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Interviews

Gareth: It's a special occasion

Manager looking forward to pitting his wits against Jose Mourinho.

24 January 2021

Monday night sees the Chairboys take on Tottenham Hotspur in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup at Adams Park. It’s a game which will make many of us think back to the 2017 heartbreak at White Hart Lane, but Gareth Ainsworth was on hand to point out Wycombe’s other historic moments, as well as the positives from that day:

"It’s a special game for Wycombe Wanderers," he said. "Go back in history to the Middlesbrough tie in the FA Cup which they played in the 70s and that’s still mentioned as one of their greatest ever games. I’m hoping the Spurs game three years ago is as well, and then this game - it’s a huge tie for Wycombe Wanderers.

"I know it’s the FA Cup and some people will say it's a distraction, but for me it's just another game we must win. That’s all I ever saw it like as a player and that’s what I see it like as a manager. To host Tottenham Hotspur at Adam’s Park - of course it’s special, of course it’s a huge game.

"
We were the last away team to score three goals at White Hart Lane in 2017, which is a real privilege for Wycombe Wanderers. It was a really historic moment for us. We were close that day, we didn’t quite finish the job, but at the end of the game there were some really big hitters on that pitch for Spurs, including Son Hueng-min who got the winner. "

It was also a different man at the helm of the Lilywhites as they faced Wycombe four years ago, but Chairboys’ stalwart manager Ainsworth is looking forward to coming up against ‘the special one’.

"I’m sure it’s going to be a really strong Tottenham team on Monday because Mourinho is a winner, and he wants to win trophies. I think he’s different and I can relate to that slightly. I’m sure I’ve got my critics because of the way I am, but that’s how I’ll always be and I’ll stick to it. People are waiting for me to trip up somewhere and show that I’m not that person, but believe me, I am. I think Mourinho is different and that scares people. People want the norm."

Similarly, there were many who wanted to see Wycombe trip up in that fateful tie at White Hart Lane, but it wasn’t quite the match that many expected, Gareth included. Going into the changing rooms at half time leading 2-0 was already a massive achievement for the League 2 side. It wasn’t quite the fairytale ending we were hoping for, but the Chairboys worked until the very last minute, as the gaffer points out.

"I think any manager will probably relate to this, when you go in at half time and you weren’t expecting to be where you are, but you can’t make the lads worry about protecting a lead. We had to still go out there and try and continue in the same vein. I remember saying that the shape was working well and I also remember saying that there could be some big names coming on and that they’ve got to be ready for it.

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If I’m honest, there were a couple of mistakes that cost us right at the end. It wasn’t that we’d been totally ripped apart. We were still pressing, still pushing for us to win and it was fantastic to see. 

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When six minutes injury time gets put up on the board and they score in the seventh, that’s a bit of a suckerpunch. Sometimes that happens, but we’re ready for this time around and we’re looking forward to it."

It’s certainly a day that many fans and players will look back on with mixed emotions. A fantastic team performance, some cracking goals and last minute drama - it had it all and Gareth reflected on how the occasion and being part of that team made him feel:

"When I went over to the fans at the end, even being beaten, and knowing what it meant to them - to think that Wycombe had given everything and come out with so much credit at White Hart Lane - it made me start choking up. That was a moment for me because I try and hold it together when I’m on the pitch and usually I can, but there are some moments where you do really get carried away with that emotion. "

Although there’ll be no fans at Adams Park on Monday night, we’re still looking forward to having Chairboy fans across the globe support us virtually! You can tune in and watch on BT Sport, follow us on the socials and be sure to order a matchday programme for all the inside information and some top articles!

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