A well-known traditionalist and passionate supporter of the FA Cup, Gareth Ainsworth says Saturday’s visit of Preston North End to Adams Park will be a particularly special occasion as his side prepare for battle against the Wycombe manager’s former club.
Ainsworth this week told the tale of his professional debut back in 1992, appearing for North End against Shrewsbury, at the start of the three different spells for the Lilywhites, earning hero status with 15 goals in 111 appearances in total.
“It was my first ever club,” he revealed. “I made my league debut for Preston in 1992, away to Shrewsbury at Gay Meadow. It was a crazy turn of events; I got a phone call the night before the game saying they didn’t have a right winger and did I fancy a game? It wouldn’t happen like that anymore!
“We lost the game 2-1 but it was brilliant for me. Once I’d played it, I remember thinking that whatever happens, I’ve played professional football, which was always my dream. It will always be a special moment for me, pulling on the PNE shirt, and I’ve got a massive affinity for the club and their fans.
“I’m pleased that they’re coming to Wycombe and I can show them who we are and what I’ve become, and hopefully we’ll give them a good game.”
Ainsworth has scored for both clubs in previous encounters between Wycombe and Preston, who first went head to head in the 1993/94 season which culminated in Wanderers winning the play-off final at Wembley against North End.
“There have been a few crazy games between the club, not least the heartbreak at Wembley! There was a worldie from (Hakan) Hayrettin at Deepdale, I scored against Preston for Wycombe in 2011, and a great goal from Kevin Davies when they beat us 1-0 in the FA Cup second round a few years ago. We want a different result this time around and we’ll give it a right go.”
Wanderers have now reached the third round of the FA Cup for three successive years, which is testament to the respect afforded to the competition by the Chairboys chief and his players.
“The FA Cup is so special to Wycombe Wanderers and we’re proud to have got to the third round again,” said Ainsworth. “But we want to progress even further.
“We know that we’ve made Adams Park a difficult place to come and we want to be that team that other teams fear playing. Preston are a very good Championship outfit and we’re looking forward to it and we’ll be doing all we can to create an upset and get a result.”
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