As lead singer with rock band The Cold Blooded Hearts, Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth knows a thing or two about belting out hits.
But by beating Oxford United in the League One play-off final to reach the Championship for the first time in the club’s history, the 47-year-old says the Chairboys have produced their own chart-topper.
Wycombe only became a Football League club in 1993 when Martin O’Neill led them out of non-league – and only just avoided dropping out of League Two on a dramatic final day of the season six years ago when Bristol Rovers went down instead.
Now, next season, they will be facing the likes of Norwich City, Sheffield Wednesday and Ainsworth’s former side Queens Park Rangers in the second tier of English football.
Monday’s date at Wembley meant practice night for The Cold Blooded Hearts was called off – and Ainsworth said next week’s planned session might go too.
“This is Wycombe Wanderers’ greatest hits by a million miles,” he said, following his side’s 2-1 victory over the U’s.
“I might have to call next Monday’s band practice off as well, but The Cold Blooded Hearts will definitely be coming back soon and we’ll have plenty more time for that.
“It’s rock ‘n’ roll time and I’m sure Lee (lead guitar) and Ron (bass guitar), two great guys, will have to do a few acoustic sessions, I think.”
Legendary boss calms Ainsworth’s nerves
Former Republic of Ireland boss O’Neill managed Wycombe from 1990 to 1995, leaving them in what is now League One to take over at Norwich, before enjoying successful spells in charge of Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa.
He is revered at Adams Park because of his success in establishing the Buckinghamshire club in the Football League.
And Ainsworth, who was in charge of Wycombe when they lost the League Two play-off final to Southend on penalties in 2015, said a text from the 68-year-old on Sunday “calmed his nerves” before his return to Wembley.
“It settled me down that someone like him knows what an achievement even getting to this play-off final was, never mind winning it,” added Ainsworth.
“Little moments like that make all the difference. It enabled me to be me, give the messages I wanted to give to the boys.
“Tactically I thought we got it spot on. The way we executed the plan worked really well.
“We were obviously going to be up against it with a great side like Oxford, and Karl Robinson’s a good manager who gets his teams playing, but we only had to beat them on goals and I was confident that we would score and create chances. It was a fantastic day and I’m really proud.”
Ainsworth creates a ‘crowd’ without fans
Wycombe were eighth in the League One table when the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, but having a game in hand on their rivals meant they finished in third place when the final standings were decided on average points-per-game.
Ainsworth said key to his side’s success in the play-offs was the noisy support they were given by substitutes, support staff and even directors at his request to make up for the absence of fans as football has returned behind closed doors.
“I said ‘this is new to us with no crowd, could we be our own fans?’,” said Ainsworth. “It was quite evident that you can make a difference when there’s no one there.
“My boys were willing to shout and sing, and they didn’t care what they looked like. That’s what we are. We don’t care what we look like if that’s what it takes to get the job done.
“David Stockdale was leading it. Josh Parker hasn’t featured in the play-offs in any game, but he has because he’s been so vocal in getting the other boys singing and chanting and clapping and cheering every tackle and every header.
“That was a ploy that we wanted to use and I’m hoping that it inspired those on the pitch to work just that little bit harder.”