrived with a reputation for being injury prone and promptly lived up to it, and although he did look quite comfortable with the ball at his feet, like Westwood, he’s perhaps a bit too short to be a truly commanding centre half.
Alan Bennett looked OK during his very short stay and Lewis Hunt was probably the best of the bunch but we’ve let him go now.
When you read the above it’s really no wonder we conceded 88 goals.
We did have a midfield maestro called Tommy Doherty who was injured at the start of the season, played a few blinders in January and then departed for good, but the less said about that the better.
Our focal point up-front for the vast majority of the season was Matt Harrold whose somewhat unimpressive record of 4 goals from open play in 38 appearances has led to him being released by the manager.
Gary Waddock probably expected to solve his target-man problem for next year by signing our late-season sensation Alex Revell who scored 5 goals in his last 4 games, soaked up the fans’ adulation, kissed the badge a few times, and then promptly signed for Orient.
So as it stands right now, Wycombe don’t have a spine at all, and if we’re to surge triumphantly back into League One at the first time of asking, Gary Waddock will have to be very careful who he brings in to fill these crucial positions.
It’s not enough to have all your talent marauding down the wings, you need a strong spine to compete on the battlefields of League Two.