Adrian Wood describes the Blues' relegation from League 1.Part 20 - Season 2009/10 – An early return to League 2 amidst talk of the “Community Stadium”
The EGM in July resulted in Steve Hayes taking 100% control of all significant matters. His loans to the club had increased to around £7m and he basically presented supporters with an ultimatum making him quite unpopular despite the scale of his investment. He offered to reduce his debt by £3m in return for being granted 100% ownership of the club. Were he to be turned down, he would withdraw his financial support, which could have been calamitous.
Club directors warned that voting no would result in the club going into administration and being docked 10 points. As outright owner of both Wycombe and Wasps, Hayes now pushed on with his ambitions for the clubs – the new Community Stadium. Many Wycombe fans however were deeply attached to Adams Park and were sceptical about the move. They questioned whether the football club could happily occupy so large a stadium and suspected the project was more for Wasps' rugby future than Wycombe's credible good.
With captain David McCracken moving to MK Dons, manager Peter Taylor had signed experienced defenders Chris Westwood from Peterborough and Michael Duberry. Signed on a two-year deal, Duberry was appointed captain. Now back in League 1 after an absence of five years, Wanderers had a tough start facing the likes of Charlton, Leeds and Norwich within their opening four fixtures. After a narrow 2-3 defeat against Charlton at The Valley, Championship side Peterborough cruised to a 4-0 win at Adams Park in the Carling Cup. Four days later Leeds won 1-0 at Wycombe in front of what was to be the highest attendance of the campaign, 8,400. The first league point arrived in a 1-1 home draw with Southend - Matt Harrold getting on the score sheet. A 2-5 defeat then followed at Norwich – a fixture which was former manager Paul Lambert’s first in charge of the Canaries. Wycombe were third from bottom ahead of only Brighton and Southampton – the latter suffering from a 10-point deduction. A first win of the season came when Bristol Rovers were beaten 2-1 at Adams Park on August 29th. There was however to be a long wait until the next three points – this did not happen until November 21st at Millwall.
The side exited the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the first round, losing out on a penalty shoot-out at home to League 2 side Northampton Town. At the start of October there was another home defeat, this time 0-1 against Leyton Orient with Wycombe “reject” Scott McGleish netting the winning goal. A few days later news broke that Taylor had left by 'mutual consent' after just over 16 months in charge. Richard Dobson, Wanderers’ Head of Youth, was in charge of the side for the next game (a 2-3 defeat at Gillingham) before it was announced that Aldershot boss Gary Waddock would be the new Wycombe boss with Shots coach Martin Kuhl making the same journey.
Waddock’s first game saw Jon-Paul Pittman net a late equaliser at home to Colchester but Wycombe were rooted to the foot of the table with just seven points from 13 outings. Waddock brought in the talented Scott Davies on loan whilst former player Kevin Betsy re-joined from Southend. The club exited the FA Cup at Brighton after an incident packed 4-4 home draw leaving League 1 survival as the only target. There was an embarrassing 0-6 defeat at Huddersfield in front of the SKY TV cameras after which Waddock commented – "That performance wasn’t acceptable and the players know it. I was embarrassed and sorry for our supporters”.
The arrival of Gareth Ainsworth on loan from QPR coincided with a fine 2-0 win at Millwall – it was Wycombe’s first clean sheet of the season and moved the club off the foot of the table. The next two home games – against Brentford and Stockport – were also won but Christmas proved disastrous. The side lost 0-4 at Yeovil on Boxing Day and then crashed 2-5 at home to Brighton. 2009 ended with the club in 23rd place, ahead of only Stockport and 10 points adrift of safety.
January saw the departures of keeper Jamie Young, former skipper Duberry, and Tommy Doherty who had never got on with Waddock. Two of the more successful arrivals were striker Alex Revell (Southend) and former England under-21 keeper Tom Heaton on loan from Manchester United. Meanwhile Ainsworth signed an 18-month contract. The first three months of 2010 saw just two victories – an exciting 3-2 win at Bristol Rovers and a 1-0 home win over Millwall. There was also an excellent 1-1 draw at Leeds where Pittman netted in front of a 24,383 crowd.
By the time Hartlepool visited on April 10th, Wycombe were 23rd and nine points adrift of safety. Goals from Pittman and Matt Phillips secured a 2-0 win and three days later a brace from Revell and a Matt Bloomfield goal earned a 3-0 win at fellow strugglers Tranmere. Four days later came a superb 3-2 win at MK Dons. Dreams of a miraculous escape were still alive – just.
With just three games left, Wycombe were still five points adrift of safety. Swindon at home ended 2-2 before the 0-2 defeat at Leyton Orient (that man McGleish netting again against his former employers) sealed the club’s fate. The season ended with a 3-0 home win over Gillingham – a result that saw the Gills relegated as well.
Hayes immediately set Gary Waddock the target of promotion next season but also confirmed he would be working on a reduced playing budget - "The aim is to go up automatically and we want to do it in a blaze of glory. I’m gutted to find ourselves back in League 2”. For the record the average home league attendance was 5,445 and Matt Harrold finished top goalscorer with eight league and two cup goals.
Inevitably there was much talk about the possible Community Stadium at Booker. The Wycombe District Council agreed in principle to the idea and there was talk of the Council allocating £700k to facilitate development. Later details emerged of the “sports village”. The £50m plan was for a 100 acre sports village, including a 20,000-seat stadium. There would also be bars, shops, restaurants and offices. It would also have a hospitality suites, a conference centre, a 200-bed, four-star hotel, community pitches for cricket, hockey, rugby and football, facilities for Bucks New University, and a 30 acre residential development.
This article first appeared in the club's matchday programme on Saturday 12th March 2016.