Tag Archives: Keith Scott

Martin, Martin, give us a wave!

Last week’s international break has brought about jubilant scenes on the streets of Cairo, Reykjavík and Panama City.

In stark contrast, as Harry Kane sealed England’s World Cup qualification, large swathes of the Wembley crowd were already on their way home, trying to beat the rush for the tube.

It’s all a far cry from Beckham against Greece.

After their routine qualification, made up of insipid performances which failed to banish the memories of THAT defeat to Iceland, I have fallen out of love with the England football team.

However, I enjoyed watching Wales take on the Republic of Ireland in a winner takes all match in Cardiff on Monday.

It looked to be an incredibly even contest with perhaps home territory giving the Welsh an advantage.

Not a bit of it.

As a Wycombe Wanderers fan of a certain age, I knew that there was only ever going to be one winner in this game, and that was Martin O’Neill’s Ireland.

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With a team made up of solid professionals without a superstar amongst them, Ireland negotiated a tricky group to secure a second place play-off spot.

In doing so, they were unbeaten on the road.

Their magnificent team spirit, coupled with O’Neill’s tactical nous and big match mentality, was there for all to see in Cardiff.

Now, I’ve been known to be partial to a pint of Guinness, but even Andy Townsend is significantly more Irish than me.

Nonetheless, I was rooting for the Republic.

I have never met Martin O’Neill, but I can safely say that as a result of his magical spell at Adams Park, I would run through a brick wall for him.

I’d probably even wash his car every Sunday if he asked me to.

I may well have my nostalgic blue quartered glasses firmly on, but has anyone else contemplated what it would be like to have Martin O’Neill as manager of England?

I think he would be the perfect fit.

Throughout his managerial career, O’Neill has seen his teams consistently achieve more than their individual constituent parts would have you believe was possible.

There has been plenty of talk in the media about England not having enough quality players to go far in a major tournament.

I have to disagree.

Denmark and Greece have both won major tournaments, whilst Leicester City stormed their way to the Premier League title.

With belief, a little bit of luck and tactics to suit the players you have at your disposal, the sky is the limit.

Former Chairboy, Keith Scott, who was plucked from the depths of non-league by O’Neill before going onto play in the top flight agrees:

“The gaffer had the ability to make individuals and the team believe that the impossible was possible.”

Gareth Southgate has the impossible job.

He seems like a nice guy and had a fine and distinguished playing career, but since hanging up his boots, Southgate’s record as a manager has been underwhelming.

I truly hope he can prove the doubters wrong and lead England to the latter stages of the World Cup in Russia.

Meanwhile, Ireland will have a tricky play off to contend with before booking any flights, but no one will fancy playing them.

As Martin O’Neill said this week:

“I have always feared teams, it’s the best way to be. And then we go out and beat them.”

Mine’s a Guinness.

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Wembley preview

We are nearly there! Ever since the final whistle blew at Adams Park to bring the play off semi-finals to a close, the clocks have been pretty much at a standstill. It has been wonderful though to see the online forums/pages buzzing with positive messages, ticket updates and reminisces of Wembley trips gone by. Whatever happens at the home of football, it will bring the curtain down on a wonderful season for Wycombe Wanderers. Be loud and proud and enjoy the game!

I supplied a column in the programme for the Plymouth home leg, attempting to sum up the season. Here is the text…

I probably class myself as both a romantic and an optimist, pretty hopeless on both fronts too. I was struck by both these emotions whilst on the platform at Canons Park tube station last August. With the Summer sun having long dried those joyous tears from Torquay, I found myself enjoying the view of Barnet’s brave new world of The Hive being overlooked by the behemoth corporate arch of Wembley. A new look Wycombe Wanderers had just completed a routine pre season schedule with a narrow win over The Bees, but could they be finishing their season at the home of football on the right? Even for me it seemed unlikely, what with the budget and size of the squad being tiny on both fronts. Yet here we are, just ninety minutes from Wembley and what a season it has been! 

