There was an excellent turnout of members of the Wycombe Wanderers Trust to hear Manager Gary Waddock, ‘Legend’ Keith Ryan and Player of the Season Nikki Bull answering questions from the floor after the Trust AGM on Wednesday night. Joining these three on the top table were our Trust Directors who sit on the Club’s Board – Don Woodward and David Roberton.
Lots to report and here are a few summarised comments:
Both Gary and Nikki acknowledged the massive support given by the Wycombe fans particularly at away matches. They recognised that whilst the team get overnight hotel stays and luxury coaches for the longer trips, many fans get up early and spend lots of time and money to follow their team and this is much appreciated. Nikki has encouraged other players to follow his lead in acknowledging the supporters after the game, both home and away, regardless of the result!
Gary acknowledged the great work done in the WWFC Centre of Excellence which has recently produced the likes of Jordon Ibe, Kadeem Harris and Matty Phillips on into the first team and now onto bigger clubs. When asked about Ollie Taylor (now out on loan to Oxford) the manager said he offered something a bit different, was a big and strong lad who had done well so far. It remains to see how well he develops from here on. The EPPS will limit a lot of clubs’ ability to run a youth department and in that respect too, we are set for a difficult time.
Gary Waddock said that whilst we are competing against clubs with far bigger wage budgets eg Huddersfield, Preston it’s how the team competes on the pitch that matters. Not everyone has a good day ‘at the office’ every day what ever job they do! He has no particular points target in mind, just to finish outside of the bottom four! It could well be quite close this year and our next month is vital with games against some of our rivals down there.
The Manager was sorry to see Jordon Ibe and Kadeem Harris leave the club but he could not stand in the way of what were wonderful opportunities for these talented lads to join Liverpool and Cardiff City respectively. Harris would have been out of contract at the end of this season so it was better to take a good fee for him now than maybe nothing in the summer. It was recognised that the combined income from these two deals was needed to balance out the expected loss for this season. The recession is having a huge impact on sport in general and on smaller football clubs in particular with everyone cutting back on their spending.
Gary is prepared to take the gamble of not having a substitute goalie on the bench. He acknowledged the tremendous job done by Nikki Bull who has played on when injured and started when not feeling 100% right. Bully said that injuries and suspensions had not helped this season with us unable to field a settled back four in front of him.
Both Gary and Nikki acknowledged that this season’s team was not as tall overall as last year and hence we may get beaten for height around the pitch. However it was no use in filling the team with 6’5″ players just for set pieces who were not so good on the ball!
Asked about Scott Donnelly’s situation, Gary Waddock said that Scott was doing his rehabilitation with us following his cruciate injury. He is well settled in this area but is still contracted to Swansea until next year so it’s a ‘wait and see’ situation once he is fully recovered.
Keith Ryan was asked how this season compared to 1998-99 when we escaped from relegation in the final game. Rhino felt that then we were in a far worse state than now but “everyone needs a little luck along the way”. When that team beat Wigan 2-1 in the penultimate game, they were lucky to find that York had lost meaning that a win for us at Lincoln would avoid relegation. And the rest as they “is history”!
Keith went on to comment that the present squad has a good feeling of togetherness and the recent win over Rochdale showed what they can do. The team he played in 13 years ago had more experience but to match that Gary’s younger team have not known so many hard times! Taking up the earlier point about luck, Gary Waddock pointed out that when we recently led 1-0 at Preston and had a goal disallowed, our luck ran out as most people (including the referee) now believe that ‘goal’ should have been allowed. As it was we lost the game 2-3.
Asked about the recently departed Kevin Betsy, Gary said that he had given the club excellent service and was a good professional player that he had a lot of respect for. However having brought in others, he wasn’t able to give Kevin the first team football opportunities this season that the player wanted and hence it was time for him to move on.
Nikki Bull said he would not welcome text messages from his manager at 2am and wished the Preston players well under their new boss Graham Westley!
Asked about Marcello Trotta, Gary said that he came to us thanks to a long standing excellent relationship built up with Fulham. The loan deal worked for the player who scored 8 goals in 8 games but then he wanted to try his luck at a higher level. His achievement here and higher profile have now earned him a place on Fulham’s bench for their last two games. We could not compete with that.
Gary and his support team , including scouts, spend a lot of their afternoons and evenings watching reserve and first teams games around the country to try and identify suitable players to bring in on contract or loan as well as checking up on the forthcoming opposition. He has a good network with other managers and this has helped with some recent loan deals.
Final thought : All fans play at being football managers and pick their team but none of those have lost a game!