Wycombe Wanderers travel to Carrow Road still looking for their first point of their Sky Bet Championship campaign. However, having talked Phil Catchpole, who has followed the Chairboys since the 1980s, it is clear the Chairboys are close to getting their first win and relish their underdog status.
Phil works as a local BBC reporter covering Wycombe as well as proving the club commentary on iFollow and producing his own Wycombe Wanderers FC based podcast.
OTBC: Wycombe have had a slow start to the season, but have you seen signs in terms of their performances that they are closer to getting their first point?
PC: Yes, they are getting closer, although the fixture list coming up does look a bit daunting so we will see. They are competing a lot better in recent matches and I think the loan signings have helped give them a bit more quality in midfield. Dennis Adeniran has been a really good signing and Josh Knight, from Leicester, did really well at the weekend, although he played in defence but I think he can play in midfield as well. It is slowly getting there, and I think it was also a big boost for the team to get their first goal on Saturday. It was a bit of a ridiculous goal but to get that monkey off their back was good.
OTBC: That goal from Scott Kashket against Millwall came from a high press. Norwich like to play out from the back do you think the high press is something Gareth Ainsworth will look to deploy when his side come to Carrow Road?
PC: Possibly. Against Swansea they sat off and that didn’t really work and I think they learnt a lesson there. Against Millwall they certainly did employ the press. The problem is they have to work so hard, because they don’t have the ball for such a large amount of the game, it is whether they can keep that up over the 90 minutes. I think we saw that against Millwall. I think it is something he will try and instil against Norwich, but I don’t know if it is going to work based on the quality that your team has. The team has just come down from the Premier League where you have had to play around a press much quicker and I don’t think the fitness will be there to play that press over the 90 minutes. Wycombe are going to have to be ruthless when their chances come and then ride their luck a little bit against sides like Norwich.
OTBC: When you take into account that Wycombe Wanderers haven’t got one of the biggest budgets at League One level, let alone Championship, what are the expectations from this season?
PC: I think most people, including Wycombe fans, expect us to get relegated. I think we had the second smallest budget in League One last season and Gareth Ainsworth has been quoted as saying we have got the smallest Championship budget of all time. They haven’t really thrown money at the squad, which is fair enough in the current climate, so the expectation is that Wycombe will roll their sleeves up and have a go with no real pressure on them to stay up. If they were to get relegated it would be a big problem. They would go back down to League One a much stronger club and attempt to come back – a bit like Rotherham have done over the last few seasons yoyoing between the two divisions.
OTBC: It seems Wycombe produce some of their best displays when people write them off. How much do they buy into that underdog spirit and how much does that help team unity?
PC: Yes, it is what Wycombe have got in abundance. They have had no money really for a long, long time. Gareth Ainsworth has had to find other ways to make his team competitive and that is through the culture and unity he has built at the club. They are hallmarks of his own character and he has made sure that they are applicable throughout the squad. Going back to that game against Torquay United in 2014, everybody had written us off. Even the Wycombe fans thought we were down, but it was Gareth’s belief and character that got us that win. I spoke to him the Thursday before the game he was upbeat. He said: ‘I full believe we are going to do it.’ He is one of those people you get off the phone to, after a five or ten-minute conversation, and you do feel a bit taller yourself. He is that kind of person and I can see why the players love him. He has changed one bit with that attitude. You only have to listen to his post-match interview on Saturday to see that.
OTBC: Gareth Ainsworth has now been in charge of Wycombe for over eight years. Considering his success are you surprised he has not been offered a job, with a bigger budget, and left?
PC: Yes and no. I am surprised other clubs have not taken him a bit more seriously as a manager. I think football is quite short-sighted in a way and I don’t think people really appreciate just how good of a job he has done at Wycombe because of the style of football that they play. The style of play is not really by choice. I think Gareth has had to find a way to be successful on an incredibly small budget. Until this transfer window we hadn’t paid a transfer fee for a player for 10 years, so you can’t expect his sides to play like Brazil from the 1970s. He has had to find a way of getting the best out of very little and he has done that but football has kind of pigeon-holed him a bit. They think he is the new Jon Beck and he has only got one way of playing and that is drastically unfair. I would love to see Gareth manage with a bigger budget at a bigger club and I think it will happen one day and when it does Wycombe fans will probably start having that team as their second team. That is how much he is loved at the club.
OTBC: Wycombe look deadly from set-pieces, especially with Joe Jacobson. How important do you think that could be for Wycombe if they are going to get a result on Saturday?
PC: It will be huge. Hopefully Adebayo Akinfenwa is available. He made his first appearance of the season off the bench on Saturday. He is massive for Wycombe from set-pieces – attacking and defending them as well. If Wycombe get a free kick, it is going towards the edge of the opponent’s penalty area. It doesn’t matter where it is on the pitch, even if it is on the edge of their own box. Gareth firmly believes in getting the ball in the ‘mixer’ so to speak. So set pieces will be important. Corners are massively important. Joe Jacobson has got a fantastic habit of scoring directly from them – he has done it five times in a Wycombe shirt now. It should have been six if you count the one that was ruled out against Millwall. So, they are important. However, what I have noticed in the Championship is that every squad we have come up against so far, are taller than Wycombe Wanderers. So, I think we need to get Bayo (Adebayo Akinfenwa) back pretty quickly.