Gary Johnson: Rock star Gareth is terrific young manager
- Credit: Dave Rowntree/PPAUK
With no disrespect to anyone at Oxford United, I was so pleased that Wycombe Wanderers won the League One play-off final at Wembley this week - for two personal reasons.
First, for Gareth Ainsworth, who is not only a terrific young manager but one of the nicest blokes in the world.
Second, for Bayo Akinfenwa, who the Yellow Army will remember from his time at Plainmoor (2004-2005).
Gareth was part of the Cambridge team which John Beck, with me as assistant, took from the old Fourth Division to the Second Division play-off final back in the early 1990s.
He was probably the most aggressive right-winger I've ever worked with.
He might not go past three men with the ball at his feet, he was quick, strong and brave.
He scored loads of goals, many with his head, because he was prepared to go in where it hurt at the far post.
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We've stayed close ever since, we talk regularly and he has taken all his qualities as a player into management.
He looks a bit rough and ready, and he plays in a rock band, but he was into all that all those years ago at Cambridge. It's the real Gareth.
Was it only five years ago that Wycombe had to win at Plainmoor to keep themselves in the League? They did it, and look at them now.
Everyone knows Bayo. He played for me at Northampton and he helped to keep us up there.
On top of what he does on the pitch, he's got an ability to bring people together. At Wembley the other night, you could see the influence - a good, healthy influence - he has around the Wycombe squad.
Wycombe have joined a group of so-called 'small' clubs - Cambridge United, Crewe Alexandra and Yeovil Town - who have not only made it all the way from the lower divisions to the Championship, but in a comparatively short space of one manager's tenure.
So how do clubs with limited resources, often starting out with 2,000 gates, do something like that?
Cambridge did it, Dario Gradi did it at Crewe in the mid-1990s, we did it at Yeovil all the way from the Conference and now Wycombe have done it. Is there a secret?
I think there is. First, it's the manager. Second, it's continuity.
Generally, no club quickly goes up two or even three divisions under different managers. At least I can't think of any.
The manager and the club have to 'fit' each other, and each stay loyal to each other, for it to get anywhere.
You have to bring your directors into your 'bubble', as it were.
You're not going to win promotion every season. So especially at clubs where you don't have much money, you have to turn as many key players as you can into real clubmen, and keep building.
Once you can get your first promotion, then everyone believes and everything can follow from that.
We could hardly say 'little old Torquay' in the National League South, could we? But you have to have a game that looks a bit like 'us against the world' - a relentless energy, showing other teams that you are always up for it.
Wycombe under Gareth Ainsworth have that attitude. We're trying to develop the same spirit at Plainmoor, and you never know where it might take us...!
Stay safe, everyone.