The play offs went from being an unlikely fairy tale to a potential unnecessary nuisance by Christmas, as The Chairboys enjoyed a magnificent start to the season and rode their luck with injuries to the top of the table. Suspensions and injuries cruelly arrived right near the end of the campaign, which coupled with a magnificent late surge from big spending Bury, presented the Wanderers with a ticket to the play off lottery. However, a club record of eighty-four points in the Football League whilst being the second highest scorers in the division with the best away record in the entire country… Not bad for a little club that was on the brink of disappearing all together just twelve months previously.  
At times, it’s been difficult to remember that the club is on a two year plan and operating on a sticky financial wicket. The January sales of Josh Scowen and Paris Cowan-Hall probably cost the club their automatic promotion place, but the money received has helped secure the entire clubs future for the coming seasons with Wasps buzzing off to Coventry. Most importantly, there is a vibrant energy about the club again, tapping into the spirits of past cup glory and the legacy of the Lord Martin O’Neill himself. Gareth Ainsworth has pulled the club together, the players and fans are as one and the results have seen the attendances starting to creep up too. Whatever happens tonight against Plymouth or even at Wembley, the strides made this season have been wonderful to witness and report on. 
I can’t believe I’ve completed my second season in the commentary box too. There have been some great moments along the way. Highlights include; club media man Matt Cecil being chastised live on BBC Oxford for dancing in the press box at the Kassam Stadium, the realisation that Keith Scott is Bobby Davro’s stunt double and Bill Turnbull causing heart attacks across the world by shouting ‘GOAL for Wimbledon’ at the precise moment we were knocked off air as the referee disallowed it. 
A massive thank you to –  Bill Turnbull, Will Vince, Scotty, Matt Cecil, Keith Cummings and the sports team at BBC Three Counties. Most importantly, thank you to all the fans who have been listening and tweeting/texting in, it keeps us all going in those cold faraway press boxes. 
Have a great Summer and enjoy the game. 
COYB!
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Also, BBC Online asked me to try and sum up the massive turnaround of the club in the last twelve months. Arise Sir Gareth…
Just over twelve months ago, Wycombe Wanderers were the width of a cross bar from losing their Football League status. Had results not gone their way, it was a distinct possibility that the Chairboys could have disappeared altogether. Now the boos have been turned in to jubilant Wembley bound cheers and the good old days are returning once again to Adams Park. 
The catalyst for this is the manager Gareth Ainsworth. Many things were stacked against him last season. He inherited a disjointed squad and with no funds it was tough to turn things around, especially as he was still finding his feet in his first full season in charge. It would have been all too easy to blame everything else for Wycombe’s woes but Gareth is made of sterner stuff than that. He came back in pre season with a new outlook and determination but still with no budget, so he changed everything that he possibly could. The dugouts were swapped with the home one reverting to the bench preferred by Martin O’Neill, match day attire for the players was suits and the pitch dimensions became smaller. On the pitch, Gareth cleared out fourteen of the players that nearly took the Chairboys down and only bought eight in. One of the wages for a player was sacrificed to allow a Head Of Sports Science to be appointed which was deemed a big risk but it has certainly paid off with only twenty-two players being used throughout the whole season. 
The calibre of the players joining the club were excellent too. They had to be the right character as well as being able to deliver on the pitch. Every time I interviewed a new signing, without exception and with no prompting from me, Ainsworth was credited as a big reason for joining the club. Capturing proven quality players like Paul Hayes, Joe Jacobson and Peter Murphy was no mean feat last summer following the previous season. Youth has been given a chance too, with Aaron Pierre and Alfie Mawson especially, more than taking their opportunities to shine. 
From back to front the team play in the spirit of their manager and that is why Wycombe Wanderers have turned things around so quickly. Team spirit, unity with the fans and a never say die attitude. Gareth Ainsworth has got the place rocking again.
In a week where the club have been enjoying increased media attention I spoke to Gareth Ainsworth ahead of the trip to the home of football…
Mobile & tablet version here
I also spoke with Nico Yennaris and Hogan Ephraim…
Mobile & tablet version here
Mobile & tablet version here
The other week, before the decisive final league game of the season, I spoke with my good friend and fellow journalist, Brian Jeeves, who is a Southend United fan and reporter. Seeing as the Shrimpers are the team standing between Wycombe Wanderers and League One, I thought it would be rude to not gauge his thoughts again…
Mobile & tablet version here
So, it’s all set to be a tremendous day. If you are coming to the game, come and say hello on Wembley Way as I’ll be there at the BBC Three Counties outside broadcast bus with Scotty.
We’ll also be providing full match commentary, including build up and post match reactions, across all BBC3CR frequencies and Chairboys Player.
For the final time this season… Enjoy the game.
COYB!
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Pre Morecambe

The last home league game of the campaign is upon us and whatever happens against Morecambe, Wycombe Wanderers are a million miles from the depths they reached at this stage last season against Bristol Rovers. It’s been a magnificent season and there is a great chance for someone to write themselves into Chairboys folklore in the last two games.

It will be a patched up team and losing Aaron Pierre is a massive blow at both ends of the pitch. A rock defensively and a constant thorn in the side of the opposition at attacking set pieces, Wycombe will need to dig deep against an awkward Shrimpers side who will be well organised by Jim Bentley.

I spoke with Gareth Ainsworth ahead of the game and it was this quote that jumped out at me…

“We need the fans to keep with us, keep chanting, keep the boys going.”

If you’re going to be at Adams Park, play your part!

For mobile & tablet version click here

I also caught up with talismanic skipper Paul Hayes…

For mobile & tablet version click here

If you can’t be at Adams Park today then tune into BBC Three Counties 98FM where there will be full match commentary from myself, Scotty and Geoff Doyle. The coverage will also be broadcast on Chairboys Player around the world as normal.

Get involved after the game and contact the BBC3CR Sports Show.

Twitter – @BBC3CR@bluntphil, @GeoffDoyle1 & Scotty
Text – Text ‘3CR’ and your message to 81333. Start your text with 3CR, then leave a space and continue your message as normal. Texts will be charged at the standard network rate.
Phone – 08459 455 555

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Shut the window! It’s cold outside…

The worst fears of Wycombe Wanderers fans have been realised with the sale of Josh Scowen, arguably the clubs best player, to Barnsley. January was always going to be a defining month for the club and the news from chairman Andrew Howard that the money received for the tigerish midfielder will “more than cover the losses” from the departure of Wasps (£229k), will certainly make next season a smoother prospect. Unless you have been in a coma since June, you will be more than aware that the club’s aim this season was League Two survival whilst steps were made to sort the finances out. Wasps have gone and the crowds are beginning to creep up at Adams Park. Not even the most optimistic fan would have predicted that the Chairboys would be top of the table in January and playing some of their best football for a good few years. It’s this situation that will no doubt make the sale of Scowen a contentious topic amongst the Chairboys’ faithful. On paper it looks a strange move for the player, with Barnsley delicately positioned in a congested League One mid table. From Wycombe’s perspective it is a bit more understandable, with Scowen being out of contract in the Summer. Having rebuffed offers to extend his contract at Wycombe, selling now avoids the need for the lottery of a tribunal and the income can be put to work behind the scenes. The player will have needed to agree this move though and will now be plying his trade at a higher level. No doubt that there will be fans who would have liked to see Scowen stay and potentially be in League One with Wycombe Wanderers next season. On the other hand, there will also be those that agree with the stance of sticking to the two year plan and paving the way to a full recovery.

Josh Scowen on his way to celebrate his first Wycombe Wanderers goal with Richard Dobson.

Josh Scowen on his way to celebrate his first Wycombe Wanderers goal with Richard Dobson.

After the impressive win over York, many were sharing the belief of former player Keith Scott that Wycombe could go on and win the title. Losing Scowen is a huge blow to this endeavour as I think he has been the heart beat of the Chairboys so far this season. His ability to read the game and protect the back four has allowed Gareth Ainsworth to commit to a more attacking style of play which has produced great results. In fact, it was in Ainsworth’s first game in charge, a dismal three nil defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge, that Scowen first shone after being recalled early from a Gary Waddock inspired loan spell at Eastbourne Borough. Encouragingly, it appears that Ainsworth was expecting the news as Marcus Bean looks a more than likely candidate to replace Scowen in the midfield holding role. Again credit must be extended to Ainsworth and especially to Richard Dobson for assisting Josh Scowen in becoming an excellent footballer. A quiet lad, never one for interviews, but a player I enjoyed watching develop and play enormously. All the best Josh. Football remains a team game though and Wycombe fans can travel to Bury safe in the knowledge that the back five remains intact whilst the likes of Hayes, Murphy and Onyedinma et al are still present. Here are the thoughts of Gareth Ainsworth ahead of the trip to Bury (pre Scowen departure) For mobile & tablet version click here

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Wycombe Wanderers 1 Hartlepool United 0

It’s been a hectic Christmas schedule which has seen the Chairboys extend their unbeaten run to seven league games. However, three consecutive draws caused some pundits and fans to claim that the bubble had burst at Adams Park, a viewpoint I disagreed with. A point at the Crown Ground, where Accrington Stanley had won six of the last eight games was not to be sneezed at in tough conditions. Whether at the top or the bottom of the league, it’s always vital to avoid defeat against the teams around you and Gareth Ainsworth has done just that over the hectic Christmas period. His small squad was stretched to breaking point but still picked up draws against Luton at home and then again just two days later at Shrewsbury.

It’s equally important to dispatch the teams at the bottom of the table too and Hartlepool United rolled into town with two additions to their rock bottom squad. Striker Rakish Bingham, who earlier in the season gave the Wycombe back four an awkward fifteen minutes turning out for his parent club Mansfield, went straight into the starting line up alongside midfielder Aaron Tshibola, who joined on loan from Reading. Centre back Scott Harrison also extended his loan stay from Sunderland and featured for the first time since late November. Lining up initially 4-5-1, the Monkey Hangers proved stubborn resistance to Wycombe, who huffed and puffed without causing goalkeeper Scott Flinders any headaches.

The breakthrough came on thirty eight minutes after Peter Murphy overturned possession on the edge of his own box and the ball was moved quickly forwards, a hallmark of the Wycombe team this season. Aaron Holloway, enjoying an impressive game, fed Josh Scowen who intelligently spread the ball wide to Fred Onyedinma and the eighteen year old burst into the box before hammering the ball past Flinders at his near post. Switching Onyedinma to the right of the front three shortly before his goal made the difference and the youngster turned in an excellent performance.

The Chairboys played some wonderful stuff after the break but failed to add to the scoring which was the only blot on the copybook. Both Sam Wood and Peter Murphy fluffed clear chances and, had the latter taken his, it would have capped off a tremendous move. Bingham nearly made Wycombe pay for their bluntness in front of goal when his header clipped the outside of the post five minutes from the end. There was still time for Darren ‘card machine’ Deadman to dismiss Lewis Hawkins for two yellows but Wycombe saw out a deserved win.

For the post match thoughts of Gareth Ainsworth, talking to me on BBC Three Counties click here

Here are the commentary highlights from myself, Paul Dixon and Scotty. Many thanks to Keith Cummings for the audio.

For mobile and tablet version click here

On Friday I was on the escalators in H&M Oxford Street when I realised I was completely surrounded by images of former Chairboy John Halls. “Bloody hell, it’s John Halls” i exclaimed. My girlfriend replied “I have no idea who that is but he’s fit”. I spent the next five minutes explaining in detail just how badly he had played for Wycombe Wanderers in a home defeat against Stevenage, before he admitted defeat against a troublesome achilles injury and hung up his boots a few years ago. (With chat like this, it’s a wonder I have a girlfriend at all). It’s great to see that John has carved out a successful career as a model after football though.

