When Wycombe sealed promotion to League One in April, all eyes immediately turned to the prospect of the Chairboys making a trip to the Stadium of Light to face recent Premier League side Sunderland.
Fixture release day in June handed Wanderers a trip to the northeast on international weekend, very disappointing news given all the top level players in the Black Cats’ ranks. However, new Sunderland manager Jack Ross was determined to allow the fixture to go ahead to avoid a fixture backlog, and after Jon McLaughlin withdrew from the Scotland squad and only two other players got called up for their nations, Wycombe will be travelling to Sunderland on Saturday.
Hillsborough, Elland Road, Maine Road and now The Stadium of Light. Just some of the prestigious stadiums that the Chairboys will have now visited for a regular league game since they reached the Football League in 1992, not to mention games at the likes of Villa Park, White Hart Lane and Wembley Stadium. Over 700 fans are set for an early start to make the 540-mile round trip from South Buckinghamsire, put if Wanderers can pull off yet another impressive result against a League One high-flyer, then they will return back very happy indeed.
Since Wycombe’s brilliant 1-0 victory against Peterborough, they have crashed out of both remaining cup competitions to Luton and Oxford respectively, leaving all their remaining focus on securing survival in the third tier. They may have to wait a bit longer to get more points on the board, however, with Sunderland having won eight games on the spin in all competitions. The Black Cats have blown away plenty of sides so far as well as keeping four clean sheets in their last four League One outings, only falling to one defeat in the league as of yet.
The re-signing of Matt Ingram on an emergency seven-day loan from QPR came somewhat out of the blue on Thursday, with the main news surrounding Ryan Allsop’s injury until the new year. With second choice ‘keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay also on the treatment table, only Cameron Yates remained to deputise for Wanderers in the northeast. However, Chairboys boss Gareth Ainsworth doesn’t think the youngster is ready for his EFL debut, so moved quickly to secure the short-term signing of former Wycombe youth product Ingram.
It seems like once the international break is over, Steve McClaren and QPR will need Ingram as back-up to Joe Lumley, so Ainsworth may have to secure another few emergency loans, whether it be with one player or multiple different players, in order for Wycombe to survive until after Christmas. On a positive note, Anthony Stewart and Nathan Tyson are both close to a return to the squad. Adebayo Akinfenwa is still wearing a protective boot so is doubtful for Saturday’s game, while Bryn Morris returns from being cup tied against Luton.
Of course, Sunderland have former Chairboys hero Luke O’Nien in their ranks after a relatively lucrative transfer in the summer. However, he has struggled to break into the very competitive Sunderland side with the likes of Lee Cattermole and Max Power. There could be a chance for O’Nien though with Cattermole currently sidelined and Bali Mumba on international duty alongside Tom Flanagan. Glenn Loovens could come back into Jack Ross’ side, although Duncan Watmore and Charlie Wyke are still on the road to recovery.
These two clubs have never met before, although Wanderers have gained very respectable results in the past during league meetings against the likes of Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester City.
If Wycombe can do the impossible and end Sunderland’s winning run as well as their winless away run, they Saturday’s visit to The Stadium of Light can be added to this list.