Paul Lambert's men reached the League Cup semi-final in a historic season for the club.Part 17 - Season 2006/07 – Carling Cup heroics
To replace the sacked John Gorman (who had taken the vacant manager’s post at Northampton just a few days later), the club announced at the end of June that Paul Lambert was to be the club’s new boss. The 37-year old’s only previous managerial experience was with Livingston – a post he had resigned from the previous February.
Meanwhile fans were delighted to learn that after three seasons of being known as “The Causeway Stadium” the stadium was once again to be known as Adams Park. Fans though paying on the day had to pay out £2 more per ticket compared to the 2005/06 campaign. An adult premium seat in the Woodlands or Main Stand now cost £20 while the Valley Terrace price was £16. A £3 discount though was available for online purchases. Other summer news related to London Wasps’ proposals to extend the stadium to a 15,000 capacity. The plan was for a revamped Valley End with two tiers of seating added above the existing terrace and for corner filling to join the extended Valley End to the Woodlands Stand.
On the playing side the main departure was Roger Johnson who turned down Swansea’s advances in favour of Cardiff City, a £275,000 fee being agreed. Other departures included Clint Easton, Danny Senda, Rob Lee and Joe Burnell. There were three arrivals over the summer – defender/midfielder Chris Palmer (Notts County), defender Sam Stockley (Col U) and midfielder Anthony Grant - a season long loan signing from Chelsea. To cover keeper Talia’s knee ligament injury, Lambert brought in Jamie Young from Reading and Ricardo Batista on loan from Fulham.
Once again the side made an excellent start to the campaign leading to early talk of promotion. Wycombe won six consecutive league fixtures (a new club record), scoring 11 goals and conceding just one to top the table. Easter netted a hat trick in the 3-0 home win over Bury; his goals coming within 25 second half minutes. Within that run there were also excellent away Carling Cup wins at League 1 outfit Swansea City and then over weakened Premiership outfit Fulham at Craven Cottage. This put Wycombe into the third round for the first time in their history.
Lincoln won 3-1 at Adams Park to end the side’s winning run but 2-0 home wins over Torquay and Peterborough kept Lambert’s side amongst the front runners. The squad meanwhile had been strengthened by the arrival on loan from QPR of Northern Ireland international midfielder Tommy Doherty. The home tie against Doncaster in the third round of the Carling Cup was a truly thrilling affair. The League 1 side edged ahead only for Stefan Oakes to smash home a thunderbolt free kick to equalise. The same player though was then red carded and in extra time an unfortunate own goal from Grant gave Rovers the edge. Easter though equalised with just four minutes remaining. In the penalty shoot-out Wycombe’s hero was the extrovert Batista who saved three penalties with his side edging through 3-2. It was a shame that just 3,308 fans witnessed one of the most dramatic evenings of cup football ever seen at Adams Park.
Off the pitch there was worrying news with WWFC PLC announcing annual losses of £1.872m following on from the £1m lost the previous season. The losses stemmed from massive increases in operating costs both on and off the pitch. On the playing side, the budget stepped up by around £500,000 and behind the scenes infrastructure costs had rocketed with the number of administration staff now above 40. To counteract the losses, MD Steve Hayes now had loans totalling £2.9m compared to £395,000 in 2005 and fellow directors Ivor Beeks and Brian Kane had loans of £45,000 each.
Easter scored the game’s only goal at Notts County in the fourth round of the Carling Cup and four days later goals from Antwi and Oakes secured a home 2-1 FA Cup 1st round win over neighbours Oxford United. Hopes of an FA Cup run disappeared at Stockport but there was a wonderful December night in South East London when the side won 1-0 at Premiership side Charlton to secure a semi-final place in the Carling Cup. Some 4,500 Chairboys fans were there as Easter continued his run of scoring in each round. League form, especially away from home, had slipped badly but the side were still in 6th place at the end of 2006.
The semi-final draw paired Wycombe with Jose Mourinho’s star studded Chelsea with the first leg at Adams Park. An almost capacity crowd of 9,971 saw Wycombe perform superbly, dominating early proceedings only to trail to a Wayne Bridge effort. Deservedly Easter equalised late on. At Stamford Bridge Wycombe started promisingly but Chelsea took their chances finally winning 4-0. It had been a superb run by the Chairboys – could Lambert now lift his side to get their promotion aspirations back on track?
The answer was a resounding no. The side won just three of their remaining 17 fixtures. The 3-0 home win over Macclesfield on March 3rd was the last success of the season and there was no win in the last eleven games, the season ending with four straight defeats. Betsy left for Bristol City while Scott McGleish arrived from Northampton for a rumoured £80,000 fee. The final league position was 12th, nine points adrift of the play-offs. There were rumours that Lambert was close to quitting due to “negativity from inside and outside the club” but he agreed to stay for another season. The last two months of the season were best forgotten but 2006/07 will always be remembered for that marvellous Carling Cup run.
Average league attendance for the season worked out at 4,983 with a best of 7,150 for the “county” derby with MK Dons. The previous season’s average had been 5,445. Easter top scored with 17 in the league and 24 in all competitions. As for tenants London Wasps, they finished their 5th season at Wycombe with Lawrence Dallaglio leading the side to a magnificent victory against Leicester to lift the Heineken Cup for a second time. There was however disappointment that, for the first time since they were introduced, the side did not make the Premiership play-offs. Wasps’ average home attendance was 8,278 with the maximum 10,000 watching the fixtures against Gloucester and Saracens.
This article first appeared in the club's matchday programme on Saturday 6th February 2016.