As we move into the dog days of the year, and into the second decade of the 21st century, Wycombe Wanderers players return to training with a feel good factor in the air and hopes that the promotion of two-years ago can not only be matched but achieved with a sense of glory and a feeling of joy.
You don’t have to look very far for the reasons behind the sense of optimism and positivity. His name is Gary Patrick Waddock and he is perhaps the first manager since John Gorman to have brought a smile to the faces of the Chairpeople as they watch their team play an entertaining brand of football.
The ex-Eire international hasn’t exactly had things easy either, walking into a relegation battle with players who weren’t up to the standard required for League One. They had to shape up or ship out, and most have been shipped out. The ‘Ginger Mourinho’ has also been put under more pressure by the owner’s demand that promotion is won this coming season. I think we’ve been here before.
A quick look at the starting line-up for the opening game of last season, away at Charlton Athletic, shows just four players who are still at the club (Chris Westwood, Lewis Montrose, Matt Phillips and Stuart Green). This won’t come as much of a surprise to loyalist Wanderers but if you look at the starting line-up of the last game of the season, at home to Gillingham, the tally is still just four (Lewis Montrose, Matt Phillips, Kevin Betsy and Jon-Paul Pittman).
We saw last season that it takes time to build a squad and a side that can give us the performances and results we desire. We were spoiled by Tom Heaton last season but Nikki Bull will be a safe pair of hands between the sticks. Danny Foster and Andy Sandell are reliable replacements for Lewis Hunt and Craig Woodman. Dave Winfield could be the next Terry Evans and that is some comparison. Kieran Murtagh looks to be a young player with potential and it will be interesting to see what Gary Waddock gets out of the lad.
Ben Strevens has been a target for some time and hopefully will prove the adage that the best things come to those who wait. Scott Rendell is reported to have cost £50k from Peterborough United and might just be what we need. A strike rate of 1 in 2 (59 league goals in 120 starts) sounds an exciting prospect from a player who looks impossibly young with his cheeky Cheshire cat grin in his pics on the official website. Hopefully we’ll be seeing plenty more of that smile throughout the season.
There might be one or two more additions and the new look Chairboys appear to have everything in place to challenge for the honours in League Two next season. Of course it’s not that simple to build a team, the World Cup has provided us with proof of that. Italy, France and England might have some of the best players in the world, but you win and lose as a team and as Germany have shown time and again it`s about finding the right combination and creating a team that has an understanding and a balance as well as individuals with ability and skill.
The one ingredient I think is needed above all others is patience from everyone at the club, from owner to supporters, to give the manager and players room to relax and express themselves. Unrealistic expectations seemed to weigh heavily upon the shoulders of the England team down in South Africa. It would be better to say “I believed you were built for greatness and you achieved it” than having said “I thought you were great but you proved me wrong.” Hopefully an understanding crowd will allow the side to reach for the heights and win a glorious promotion. Imagine the side running out at the Kassam Stadium on April 9, 2011 to a sea of Chairpeople roaring the side onto a crushing victory. How inspiring would that be for the players? Giving the league newcomers a 5-0 thrashing on their own turf as we charge towards the title? How good would that be? A triumph that will live long in the memory and that will inspire and bring an unstoppable momentum. We might need it.
Those of us that remember the glory days of Martin O’Neill are often told to stop banging on about it because they heap pressure on those trying to live up to those almost impossible heady days. But they are not almost impossible, and we can play our part simply by not expecting them to be repeated, but by creating an environment that makes it more likely. Even failure can sometimes be a good thing in hindsight. The 1991/92 season was a painful one, but it was the basis for even greater glory in 1992/93, a non-league double with a sensational victory at Wembley. A win in the play-off final next May would be fitting, as Gary Waddock was born in the shadows of the twin towers in Kingsbury.
Don’t you know, you are more than this and you were built for greatness.