Wanderers slide back into League 1...Part 22 - Season 2011/12 – Wanderers again struggle in League 1
The big question being asked pre-season was whether Wycombe could this time manage the transition to League 1. Owner Steve Hayes commented that the side were “much stronger” than when they were promoted in May 2009. Over the summer, boss Gary Waddock - who had just signed a new three-year deal - made six signings including exciting forward Joel Grant. Meanwhile with defenders Alan Bennett and Chris Westwood leaving the club, James Tunnicliffe arrived from Brighton.
Other club news was that Dreams were new shirt sponsors with Kappa supplying the club’s team wear and merchandise. The reserve side was not entered into the Football Combination with Waddock commenting that “high standard practice games would be arranged to ensure the players remained in good shape and ready to be called upon when needed for first-team duties”.
The other major talking point pre-season was that the controversial proposals for a stadium and “sports village” at Booker were sensationally ended at the Wycombe DC meeting in July. The meeting, played out before a packed public gallery, culminated in near farce when only four of the 10 members of the Cabinet were allowed to vote due to the council’s code of conduct preventing members with 'personal or prejudicial interest' from voting. All four of the eligible voters went for the option of “ending” the project.
Back to playing matters and it was vital that Wycombe got off to a good start. It was not to be: a 3-1 win at Leyton Orient was the only success in the five league games in August and the team were already playing catch up. By then the side were also out of the Carling Cup. Round 1 had seen a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Colchester before Championship side Nottingham Forest won comfortably 4-1 at Adams Park.
A Stuart Beavon hat-trick saw off Bristol Rovers in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the same player netted the winner against Sheffield United to end a run of five straight league defeats. Three days later the side recovered from going 0-2 down to lead 3-2 against Preston North End at Adams Park. The visitors however took advantage of defensive lapses to leave as 4-3 winners. Arrivals on loan were former Wycombe youth teamer Martin Rowlands (QPR) and left back Grant Basey (Peterborough). On the way out were last season’s goal scoring hero Scott Rendell (Bristol Rovers) and Andy Sandell (Forest Green).
Meanwhile Steve Hayes announced that he was looking for new owners for London Wasps. Wasps went on to have a poor 2011/12 season, finishing in their lowest position for many seasons in 11th place, narrowly avoiding relegation from the Premiership. Their average attendance at Adams Park was 6,745 with the ground being full for the visit of Newcastle Falcons in May.
Hopes of a decent JPT run disappeared when Cheltenham won 3-1 at Adams Park. In the league there was a confidence boosting 3-1 win at Hartlepool in mid-October, only the third in 13 matches. In that fixture Jordon Ibe became the club’s youngest player to appear in a Football League match at just 15 years and 311 days old. After just 11 first team appearances the youngster secured a fairy tale move to Liverpool. By then Wycombe had been knocked out of the FA Cup 0-2 by Conference side Fleetwood despite having a man advantage for most of the tie.
Waddock made a double swoop into the loan market to sign winger Anthony McNamee from MK Dons and 19-year old striker Marcello Trotta from Fulham. Trotta was an instant success, scoring in each of his first four games in Wycombe colours. The highlight was his hat-trick in the Boxing Day 3-1 home win over Exeter that lifted Wycombe briefly out of the bottom four. The year ended though with a 0-1 home defeat to Stevenage with the side back in the relegation zone.
2012 started poorly with four league defeats from five league fixtures in January. There was a humiliating 0-6 home defeat to Huddersfield in front of the Sky TV cameras, Jordan Rhodes netting five times. The month ended with another large defeat, 2-5 at Brentford, that saw Waddock’s side slip to the bottom of the table. Trotta was recalled by Fulham after impressing with eight goals in as many appearances.
Waddock gave debuts to four loan signings against Hartlepool on February 25th including Charlton pair Gary Doherty and Paul Hayes. By now the side were rock bottom – five points adrift of safety. The new look side responded with a splendid 5-0 win, Hayes and Beavon both scoring twice with Doherty also finding the net. After losing at Scunthorpe the side then went seven games unbeaten to boost hopes of survival. Fine away wins at Bury and Exeter edged the side out of the bottom four. Hayes however was recalled by Charlton after netting six goals in six appearances.
Survival hopes however were dashed in April. There was a 0-4 defeat at Chesterfield on Easter Monday and then two vital home points were lost when Oldham converted a 90th minute penalty to leave with a 2-2 draw. Wycombe were three points adrift in the relegation zone with just three games remaining. Despite a spirited performance Wycombe lost 1-2 at Charlton – a result that saw the Addicks clinch the League 1 title. Play-off seeking Notts County then arrived at Adams Park. In a remarkable contest Wycombe contrived to lose 3-4 despite leading 3-2 with a minute of normal time remaining. The defeat meant Wanderers dropped back to the basement division after just one season.
Wycombe finished 21st with a points total of 43 – seven points adrift of 20th placed Leyton Orient. Player of the Season Stuart Beavon ended with a commendable 25 goals. Average home attendance was 4,834 (around 300 up on the previous season). Best home attendance was 7,097 for the Walsall fixture (a “Community Day” ticket initiative). The paltry 771 attendance for the JPT meeting with Bristol Rovers was the lowest first-team attendance at Adams Park since Wanderers joined the Football League in 1993.
The season culminated with rumours rife that the Supporters Trust would soon be taking over ownership of the football club – more of that in Part 23.
This article first appeared in the club's matchday programme on Saturday 2nd April 2016.