Sporting director Andrew Howard pays tribute to Gareth Ainsworth as the Blues boss reaches five years in charge this weekend.
When I first started working with Gareth after joining the board of directors in the summer of 2014, I was instantly impressed by his drive to succeed and take the club forward. Here was a guy who had been thrown into the deep end of football management at a club struggling to stay afloat financially and in real danger of dropping out of the Football League.
However, Gareth is a fighter, and someone who takes setbacks in his stride and uses them as learning experiences to improve. That was clear to me very early on, and strange as it may sound, the success of that 2014/15 season didn’t come as much of a surprise. Yes, we only targeted survival from relegation as a minimum, but Gareth and his staff had recruited as well as they could and created a culture where players and staff could punch above their weight.
In each of the three full seasons so far, the team have found themselves in promotion contention and given the supporters some fantastic memories along the way, from Wembley to Villa Park to White Hart Lane. My association with the club might be relatively short-term, but from speaking to those with far longer memories than me, I know this is a special era in the club’s history and Gareth has had a huge part to play as manager of Wycombe Wanderers for five years.
There’s three words that stand out for me when talking about Gareth. The first is respect. He’s earned the respect not just of the board, staff, players and supporters, but also from those outside the club – opposition managers, players, league officials and the national media. That stems from his character as a hard-working, honest and extremely determined individual.
The second is leader. I’ve heard it said that sometimes football teams are built in the mould of their manager, and I think you can see that on the pitch. Gareth’s playing days were all about running through brick walls for your team, giving everything you’ve got, and committing to be the best you can be. He can demand it from his players because he leads by example; I don’t think you can ever question the effort or desire from the team. Also look at the younger lads that have been given a chance by Gareth – Matt Ingram, Alfie Mawson, Jason McCarthy, and many more. Their time at Wycombe has given them the development on the pitch and the life skills off the pitch that they need to go on and pursue their careers at a higher level.
The third is winner. I love being part of this environment where every day there is a fantastic hunger to succeed – it gives the lads a competitive edge in whatever they do, and translates onto the pitch where they have earned the right to go shoulder to shoulder with anyone and believe they can win. It’s exciting to look back at how far the club has come during Gareth’s five years in charge and the next few months could be another fantastic chapter in that story as we look to go one better than last year and compete for promotion.
So all that’s left for me to say is thank you to Gareth, and his staff and players, for giving me such pride in working with you. Keep doing what you’re doing and let’s see where it takes us.