The Chairboys play Blackburn Rovers this weekend at Ewood Park and it’s a special occasion for boss Gareth Ainsworth, as he returns to face his hometown club for the first time in his managerial career.
“I can’t hide it. I love that place [Blackburn]; it’s where I’m from,” Gareth said. “It’s what’s shaped me as the man I am today.”
The gaffer, who had worked his way through the youth system at Blackburn, revealed what it was like growing up in the shadow of Ewood Park and how excited he is to be heading back:
“It’s a tough place. There are some brilliant people around and we made the most of it growing up. It’s where my people skills and resilience come from because you have to be tough up there or you get left behind.
“To be going back to Ewood Park - which is my home of football - makes me so proud. I was a six-year-old season ticket holder who got released at 18 which broke my heart, but I built resilience from that experience to play again.”
Ainsworth, however, feels his first meeting with the Rovers is slightly tainted due to the absence of fans:
“All I wish is that the stadium was full of Wycombe and Blackburn fans. The reason we got promoted was to go to places like Ewood Park, that’s what everyone wants. We will have to make the most of it with or without fans.
“It would have been great to show the Blackburn people how proud I am of my Wycombe team and what we have achieved in football. Maybe next year, that would be nice.”
Blackburn narrowly missed out on a point to Bournemouth last weekend and even though it’s a special occasion for Gareth, he is well aware of the task that lies ahead for his Wanderers side:
“It’s a game I want to win. They’re a good side, who just signed Daniel Ayala from Middlesbrough and he is a top centre-half. It’s going to be a special moment and a tough game, but we love being the underdog and we love upsetting the form book, so keep writing us off!”
In the home dugout for Blackburn is Tony Mowbray who's been at the helm for three years. For Ainsworth, the Rovers’ manager is someone he has a huge amount of respect for ahead of this weekend’s clash:
“They’ve got some very good players coached by an amazing manager in Tony Mowbray. He is up there because he’s managed some big clubs in his career. He’s a top guy and I would expect nothing more than a real tough test up there.”
Last time out, Wycombe just lost to Rotherham United, but Gareth is confident he has seen good progress and believes that his side is good enough to compete at this level:
“I thought against Brentford we were very good, especially when we went down to ten men. Against Rotherham, I felt we had the better chances and we’ve dissected the chances against us, and they were few and far between. I think the lads have done really well.
“I want to bring a couple more in for numbers and to bolster the squad. I think that we’ll surprise a few teams this season; we’ve got it in us.”
On the potential of Championship clubs re-opening their stadiums to fans, Gareth said: "We could’ve done with some fans against Rotherham; they make a difference, they’re a part of your team. I can’t wait till they’re back.”
Gareth’s side faces Blackburn on Saturday 19th of September with a kick-off time of 3pm. The game is available to stream live on iFollow with the Video Match Pass: