A Q&A with Wycombe fan Tom Hancock of Chairboys Central, ahead of Saturday’s league fixture with The Chairboys…
Firstly, tell us about Chairboys Central…
It’s just me! In short, I felt that there was a distinct lack of quality independent coverage of Wycombe – aside from the existing fanzine, which, as you can probably imagine, is largely a more satirical look at things. I thought there was a big gap to fill, and that’s proved to be the case with the local paper spreading its reporter across Wycombe and Reading (it shares a publisher with a Reading paper and, well, times are tough). I’ve been doing it since late July and have been pleasantly surprised by how well it’s done so far. In time, I’d like Chairboys Central to become the Wycombe Wanderers destination.
How do you
think Wycombe will set up against Posh on Saturday?
Despite matching up with diamonds away at Bristol Rovers and Gillingham (which didn’t really work – drew 0-0 and lost 0-2), we’ve gone with a 4-3-3 in every home game so far this season. Save for switching to 4-4-2 when chasing the game against Southend and 4-3-2 when down to ten men against Pompey – both games which we won – we’ve not changed course from our standard. I suspect we’ll be quite content to let you have the ball in your own half – as we have against other possession-based teams – and look to hit you on the break. Fred Onyedinma’s pace and skill make him our main outlet in that sense – and he can be a real threat cutting in from the left in any situation – but if Adebayo Akinfenwa and David Wheeler start, we have two dangerous aerial weapons – although very different ones, of course.
The return of star player Curtis Thompson restored control and composure to the midfield at Rochdale last Saturday, which is important even if we often bypass the middle third with long balls. Nick Freeman will be a big miss if he’s still out injured – his dribbling and through balls are unrivalled by our other midfielders – but if club legend Matt Bloomfield returns, expect him to run you ragged without doing anything spectacular. Dom Gape patrols the deep midfield, so to speak, and helps keep things ticking over – again, when we actually decide to go through our midfield!
At the back, the centre-half pairing of Anthony Stewart and Darius Charles has been a revelation, not least as the latter had effectively retired – he plays through an arthritic hip and is an absolute inspiration – and, although they’ll face a much sterner test this time out, were a wall against Rochdale. Charles didn’t have to make a single tackle, which sums up how positionally spot on he usually is. He’s the more composed of the two, but Stewart is surpisingly skilful for a centre-back and a great ball player (look no further than his assist for Paul Smyth’s goal against Bolton on the opening day). Jack Grimmer at right-back seems to get better with every passing game, and some of his crosses are Beckham-esque. At left-back, Joe Jacobson – our player of the season so far and whose viral hat-trick I’m sure you’ve seen – may still be sidelined for this one. If he is, I reckon Jamie Mascoll will start there, but QPR loanee Giles Phillips – a centre-back by trade – was superb in the position up at Dale. Both have shown encouraging signs – Phillips particularly – but are young and very inexperienced, so JJ’s return would be preferable!
In goal, Ryan Allsop has had a solid start to the season after a wobbly 2018/19 with us. His kicking – not something for which he’s renowned – has really improved in even the last couple of games, and he can pick attackers out over the middle or down the left or right channels. The only downside is his time-wasting antics, which I know irritate some of our fans – myself included.
4-1-2-1-2 (less likely)
Who from your side will be the Posh’ biggest threat on the day?
I’m going to have to say Maddison. The guy should not be playing at this level and surely won’t be come next August if you don’t go up – although I’m sure I said similar last season. If I had to isolate one area of his game which worries me against us, it’s his long-range scoring ability. As solid as our centre-backs have been for the most part, there have been occasions when we just haven’t closed down around the egde of our box – notably in the Southend game I mentioned, when Stephen Humprhys was allowed to score twice from range (great strikes but ones he shouldn’t have had the room to attempt). That said, you’d probably have to have several defeners encircling Maddison to truly shut him down.
What are your thoughts on Gareth Ainsworth?
The man is unquestionably a Wycombe legend and, as far as I’m concerned, our greatest ever manager – although those around during our early League days may still lean towards a certain Martin O’Neill. He and assistant Richard Dobson have worked wonders with barely anything. They’ve taken a team assembled at no cost (even Onyedinma came in as part of effectively a swap deal) to second in League One. Unbelieavble yet, to us, believable. It’s really hard to do them justice in words, so I won’t say much more, but the bottom line is this: without Gareth and Dobbo, we’d be struggling – if not even worse off.
So far so good. What were your expectations for the season in August, and what are your expectations now?
Even with the financial boost from prospective new owner Rob Couhig, we were by no means rolling in it. We probabbly thought we had enough to comfortably avoid the drop, but I think I predicted we’d ‘only’ finish 15th – which I reckon, deep down, we’d all have taken. Now? I don’t think we’re really play-off contenders – a top-half finish would still be superb – but it’s nigh-on impossible not to dream.
Where do you think Posh will finish this season?
Hmm… If we assume that Ipswich romp to the title – which, early though it still is, I think they will – then that leaves only second up for grabs. You ought to be in with a shout of finishing there. I certainly think you’ll make the top six. Shall we meet in the middle and say 4th?
Score predictions for Saturday?
Let’s have a 3-2 thriller!