A look at Gareth Ainsworth’s decade as Wycombe Wanderers manager

Longevity is one thing that is never guaranteed in modern football. With Sean Dyche as perhaps the only real exception in the Premier League, there is a dearth of coaches who manage to stay at a club as long as Gareth Ainsworth has at Wycombe Wanderers.

Maybe a by-product of the board’s patience as much as the manager’s ability to connect with the supporters and deliver results on the pitch, Ainsworth is affectionately known as ‘Mr Rock n Roll’ by the Chairboys fans, and while his style of football isn’t quite as heavy metal as Jürgen Klopp, his long greying hair and musical anecdotes are redolent to the consistently brilliant performances of his side — unique and full of character.

Ainsworth has maintained his place in the dugout at Adams Park for 10 years now, appointed as caretaker manager as the club underwent major restructuring in 2010 following relegation from League One, when he was still just a player. Wycombe had picked up just four points by that September and Ainsworth steadied the ship, and despite working on a shoestring budget and dealing with the departures of star players like Joel Grant and being forced to replace them with old players, who he managed to revitalise in the autumn of their careers.

Having established Wycombe as a solid League One outfit, and enjoying some memorable FA Cup draws against Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, dominating the former at times and taking the latter to the wire, forcing a replay right until the games dying embers, as well as earning an unlikely promotion to the Championship in 2019-20.

Despite the lack of investment in the squad, and a 38-year-old Adebayo Akinfenwa as their only real ‘Plan B’ off the bench, the Chairboys overcame any predictz league one predictions to beat Oxford City behind closed doors at Wembley in the play-off final.

Of course, Wycombe could have just as easily pulled the trigger on his tenure a number of times throughout the years. Having enjoyed some great moments in the second tier, the reality of the situation was that the side were never really going to be good enough to beat the drop, and faced relegation first time of asking, but finishing just one point away from survival after a resurgent final few games where fans were allowed back into stadiums.

It’s testament to the Wycombe board for keeping the faith with Ainsworth despite relegation, and they were almost rewarded with a second stint in the Championship, reaching the play-offs this season but coming up short against Sunderland.

The Black Cats, who themselves suffered a fall from grace since last featuring in the Premier League, beat Wycombe 2-0 to deny Ainsworth another chance at Championship football for next year at least. However, the Chairboys boss was classy in defeat, praising Alex Neil’s side for their efforts.

“I’m gutted for the boys, but I’m going to say we were beaten by the better team,” he said “They definitely had the spoils early on, and went 1-0 up. Then, I thought it was close and they had a nervy moment in the second half, but then the second goal kills it off.

“Unfortunately, on the big occasion, Sunderland were the better side. That happens. We’re going to have to take it on the chin and prepare for next year.”

With this being his 10th full season in charge at Adams Park, Ainsworth will be keen to make it a memorable one, and after looking likely to retain the majority of the side that reached the play-offs, they’ll be hoping to go one step further and achieve automatic promotion second time round.

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