Lying deep in the recesses of the English mind and our claggy sod, a battle-hungry liege has long waited to be discovered. After weeks of speculation and careful assessment, statistics have shown that the gaunt, scarred frame is no less than a lost English king. The car park from which he emerged, however, is not in Leicester but at the end of an industrial estate by Adams Park, and the king is not from York, but Lancashire. Behold, Gareth Ainsworth, emerging from his Audi! (Cue parping fanfare).
Gaz is second only to David Beckham in my eyes as a footballer worthy of the status of warrior-king (second only because Gareth can’t quite carry off THIS. FAINT). He got the whole Wycombe crew Movembering in 2011, and grew another grey-tipped gringo upper lip last time around. Even outside the additional autumnal hairiness, his tousled long locks and grizzled features make him basically Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings, complete with method-acting intensity and slightly deranged passion. In his spare time he fashions himself as a gravelly-throated rock god, unashamedly belting out covers in various stoically-unfashionable pub-rock outfits. His nickname is ‘Wild Thing’. Pre-Wycombe, he left the fans of Preston, Lincoln, Port Vale, QPR misty-eyed in his musky wake. Let’s look to the facts.
After relegation last season and a desperate start to 2012-13, it was seen fit to thwart a winter of discontent by saying off-you-pop to Gary Waddock and appointing Our Gaz caretaker-manager; he was then made manager proper in November. There were some sour rumblings amongst some fans about this, seeing as Gareth, though wondrously gung-ho as a player, had no solid managerial experience. We wanted a man with stripes! A Megson, a BRIAN LAWS. PAH. What little did we know.
After all, Gareth HAS done some groundwork: before joining Wycombe in 2010, his seven-year tenure at QPR included twice quietly picking up the pieces as caretaker-manager, following whimsical sackings by the bonkersly megalomaniac Flavio Briatore and co (‘stars’ of jaw-dropping documentary The Four-Year Plan). He’d always intended to go into coaching, and so pushed hard to take the job this season at Wycombe.
After a rocky couple of games, Wycombe’s vital signs suddenly flickered into action, and we roused to stomp determinedly out of relegation. Gareth has signed some sparky chaps on loan over the months, such as goalkeeper Jordan Archer from Spurs, Charlton’s Ade Azeez, and Michael Harriman from QPR. More recently, with fluid tactics from game to game, and solid defending, we’ve had a triumphant 9 wins in 13, with a 4-0 drubbing of York (ha, take THAT, Richard III!) last Saturday, prompting the media to ask whether we might ghost the play-offs. To which Gaz maintains the obligatory managerial hardline that he’s banned those words from earshot and that the priority is to keep us in League 2.
For the last few years we’d have given our kingdom for a rollicking, harrumphing wild stallion of the sort that we had in Martin O’Neill or Lawrie Sanchez. We like to think we often breed good managers here, ones who gallop into greener pastures rather than get minced up in the meaty murk of the lower leagues for their whole careers. One of our alumni, the oily John Gregory no less, deems Gareth fit for service, suggesting he’s got the chops to follow O’Neill, Paul Lambert and himself into the Premiership. Well, we’ll see where we are at the end of April. I like to think he will be daubing sky and navy blue woad on his cheeks before the last match, leading his pumped-up troops onto the pitch with a ragged roar of ‘we few, we happy few, we band of -‘ curses! Wrong play.
Seriously though, what other manager can claim to have interviewed Guns ‘n’ Roses guitar-slinger Slash for BBC Radio, and moreover easily pass for one of his band? The man is a LEGEND.