Despite being 8th in the League One table when play was halted in March due to COVID-19, Wycombe entered the play-offs as EFL clubs voted to complete the 2019/20 season using a Points Per Game (PPG) system, which meant they finished 3rd.
The Chairboys went on to convincingly dispatch Fleetwood in the play-off semi-final, before a late Joe Jacobson penalty at Wembley sent Wycombe to the second tier of English football for the first time in their 133-year history.
Wycombe are relishing their chance to thrive in the second tier, and as a club, they have already started to grow wherever they can.
This season Wycombe have improved their infrastructure with stadium developments to accommodate a bigger media presence; as well as installing what their club website claims to be ‘state-of-the-art racing seats’ in the dugouts; and their club shop has relocated to a bigger site. Wycombe are serious about moving forward as a club. But for this to continue, they must first secure survival.
So how are they coping in the big time?
Well, having lost all of their first seven games, before picking up their first point of the season against Watford on matchday eight, it was anything but a promising start for the Buckinghamshire outfit. However, this was to be expected; it can take a bit of time to get used to the gap in quality between the third and second tiers. There’s an infamous gulf in between the standards of the two divisions, a gulf that has caused clubs like Rotherham and Barnsley to find a middle-ground, whereby they seem to be constantly switching between the two divisions.
Since drawing with Watford in late October, it seems as though Wycombe are developing into a competitive side. While they may have claimed zero points from their first seven games, Wanderers have achieved ten points from their subsequent seven games, with only one of those being a defeat against Nottingham Forest. This is mid-table form, and for a club like Wycombe, that would be an incredible achievement for their first season in the Championship.
Before a ball was kicked, very few backed Wycombe to stay up. I think we are now beginning to see them evolve into a team that will grind out tough draws away from home and win many valuable points throughout the season. It is that kind of siege mentality that they will need if they are to survive.
There is no doubt that every game in the Championship is a tough game, but the way Wycombe are growing into the season bodes well for boss Gareth Ainsworth; teams will not want to play against Wycombe.
Their 1-1 draw away at Derby County last weekend was a significant result against a fellow struggling side. It was Wayne Rooney’s first game in the dugout at Pride Park, and often teams playing for the first time under a new manager put in formidable performances. Derby dominated the game for the most part, but Wycombe were impressive in their defensive organisation and their counter-attacking play. The Chairboys bided their time to score a late equaliser to clinch a valuable point.
If they can continue to perform the way they did on Saturday and keep earning points against bottom half teams, Wycombe will be in with a good shout of survival. Saturday’s result, combined with the previous draws against better opponents in Huddersfield and Brentford, proves their character and commitment.
Wycombe may be the smallest club in the division; they may never be a club that will sell out their half of Wembley. But this is just another beautiful English football success story. A story that proves that size does not matter.
Regardless of what the Premier League think, smaller and less merchandisable clubs can be successful.