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League One

Third times a charm for Ainsworth

14 July 2020

After losing in a Play-Off Final as a player back in 1994 and then as a manager in 2015, Gareth Ainsworth made it third time lucky at Wembley on Monday evening.

The 47-year-old led his Wycombe Wanderers side to victory over Oxford United sending the Chairboys into the second tier of English football for the first time in their 133-year history.

Joe Jacobson netted the winner from the penalty spot sealing an unforgettable night under the lights, and Ainsworth says his side were destined to play Championship football next season.

“It is an amazing feeling to take this club into the Championship is just surreal, it is beyond my wildest dreams it really is,” he said.

“I stood on that touchline five years ago and got beaten on penalties and this is the culmination of the heart and desire of those players out on the pitch.

“This game was always going to be cagey, my goalkeeper Ryan Allsop made two world-class saves and they were always going to come at us like they did, but we were destined to play Championship football.”

Ahead of one of the biggest games in the club’s history there was no surprise that the Wycombe boss might have been a tad apprehensive leading up to kick off.

Former Chairboys promotion winning manager Martin O’Neill dropped Ainsworth a text message in the lead up to Monday night’s final, and the now-Wycombe boss says that message helped settle the nerves.

“This is Wycombe Wanderers’ greatest hits, I have had some great messages off some people – Martin O’Neill has been fantastic, the absolute legend who brought this football club into the Football League,” he added.

“I got a great text off him leading up to the game and it calmed my nerves, it just settled me down that someone like him knows what an achievement it is getting to a Play-Off Final.

“Never mind winning it, little moments like that make all the different, it enables me to be me and to get messages to give to players, and I think everything went alright on the night.”

As Ainsworth’s press conference was happening inside the stadium, the players were still relishing in the moment on the Wembley turf.

The set of players who were written off before a ball had even been kicked now drenched in champagne and living for the moment. When asked if Ainsworth would be able to get them home he answered by saying that he was only too happy to let them enjoy the fruits of their labour for as long as they wanted.

“How many times do you get to Wembley and win?” he asks.

“This is my third time at being at Wembley, I’ve lots twice, once as a player and once as the Wycombe manager.

“We did some visualisation in the hotel and I told them to imagine this moment, because once you actually get to that moment no one can take that away from you, so make it count.” 

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