Football is back this week, and around here it is literally coming home. Our local team (really local… our house sits right at the top of the hill behind the “stadium” pictured above), the Wycombe Wanderers, were sitting down in League Two (in English football, that is the 4th level down after Premiership, Championship and League One…that’s 68 teams above you at least) as recently as 2013. I watched the horror of the “Chairboys” (Wycombe is historically famous for being a manufacturing centre for chairs) lost their lead in the final minutes of a playoff which would have promoted them. Such a setback (as well as many other misfortunes to befall them) might have been the death knell for many an organization. But the Wembley curse was erased with their playoff win this year promoting them to the Championship league of English football (probably the closest equivalent in similar stature is AAA Minor League baseball in the USA…not the majors, but serious and supported professional competition).
One of the ingredients of their success was embracing veteran players that other teams passed over for failing to be young enough or healthy enough. A band of footballing journeymen whose fairy tale season could be produced into a Disney movie of “Bad News Bears” meets “The Expendibles”. The BBC describes their embrace of these rejects:
- ”Wycombe Wanderers start their first ever Championship campaign on Saturday after overcoming financial troubles and proving everyone wrong to win promotion from the third tier. But what are the insights behind one of the best underdog stories in English football?… While undoubtedly partly down to financial restraints, the club – spearheaded by long-serving boss Ainsworth – give chances to players who perhaps felt they had reached the end of the road, and make it work time and time again…’I’d say a good 75% of our squad could write a book on their lives – not just inside football but outside of football – you’re talking gritty things that most people would take to the grave.’…’I don’t know of any bigger feat in English football history than what we’ve achieved,’ Charles told BBC Sport…’A lot of the lads here are rejects. They come here after falling out of love with the game and being mistreated somewhere,’ he said. ‘But the first day you walk through those doors you start to fall in love with football again.’…’They’re going to hate us in the Championship because we’re happy when things aren’t going well and when things are going well’.”