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Anyway, this episode made me cast my mind back to when Wycombe Wanderers signed him and Ben Harding. These signings epitomised a hugely underwhelming transfer window following promotion to League One and saw the start of a painful decline that nearly led to The Chairboys sliding out of the Football League. Back then the money supply had been cut and there was no long term plan or indeed any strategy for the club. Gary Waddock struggled in his recruitment as a result. These days the green shoots of recovery are there for all to see. Along with the remaining faces of the golden final generation of the youth academy, Gareth Ainsworth has signed well and given Wycombe Wanderers a blue print for recovery.

Paris Cowan-Hall was a precocious talent shown the door by fellow League Two club Plymouth Argyle before Ainsworth brought him into the fold at Adams Park for free. Paris has undergone a transformation under the guidance of the management team and this season you can see that the penny had dropped with him adding graft and grit to his game. The rewards have followed with the Wycombe fans seeing a goal rush before Cowan-Hall’s departure. More importantly, the club has made some money from the deal (believed to be £85k) and put themselves on the map as a place where young talent can be nurtured in the furnace of competitive league football. Aaron Pierre is the next one on the production line and I will be amazed if he is still here at the end of his three year contract. Add in Matt Ingram, Josh Scowen, Peter Murphy etc and a financial recovery plan of sorts is there for all to see. What is also encouraging is that the club appear to be in a stronger negotiating position when it comes to selling on players and hopefully harsh lessons have been learned from the past few seasons.

Crucially, the home attendances are starting to creep up too, with three and a half thousand Wycombe fans at Adams Park for the Hartlepool United game. Of course flogging off the best players is not going to help bring the crowds back, only wins and good football can do that which will require a decent squad. At the start of the season new chairman Andrew Howard said it was a two year plan. We are a quarter of the way through now and Ainsworth has got Wycombe punching well above their financial position. January will be an interesting month.

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Wycombe Wanderers 1 Luton Town 1

A BBC Three Counties derby and a very enjoyable match to commentate on. In pretty dreadful conditions, both teams gave their all and at the final whistle I think a point a piece was about right. It would have been cruel for either team to lose the game, especially as both sides were definitely still in the market for the win during the final stages.

Paris Cowan-Hall was deservedly awarded man of the match for an excellent all round performance. His work rate has been excellent all season and he is now being rewarded with a purple patch in front of goal. Five goals in as many games is no mean feat and the Chairboys have now broken their league record by scoring in sixteen consecutive games. Cowan-Hall’s opening goal was backed up by a performance of real maturity, grafting in defence and a constant menace in attack. He was a real rough diamond when he first arrived at Adams Park. Credit must be afforded to Gareth Ainsworth for signing Paris on a free, putting his arm around him and making the wide-man fulfil his potential.

Luton lived up to what I expected from a John Still side and I think they will be challenging at the top in May. I thought The Hatters looked short of a striker but with Paul Benson out injured I reckon Still will get the cheque book out in January. I was looking forward to seeing the gravitationally gifted Steve McNulty play and I was not disappointed by his performance. He may well be on the wrong end of a few chants from the crowds up and down the country but I thought he read the game superbly and was a stubbornly effective rearguard for Luton. Jonathan Smith took his goal very well and it was a good team response from going behind to an early goal which was another defeat for zonal marking.

Matt Bloomfield looked lively in the second half, coming on for an injured Danny Rowe as both sides pursued the points. A tremendous Matt Ingram save from Adam Drury and Mark Tyler making a smart stop at the other end soon after kept things level which is how it ended. This was despite a real cup tie style finish as the rain ramped up towards the whistle.

