Wycombe aim to revive the ‘Spirit of Southend’ as they head to Wembley


Adebayo Akinfenwa scored twice at Southend in 2019 and turned around recentWycombe history
Photo: Wycombe Wanderers FC

Manager Gary Waddock led Wycombe Wanderers straight back to League One at the first attempt in 2011 with a third-place finish and a points total of 80, the highest the club had recorded since its promotion to the Football League.

As with their previous recent venture into England’s third tier two years before, they came straight back down. They were to linger in the fourth tier, occasionally flirting with relegation to the Conference until 2018, when a victory over Chesterfield on 28 April 2018 guaranteed a third place finish and automatic promotion.

This gave them their third crack at League One since 2004.

But nothing had been the same since the heady days of nine consecutive seasons in the division between 1995 and 2004. Sadly both their recent invasions into the third tier had resulted in the shortest of stays.

Last season, for the first time since 2003, they survived the drop, finishing 17th with 53 points. Adebayo Akinfenwa and Joe Jacobson were the top scorers, both scoring seven goals. But League One safety didn’t always look certain.

They endured a horrible run between February 19 and April 9 of 2019, taking just one point out of 30. They had scored nine and conceded 22 in that run and were without a win since January 26.

Relegation seemed certain. To make matters worse, their next game was away to Southend United, where a sixth consecutive defeat would finally plunge them into the drop zone.

A third successive one stay season in the third tier looked inevitable.

Wycombe had one point out of 30 heading to Southend

But that day in Essex changed not only Wycombe’s season but arguably the trajectory of their history.

After a goalless first half, Akinfenwa scored twice inside four minutes to give Wanderers a life saving 2-0 win in front of 7689 mostly stunned spectators. Akinfenwa had waited two and a half months for a goal and now two had come along in four minutes.

The Chairboys won two of their remaining four games, beating both Walsall and Fleetwood 1-0 at home. But it was the day on the Essex coast that was instrumental in their survival.


They began this season with some optimism and they were right to, unlike the others, this one has not been a relegation fight. They suffered just one loss in the first 20 games and led the table with 43 points. They were looking good for their first ever promotion to the Championship.

However 16 points from their next 14 games saw a slump and when the season was called to a premature halt, they finished outside the top six on points scored. However Wycombe were given play off place through the points-per-game method.

This year Jacobson and Akinfenwa have 21 between them and are again the club’s top marksmen, with Fred Onyedinma who joined from Millwall netting six.

These efforts have preserved the chance to rise to the second tier for the first time in their history. To do that they now need to beat ‘neighbours’ Oxford United.

Their only meeting with Oxford this season proved to be a 1-0 defeat at the Kassam Stadium. James Henry scored United’s winner and Wycombe played 64 minutes with ten men after Akinfenwa was sent off early on, in a match that saw eight bookings.

That should not unduly bother them as they had taken one point out of a possible six against Fleetwood in the regular season, but easily disposed of them 6-3 in the play-off semi finals. Oxford edged past Portsmouth on penalties.

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Only 23 miles separate the two towns competing for the precious promotion slot.

While it lacks the tradition of Oxford’s bitter rivalries with Reading and Swindon, High Wycombe is actually closer to the the City of Dreaming Spires than either. The match certainly fires the players up if this season’s only encounter is any evidence.

Wanderers take a fully fit squad to Wembley for the final.

Manager Gareth Ainsworth  told the media:

“I’ve got a full fit squad which is brilliant.”

“It’s crazy because during the season, you never seem to have the fully fit squad. My sport scientist said you wait if you get to Wembley nobody will be injured that week and he’s been proven correct.

“Everyone’s out that and everyone’s flying around in training because they know that this is a wonderful opportunity. But in my head, I’ve got my plans.

“I think I’ve got most of what I want to do including team selection sorted out in my head. It’s just a matter of getting some final messages into the boys in this week and making sure they’re ready for what will be a tough challenge. But everyone fit, fully fit squad and that’s brilliant news for me.”

Coventry City and Rotherham United are already heading upwards having gained automatic promotion.

Wycombe will attempt to complete in Middlesex a turnaround in fortunes that began in Essex.

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