For the last couple of weeks, I have been shadowing Sports Journalist James Richings who covers League One side Wycombe Wanderers to get an insight into the life of a football journalist and what a two weeks I have had!
Although I am a Newcastle fan, I spent most of my childhood growing up in Wycombe, meaning my dad decided it was slightly too far to regularly travel to games. Instead, we got a season ticket at watching our then local side at Adams Park.
Since coming to university, I have barely had time to make the trip down south and so I was very excited to go and see the team play as I knew they were on an impressive unbeaten run, pushing for the League One Play-Offs, a huge achievement for a club with one of the smaller budgets in the EFL.
Fellow play-off contenders Bolton Wanderers were the first opponents for the Chairboys that I watched at Adams Park. Gareth Ainsworth’s side managed to put in a strong performance and thanks to a wonderful strike from Lewis Wing, the Chairboys saw off fellow Wanderers in a hard fought, fast paced match.
Usually, I would make my way out the ground in a jovial mood however, this time I got to hang around with the local media outlets as they interviewed the managers and various players.
I had to pick my jaw off the ground after meeting Wycombe legend and then manager Gareth Ainsworth as well as Wycombe players Chris Forino and Lewis Wing who gave their reflections on their impressive performance.
Heading home from Adams Park that evening, little did anyone know that that was set to be Gareth Ainsworth’s last game as manager.
In the following days rumours spiralled and following the sacking of the QPR manager Neil Critchley, Ainsworth was firm favourite to take over the Championship club.
Ainsworth spent almost seven years as a player at the London club before joining Wycombe in 2010, going on to becoming their manager two years later.
I managed to watch his last match, something I could not quite believe as he was a constant at Wycombe and this is emphasised by him being second in the list of longest-serving managers in England’s top four divisions.
As the news was announced that Ainsworth was set to be QPR’s third full-time head coach this season, there was only one man who could possibly be a fit for the club, Mr Wycombe himself: Matt Bloomfield.
Bloomfield, 39, left Wycombe in September to take charge of League Two side, Colchester, but prior to that he played 558 games for the Chairboys before being forced into retirement after a fifth concussion in four years.
With Bloomfield’s appointment, next thing you know I am told I have the opportunity of going to his first press conference.
Driving into the training ground I was still stunned they were letting me in and when I was walking past the players, I was trying to act like this was a normal occurrence for me even though some of these players such as Joe Jacobson and Jason McCarthy are players I have grown up watching in the stands.
Matt Bloomfield’s first game in charge was up at New Meadow against a Shrewsbury side also hunting down a play off spot, so we travelled up there early on Saturday hoping for a first Bloomfield win.
Wycombe were punished for not taking their chances in this match and they conceded through a Jordan Willis own goal who was making only his second appearance of the season after Jack Grimmer had picked up a concussion in the previous game.
After a first half that had sparse goalmouth action, the second half had a quicker pace about it with Shrewsbury looking to confirm a vital three points against play off chasing rivals. Shrewsbury were a continuous threat on the counterattack and substitute Rekeil Pyke managed to double the home teams lead, finding the net after his initial shot was saved by Max Stryjek.
No previous permanent Wycombe manager had ever won their first EFL match in charge, and this unfortunately continued for the Chairboys as they suffered a 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury.
With the places for the play offs still wide open, the development and fringe players had an opportunity to prove to the new manager that they should be pushing for a place in the first team with the next match being against non-league side Bracknell in the Berks&Bucks Cup.
After what was after a heartbreaking trip to Wembley to watch my beloved Newcastle lose against Manchester United, where better to recover than to watch some proper football on a Tuesday night at non-league side Bracknell?
It was not the Wycombe side’s night as they were quickly caught out in Bracknell’s first attack as a Joe Grant’s strike beat Wycombe keeper, Harvey Cartwright, who joined on loan from Hull.
Grant slotted in a second to add a second goal before the halfway mark which meant Wycombe had a lot to do to stay in the Cup.
It proved too great a challenge for the young Chairboys, who looked a lot sprightlier in the second half but still were unable to find the quality in the final third to put away their chances.
“The boys will be disappointed, and rightly so. We want to win and compete in every game we take part”, Bloomfield said after the game. “I hope they learn from these experiences and use them to help them with their careers moving forward.”
“The boys didn’t give up and it was good to see that we got a goal back and have numerous chances in the second half.”
Not putting away their chances was the story at Bracknell and unfortunately carried over to the weekend’s game against Exeter City.
Bloomfield’s first home game was against a mid-table Exeter side who were looking for another win after their 2-0 victory at home to Cambridge, which was their first win in five games.
Exeter had only won one of their last ten fixtures at Adams Park but managed to leave Wycombe with a travelling point, one they were satisfied with after it finished 1-1.
Wolves loanee, Chem Campbell, opened the scoring in the second minute of his Wycombe debut, capitalising on a poor clearance from Pierce Sweeney. McDonald managed to grab a deserved equaliser after he slotted home the rebound of Sam Nombe’s shot which meant each team went away with one point apiece, with no complaints from either side.
Chairboys fans will have to wait slightly longer for Bloomfield’s first win at the helm.
A trip to Wycombe is of course never complete without mention of Adebayo Akinfenwa, a former Wycombe player who is well known as he was rated as the strongest player on FIFA.
Once a Chairboy, always a Chairboy and so Akinfenwa was back at Adams Park supporting his former teammates which include Bloomfield. Although Chairboys fans will have to wait slightly longer for Bloomfield’s first win at the helm, it is so impressive the club is managing to compete consistently around the play-off places.
I would like thank James Richings, the Sports Reporter at the Bucks Free Press, as well as Wycombe Wanderers for letting me get such an insight to the life of a sports reporter for the last couple of weeks.
I was so lucky to be able to be experience the hand over of one Wycombe and EFL legend, Gareth Ainsworth to Matt Bloomfield, as known as Mr Wycombe, who I think will thrive in his role with a talented squad.
Fingers crossed, when the university semester is over, I will be heading back to watch them in the play offs and maybe even get another trip to Wembley in there!