A valuable point earned for both sides and more importantly for Wycombe Wanderers, a performance to be proud of in front of a bumper crowd. All too often in recent times, the Chairboys have choked when the gates have been big at home, but any lapsed or potential new fans in attendance on Boxing Day would have gone home thoroughly entertained. Before kick off, Wycombe chairman Andrew Howard spoke of the long term plans and these will certainly need to involve more people turning up at Adams Park on a regular basis. it was also announced that Gareth Ainsworth had signed a ‘long term’ deal with the club which was warmly received by the home fans in the Vere Suite. The manager is clearly enjoying working with Howard and the results reflect this. Long may it continue!

Here are the thoughts of Gareth Ainsworth after the game in my interview with him for BBC Three Counties…

Mobile & tablet version here

Here are the commentary highlights from the game, featuring myself, Scotty and Geoff Doyle. Many thanks to Keith Cummings for the audio…

Mobile & tablet version here

The BBC Three Counties commentary team for the game

The BBC Three Counties commentary team for the game

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Portsmouth 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Wycombe remain unbeaten on the road in the league following a deserved point on the South coast. Infact, it could have been three points after another impressive display, in which the Chairboys took the lead but were unable to hold out in the cauldron like atmosphere of Fratton Park.

Pompey keeper Paul Jones was the busier keeper in the first half as Wycombe’s 4-3-3 formation applied steady pressure on the 3-5-2 of the home side. Portsmouth looked dangerous on the break, exploiting the space out wide but Joe Jacobson and Sido Jombati stood firm. These two full backs are fantastic acquisitions for Gareth Ainsworth that allow him to commit players further forward and in the instance of Saturday, match three strikers against the back three of Portsmouth. Youngster Jack Whatmough had such a torrid time against Paul Hayes he was replaced by an out of position Johnny Ertl at half time. Pompey were still finding their feet after the break with a new back three when Wycombe were able to pounce on fifty minutes. A clever finish by Sam Wood following a mis hit shot by Peter Murphy gave the Chairboys a deserved lead and silenced the massive home support. Five minutes later it should have been game over. After some excellent work from Sido Jombati, Matt McClure found himself through on goal and with just Jones to beat he lashed his shot over the bar. Before Wycombe could even rue that miss, the impressive James Dunne rattled Matt Ingram’s crossbar at the other end.  Andy Awford moved to a 3-4-3 and backed by a vociferous home crowd Pompey began to turn the screw with Jed Wallace the main threat. It was a corner that brought about the equaliser with substitute Ertl unmarked and able to volley home on seventy minutes. This was made even more disappointing by Wycombe’s lack of threat from their own set pieces, which up to Saturday had been a real positive from the campaign so far.

Paul Hayes picked up a birthday yellow card for possibly the longest substitution I’ve ever seen as the captain had to waste time whilst Paris Cowan-Hall had to completely change his kit as a result of a blood injury. Understandably, the home supporters were getting increasingly frustrated with Wycombe’s time wasting and a combination of this plus five substitutions and a couple of injuries led to six minutes of injury time. The Chairboys saw this out comfortably but even some of the away contingent were not happy by some of the gamesmanship on display. No one likes to see time wasting, least of all paying punters but slowing the game down and frustrating the opposition is something that Gareth Ainsworth has clearly drilled into his tightly knit squad. The Wycombe manager survived a torrid season last time out and is now, with a limited budget, admirably using every single thing in his control to turn the club around. Currently on an impressive unbeaten run of six games I can’t see these tactics changing until either his magic points target is reached or the referees take control. Wycombe only picked up one yellow card for time wasting on Saturday and that came in the eighty-eighth minute. With officials as lax as this it is easy to see why managers employ the tactic.

For the post match thoughts of Gareth Ainsworth click here

Here are the commentary highlights from myself and Keith Scott, courtesy of Keith Cummings

Mobile and tablet version here

I often say on the match commentary that Gareth Ainsworth is kicking every ball on the touchline. I’ll leave you with this photo which is an interesting comparison of technical areas after Saturday’s game at Fratton Park.

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