An in-depth look at the career of Wycombe new signing Paul Hayes, by Adrian Wood.
The vastly experienced striker - who will be 31 in September – immediately won over the Wycombe fans when he and Gary Doherty arrived on loan from Charlton in February 2012. Coming into a Wycombe side struggling at the wrong end of League 1, the on-loan pair made an instant impact to the club’s fortunes.
The next six league games saw four wins, one draw, and just one defeat (incidentally at Scunthorpe where Paul has enjoyed three spells). Paul remarkably netted six times in those fixtures, forming an instant partnership with leading scorer Stuart Beavon. The loan was originally for the remainder of the season but sadly Charlton manager Chris Powell recalled Paul to the Valley following illness and injuries to the Addicks squad.
Had he remained at Adams Park for the remaining eight games of the season, there is no doubt that the club’s hopes of avoiding relegation would certainly have been increased.
The younger brother of former Arsenal and Celtic star Martin, Paul’s career has taken him to ten different league clubs on an adventure that started out in 2001. During that time he has amassed some 423 league appearances, finding the net 95 times, while a further 23 goals have come in cup and other senior appearances.
Born in Dagenham, he grew up in East London and captained his school football team at the age of seven. He joined Norwich City as a 13-year old and appeared in pre-season friendlies for the Canaries in 2001/02. He was an unused substitute for the last two league games but failed to feature at all during 2002/03. City had an abundance of strikers above him in the pecking order and his Norwich Academy contract was cancelled in December 2002.
Division 3 side Scunthorpe United however took over Paul’s scholarship contract and the results were massive. He broke into the first team in January and bagged eight goals in the run-in, the main reason “The Iron” made the play-offs. He impressed with his strength, speed and ball-control and was rewarded with a 2-year professional contract.
In 2003/04 he was a regular in the line–up, scoring seven times in 45 outings, but Scunthorpe struggled - narrowly avoiding relegation to the Conference. 2004/05 was a much happier campaign with United finishing 2nd in League 2, achieving automatic promotion. Paul netted 20 goals in total and enjoyed a purple patch in October and November, scoring 10 goals in 10 games. This included a goal in the 2-0 home win over Wycombe. Another highlight was netting at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup – a tie that Chelsea ultimately won 3-1.
There was more joy for the striker the following season. He had moved north to League 1 club Barnsley in the summer of 2005 and, in just his second appearance, he netted against his former club Scunthorpe. His highlights however were to come late in the campaign. The Tykes finished 5th and Paul netted a penalty in the play-off semi-final against Huddersfield. He then became a hero at Oakwell netting Barnsley’s first goal in the final against Swansea at the Millennium Stadium. That game finished 2-2 and he converted a spot kick helping Barnsley to a 4-3 shootout win and promotion to the Championship. Paul netted 4 early goals in the Championship in 2006/07 but later in the campaign was no longer a first choice. He had a short loan spell with Huddersfield, netting one goal in four appearances.
In the summer of 2007 he re-joined Scunthorpe (now in the Championship) on a 3-year deal. He was virtually ever present until mid-February and played either in the hole just behind a striker or occasionally on the right side of midfield. It was in the final three games when he was utilised as an out-and-out centre-forward that he looked happiest, banging in five goals to end the season with eight. Unfortunately those goals came too late to stave off relegation.
Paul really found his scoring boots in season 2008/09; his 19 goals winning him the Player of the Season award and helping the club to promotion via the play-offs. Back in the Championship, Paul was a solid performer in 2009/10, returning 13 goals from 51 appearances.
He returned south for season 2011/12, joining League 1 side Charlton Athletic, starting the first 11 games of the season and scoring three times in their rise to the top of the table. However, opportunities became limited following the arrival of Frenchman Yann Kermorgant who formed a formidable partnership up front with Bradley Wright-Phillips. This led to Paul’s first spell at Adams Park as he and Charlton teammate Gary Doherty joined Wycombe on loan for the remainder of the 2011/12 campaign.
The Chairboys were bottom of the League 1 table at the time and had lost their previous three fixtures. Against mid-table Hartlepool, Gary Waddock gave debuts to his new arrivals from Charlton and also to fellow loanees Craig Eastmond and Chris Hackett. Unbelievably both the Charlton players had scored within the first 11 minutes. Paul netted again in the second half and a brace from Stuart Beavon resulted in a 5-0 home win.
Next visitors to Adams Park were Leyton Orient and Paul netted in the 4-2 win, before two fine away wins then lifted Wycombe out of the bottom four. Bury were beaten 4-1 at Gigg Lane with Beavon grabbing the honours with a hat trick and Paul also scoring. Three days later both were on target again as Exeter were beaten 3-1 with Paul netting twice.
At this stage though an illness to Kermorgant led to Paul being recalled to the Valley and he started up front at Huddersfield barely 24 hours later. Sadly for the Chairboys they failed to register a win in their last eight outings, slipping back to League 2. Interestingly Paul finished as the club’s third highest goal scorer that season behind Beavon and the other star loan player, Marcello Trotta.
Paul spent the 2012/13 season on Brentford’s books, netting six goals for the Bees and a further two in a loan spell at Crawley. Last season he was loaned out to Plymouth before in December signing for the third time for Scunthorpe in a contract running to the end of the season. He netted four league goals for “The Iron” in that period as they secured promotion to League 1.
Hopefully in 2014/15 Paul will be able to recreate the goal scoring form he produced in that short but memorable loan spell at Adams Park. With his vast experience, and hopefully an injury free campaign, he could well provide what we have been missing since the departure of Stuart Beavon – a regular source of goals, goals, goals.