Pinpointing the key to Wycombe Wanderers' success

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Date: 14th Jul 2020

A distinctive identity and the outstanding backing of the fans has helped propel Wycombe Wanderers' fairytale rise to the Sky Bet Championship, according to a pair of Buckinghamshire New University academics.

Professor Paul Morgan, Head of School for Human and Social Sciences; and Neil Roberts, Course Leader in Multimedia Journalism, both have theories on the Chairboys' meteoric rise, capped by the dramatic Play-Off Final victory at Wembley over Oxford United on 13 July.Professor Paul Morgan

Prof Morgan says manager Gareth Ainsworth's leadership approaches have given the club an identity which has led them to thrive.

He said: "This is such a fantastic achievement for Wycombe Wanderers.

"In elite sport, the pathway to success often involves pressure and adversity and the Chairboys have encountered a number of difficult situations during several seasons.

"Our team resilience research at the university has shown that a resilient team is greater than the sum of its parts and leadership is vital so Gareth Ainsworth's approach has clearly been critical and contributed to a genuine sense of togetherness and a distinctive team identity.

Neil Roberts"Thanks to that, and excellent team functioning during pressure, they've achieved something magical."

Wycombe found themselves lifted into the play-off spots when the Football League decided average points per game would decide final league placings. But Neil said the club's remarkable success can also be traced back to the Supporters Trust buying the club in 2012.

He said: "Wycombe seized their chance with magnificent leadership on the pitch. But this is every bit as much a victory for the club's own fans.

"Eight years ago, they were in the lower reaches of League Two and sharing Adams Park with Wasps rugby club. But the supporters took control of their own destiny. They bought their own football club and only sold it on earlier this year, when the American businessman who bought it promised to clear their debts.

"Crucially, the fans retain a 25% ownership stake. And they're reaping the financial rewards. I believe better prize money and more lucrative TV rights will net them as much as £7m next season. So even if staying in the Championship would be a football miracle, they've already hit the jackpot and the fans must take an awful lot of credit for that."

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