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League One

Bill Turnbull: More than just a game

13 July 2020

Wycombe Wanderers have reached the League One Play-off final at Wembley and their most famous supporter Bill Turnbull will be there, reporting on the game.

A Chairboys stalwart, Bill will be part of the club’s media team providing commentary to the fans.

On supporting Wycombe Wanderers…

We used to live in Buckinghamshire, just outside Beaconsfield, so Wycombe used to do football camps during school holidays and my kids went to that, and then there was the famous FA Cup run when they reached the cup semi-final in 2001 and that’s really what got us hooked, me and my two sons (daughter occasionally).

After that we became season ticket holders. You could call us glory-hangers, except that there wasn’t a lot of glory to be had. There after you grew to love it, to love the club. There’s a special atmosphere about Wycombe Wanderers. Because of where it is, such a lovely rural setting and it's small enough still to have that real club feeling about it where people do care about each other.

When I go to games, and I don’t get to as many as I used to as I live in Suffolk now, but when I do go, I meet people who I haven’t seen for a long time. People come up and say hello. It's like seeing family in some respects. It's so much more than just a game.

On the club’s expectations this season…

I’d have laughed if anyone said we’d end up at Wembley this season. People talk about mid-table mediocrity. That was my ambition for the club. The previous season it was just staying up in League One. This season was mid-table mediocrity, but I realised very quickly that I was going to have to reset my sights and they were aiming much, much higher than that. Wycombe were unbeaten in 14 games at one point and top of the table at Christmas, and that was unheard of. It wasn’t that we couldn’t believe it; we were just living a dream in that respect. To be going to Wembley in the Play-Off Final is something that very few of us would have envisaged.

On playing Oxford United in the Final…

They were not the first team to beat us this season, but they were the team to break the streak.

From the fans' perspective this is a long-term rivalry, certainly. Oxford have spent some time in the top division and have also dropped out of the league altogether. They have more of a roller coaster ride over the years than even Wycombe have. There’s a lot of sparring that goes on. It’s called the M40 derby and it’s always fun to play them.

A lot of Wycombe fans work in the same offices as Oxford fans, so they have to work alongside them every day, so it's more about bragging rights on the Monday after the game, that sort of thing.

It’s not a deadly rivalry; more a friendly, loud rivalry.

Colchester used to be our arch enemies for odd and mysterious reasons. And Brentford used to be a bit of a derby as well. I loved Griffin Park, a pub on every corner.

On being at Wembley Stadium…

Wycombe played at the old Wembley several times in the various trophy competitions, but we went to the new Wembley in the League Two Play-Off Final in 2015 where we played Southend. I flew back from Spain a day earlier from my holiday and my wife wasn’t very happy. We were winning 1-0 in extra time with 20 seconds to go and we ended up losing on penalties, it was a bit of a heartbreaker that. We backed off and backed off, and they had that one shot. I don’t even like to think about it. I don’t think any fan wants it to go to penalties. I just hope it doesn’t, because it’s just too much to watch.

Pre-match nerves…

How do I feel about it? Excited? Yes. Nervous? I will be on Monday afternoon and evening. You know you are the envy of all the other fans in the league by getting to Wembley. It's an occasion you have just got to make sure that you enjoy, win or lose. These are memories that will last for a lifetime. My regret is that no fans are going to get to see it from either club, and that’s really, really sad. But it’ll be a great occasion and one to remember.

On being 90 minutes away from the Sky Bet Championship…

I don’t want to talk about it too much as it’s like ‘touching the trophy’, which you should never do, but it would be just remarkable, extraordinary, beyond the dreams of a lot of fans to be in the Championship.

People may had had this vague notion, this pipedream for years and years. But if it were to happen, it would be extraordinary and would take some getting used to. We have new owners, Rob Couhig in America and his associates, and his nephew Pete has been doing an amazing job over here. He’s been isolated from his family for months, apart from one trip home, I think. They are good people, sound and solid businesspeople and they will be ready for the moment. I’m hoping that if it was to happen that it would not be a flash in the pan by any means.

On Gareth Ainsworth…

He’s is the longest serving manager in the EFL. He is just a real diamond geezer, he’s fantastic. As a player his attitude was never say die, he always gave the very best that he could. He’s a rock-solid fella, a wonderful, wonderful man. I have huge amount of time for him and am very fond of him. He’s not only been with us as manager for a long time, altogether he’s been with us just over 10 years. He arrived on loan, and then as a full-time player. He played with us for three or four seasons before taking over as player-manager. He just kept us in the league on one critical day when it came down to a single goal that would have made the difference and sent us down. And then straight after that he got us to Wembley [in League Two Play-Off Final in 2015], and then he got us promoted and kept us up.

You can see from his energy on the touchline, he gives absolutely 100 per cent every single day and that gets through to the players. I can’t tell you how much I admire him. Of course he’s also been a big supporter of Prostate Cancer UK too. He wears the badge at a lot of matches, and has been really supportive to me which I really, really appreciate. When you have the disease every bit of love you get really makes a big difference. And to have people like him behind you and supporting you is a big boost.

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