Sunderland boss Alex Neil delivers verdict on Wycombe Wanderers and Gareth Ainsworth ahead of League One play-off final

Alex Neil has highlighted Wycombe’s endeavour and aggression ahead of the League One play-off final while praising the longevity of Chairboys boss Gareth Ainsworth.
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Ainsworth has been in charge of Wycombe since 2012, when he took over as caretaker boss, and won promotion to the Championship via the play-offs in 2020.

The Chairboys will be looking to repeat that feat when they face Sunderland at Wembley Stadium this weekend.

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And while the Black Cats will go into the fixture as favourites, Neil is well aware of the opposition’s threats.

Sunderland boss Alex Neil. Picture by FRANK REIDSunderland boss Alex Neil. Picture by FRANK REID
Sunderland boss Alex Neil. Picture by FRANK REID

When asked what sort of a test he is expecting from Wycombe, Neil told Sunderland’s website: “A dangerous one. I think they’re a tough team to beat, they’ve got a great habit at being in games all the time, they don’t necessarily need to play well to win.

“I think they’re dangerous from the first minute to the last minute, and they’re not the type of team to get too caught up in the processing and how you play and all that sort of stuff.

“They want to be as effective as they possibly can and those types of teams are always dangerous.

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“Sometimes they can lull you into a false sense where you are thinking you are controlling the ball and maybe creating a few chances, and then the next minute they hit you with a sucker punch.

“We know we’re going to have to be focused, we know what’s coming our way."

Wycombe finished sixth in League One, just a point behind Sunderland, and were on a 13-match unbeaten run before a 1-0 defeat at MK Dons in the second leg of their play-off semi-final – which saw them progress 2-1 on aggregate.

“Gareth and their players have done a great job getting to the final and having the opportunity to get promoted,” added Neil. “We know how much they are going to put into it.

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“We’ve got to match that endeavour, that effort, that aggression and everything that comes with playing Wycombe we need to match and then we need to hope we’ve got enough quality to win.”

When asked about Ainsworth and Wycombe’s trust in their manager, Neil added: “It’s very rare nowadays you get somebody that can really imprint themselves and their ID on a club.

“Obviously you need to earn a right to do that, Gareth has earned that right by making them successful and then what happens is when there’s complete trust there between the owners, between the fans, between the club and Gareth himself, then they basically hand control over to him.

“I think if you look down the history at a lot of the big clubs, even some of the clubs just now like Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and teams like that, that trust between every facet of the club is in place and that’s certainly what Wycombe have got.

“That’s not the norm anymore and that is an anomaly really amongst football clubs and that’s where they get their strength from.”