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Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Focus: Wycombe reporter Phil is backing a 2-1 win for Gareth Ainsworth’s side against Sunderland!

Ahead of Sunderland’s match against Wycombe today, we spoke to commentator, reporter and journalist, Phil Catchpole, to get the lowdown on Gareth Ainsworth’s side!

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Wycombe are 4th in League One, just four points behind Sunderland. Are fans confident that the team can achieve promotion to the Championship once again under Gareth Ainsworth?

Phil Catchpole: I reckon a lot of the Chairboys fans think that Wycombe are definitely in with a shout of going up, and with justification too.

The squad that Gaz has assembled is the strongest one the club has ever had and I don’t think that we have seen the best from them yet.

However, League One is incredibly competitive this year so there will be at least six clubs very disappointed to be staring at another season in the third tier come the end of May.

MC: A key factor in your success has been your home form, as Wycombe has won 8 of your 11 matches at Adams Park - what makes your team so hard to beat at home?

PC: Team spirit is still very high and also incredibly important to the entire squad who never know when to admit defeat.

The momentum at Adams Park started towards the end of the Championship season and despite suffering relegation by a narrow margin, it snowballed from there.

Despite Wycombe’s excellent home record this season, Sunderland fans will take encouragement from the fact that two of the bigger clubs in L1 in Ipswich and Portsmouth are the teams that have won at Adams Park.

MC: Gareth Ainsworth has spent 10 years in charge of Wycombe, is the statue being prepared?

PC: I hope they are already working on it as I reckon it will take quite some time to capture Gaz’s hair in the iron format.

Whatever happens from here, Gareth will be remembered as the best manager in the club’s history. Leading Wycombe from the brink of going out of the EFL and taking them into the Championship is an amazing achievement made all the more remarkable as he did it with barely any resources.

This season is his first in charge where there is a genuine expectation for the club to succeed, which I think most fans interpret as a top six finish – so far so good.

Hartlepool United v Wycombe Wanderers - FA Cup
Gareth Ainsworth won promotion from League Two with Wycombe, as well as the League One playoff final in 2020.
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

MC: The January transfer window is under way, what activity are you expecting at Wycombe?

PC: Currently there are no loanees in the Chairboys squad which is a major difference to previous campaigns.

A new development system has been put in place in the last couple of seasons which has seen three players break into the first team (Mehmeti, Forino and Pendlebury) but the loan market may be required to keep the top six mission on track.

Garath McCleary has often made the difference in tight games and was a big miss when he got injured - so cover for him in the shape of a young, exciting EPL loanee would be nice.

Otherwise the squad is pretty well balanced and a very tight unit so any further additions would need to be the right fit in terms of character, which can sometimes be tricky in the January window.

MC: Josh Scowen returned to Wycombe from Sunderland in the summer, how has he performed so far for The Chairboys?

PC: Josh has been excellent back in the quarters and received a very warm welcome home from the fans.

His midfield play is vital to the balance of the team as he can provide the platform for the front four to concentrate on getting involved in the final third.

He is one of many players down the years who have returned to Adams Park, which again underlines the excellent spirit at Wycombe.

MC: After a spell of playing in midfield as he did for Wycombe, Luke O’Nien looks like he now will miss the rest of the season. Where do you think his best position is on the pitch?

PC: At Wycombe, Luke was used as a high energy box to box midfielder and he was a fantastic performer for the club in this role - so much so, he got a move to a big club!

I think that’s his strongest position as he is also a tremendous wind up merchant, so having him in the middle of the pitch gives him more scope to really piss as many other players off as possible.

Regardless of where you play Luke, you know what you are going to get from him.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One
Luke O’Nien scored 16 goals in 119 appearances during his tenure with Wycombe.
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

MC: Sunderland has never won at Adams Park, with the matches usually being aggressive – do you think Wycombe can try and exploit our lack of physicality and bully Lee Johnson’s team?

PC: As I’ve said to you chaps before, teams can’t just roll into Wycombe and expect to be able to play their own way without earning the right to do so first.

Matching up in a physical battle, certainly in the early stages will be key for you and the intensity of the Chairboys’ play will mean you get periods of the game where you will be on top as it’s impossible to keep the level up for 90 minutes.

MC: Which 11 players do you think Ainsworth will select to start against Sunderland?

PC: (3-4-1-2) Stockdale (GK), Grimmer, Stewart, Jacobson, McCarthy, Scowen, Thompson, Obita, McCleary, Vokes, Hanlan.

MC: Sunderland beat Wycombe 3-1 earlier this season, what is your prediction for the final score this time around?

PC: 2-1 Wycombe.


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With a huge game to come against Southampton, let’s give the Lasses maximum support!

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