Here we are already. Only a quarter of teams in League One have played a quarter of the season – largely due to Bury’s demise – but we’re one of them. Let’s take a book back at the first 11 games and associated events; it’s been quite a ride so far.
Cast your minds back to 9th July. With a mere 25 days to go until the start of the new campaign, we made our first move in the transfer market and increased the squad size to 16. Alex Pattison looked like being the only permanent arrival of the summer, and even if we’d gone and brought in the maximum five loanees, we’d have been only a minor injury crisis away from the bare bones. Remember the dark clouds closing in as we clutched at straws to use as futile umbrellas in the torrent of pessimism? I’ll be honest, I was in denial at the time but, deep down, thought we were fucked. Even Gareth admits that he “contemplated disaster” and accepted the R-word.
Then along came Rob and things started looking up – and now we haven’t got much further too look up. I attracted criticism (albeit from a single person) for calling him a benefactor in my very first piece on this site, but, whatever your feelings on outside investement – and I’d hope that even the most curmudgeonly curmudgeons have had their cynicism tempered by now – he is one. The guy has been a diamond so far, and we owe it to him as much as ourselves to approve his investment – assuming the deal doesn’t look like a cunning plan to shaft us (which should be implied but apparently needs reiterating).
Anyway, I’ll leave the Couhig-mania to one side for the moment. There’s been some football on and it’s been alright. I’ll never get tired of typing this: Wycombe Wanderers are second in League One.
Every season should begin the same way: a pitch so purely green that Percy from Blackadder would be jealous; the stench of sweat-imbued polyester as your anti-perspirant gives way against the tide of lukewarm beer; new signings exciting fans from the off. Paul Smyth and Fred Onyedinma dispatched a then-ailing Bolton and we were up and running. Little did we know that it would be the start of something rather special.
The first away trip of the season reminded us that this is, in fact, England. The miserable Bristol weather threatened to blow people away more than either team, but we took the away point and clean sheet and got out of there. Championship Reading were so nearly toppled back at Adams Park, but penalty pain befell us and we were left to wonder what might have been (a trip to Plymouth, so nothing much in the end).
Then the drama made a welcome return to South Bucks – and MK Dons a less welcome one. Joe Jacobson showed his understudies how to bury it from 12 yards, Fred was at it again, and David Wheeler stole the Trevor Kettle show. 3-2. Tequila! Followed by wet cod three days later… A Ryan Allsop gaffe handed the boo boys their first outing of the campaign, but the Beast was off the mark – 1-1 at the other Highbury and Wycombe in the top four.
A week on from the first act of the season’s fledgling dramatic production, the second. The Shrimpers came to town but were left fishing for answers. They were 3-1 up then they fucked it up. Scotty Kashket scored another couple of goals in a 4-3 triumph which seemed entirely normal for this extraordinary team – which sat third in the third tier, level on points with three former top flight names: Ipswich, Blackpool, Sunderland, Coventry…all rubbing shoulders with Wycombe Wanderers. There was to be no 5-4 down at Kingsmeadow – but we left South London with another point in the bag and hopeful that we’d never have to return to the glorified garden patio.
So here we were, languishing in fifth ahead of the visit of the much fancied Lincoln City. We knew what we were doing all along, though – we really did – and, uh, went TOP OF THE LEAGUE with the best performance I and I dare say countless others have seen in many a year. JJ’s viral set-piece hat-trick grabbed the headlines on the day, but this was a show of tactical mastery from the one they call Gaz. What happened the next weekend wasn’t: Gillingham 2-0 Wycombe (yep, that’s all there is to say on that).
So we went again – onto the first league action of the season under the Adams Park lights. The bogey team were in town, but they didn’t frighten us. No Joe? No matter. Nick Freeman (amazed I’m only now mentioning him after beating a hole in that drum) did the honours from the spot. No amount of dirty Accy antics was going to stop us from keeping our home record clean. 1-1 – which I believe is known as ‘doing a Sunderland’. Pompey came to town on the 21st (afternoon) of September – them and all 2,000-odd of their, let’s be honest, brilliant following – but didn’t chime. Shit game. Two red cards. Bayo penalty. Marquis pouting. Third in the league. Job well done.
Onto Rochdale! We rocked up at Spotland with one away win in 13 and four since the start of the previous season – a miserable record indeed. But we clearly hadn’t red the script – or, as was actually the case, Rochdale are less Barcelona and more, well, Rochdale. Three goals. Three points. Another clean sheet. Another tactical masterclass. Wycombe Wanderers still second in League One. And does anyone else get the feeling that we’re only just getting started…?
Just quickly: a word on Gareth. As we all know, the other week marked his seventh anniversary in charge. I didn’t write anything then – maybe I should have done – but will be doing next month when he brings up ten years at Wycombe. What can you say? The man is our greatest ever manager – certainly as far as I’m concerned, although perhaps that’s influenced by my being of a younger generation. If you’ve ever called for him to go, I hope you feel like an idiot. He and Dobbo – let’s not forget who’s “number twooo” saved this great club from ruin and have steered us to our highest heights. Legends, the pair of them. Never mind A statue; let’s erect two – and let’s do it now.
Photo: Ben Prior-Wandesforde