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|Retro - A look back on the 1993/94 season|
Feb 1994 - Martin O'Neill lets rip
The reaction of some Wycombe followers during and after the home defeat to Wigan Atheltic on Saturday 19th February was upsetting for many Wycombe regulars but it wouldn't go uncommented on by Martin O'Neill. Keen to get his thoughts of his chest, he used the programme insert for the rearranged game with Rochdale on Tuesday 22nd February as his outlet. A late flurry of snow saw the game called off just an hour and half before kick-off but the notes survived and are shown in full here.
On the Bench by Martin O'Neill (vs Rochdale 22nd February 1994)
"I used to say, half jokingly but three quarters seriously, that I wouldn't listen to your critical appreciation of my team's performances if we lost three League games in a row. Well, for the first time since I arrived at the club four years ago, the unthinkable happened last Saturday against Wigan Athletic and I was absolutely spot on when forecasting your reaction. I also used to say that if you pay your money you can say what you like but I am really not sure that over the last few years, considering the success the club has achieved, you have earned the right to criticise so vehemently when life isn't so sweet. I was astounded to hear you shout on Saturday "What the __ hell was that?" when Steve Guppy crossed a ball over the goal line and out of play with about 15 minutes to go. That was from those of you who were still in the stadium at that time. I think we deserve a little more time to completely and utterly flummox things before we accept the tirade of abuse meted out by you. Duncan MacKenzie, a star player of the mid-70's and now a director at Wigan, was telling me on Saturday that he could not believe his ears (if only they were in the same position as ourselves) he was just praying that Wigan would avoid a second successive relegation this season. I pointed out to him that it was a poorish season so far for us. After all, beating Coventry City of the Premier League down here in the Coca-Cola Cup Second Round, reaching the Third Round of the FA Cup before falling to another Premier League team, Norwich City, looking forward to the Area Final of the Autoglass Trophy - two games away from a possible third Wembley appearance in four years - and lying fourth in the Third Division in our first season in the Football League obviously wasn't satisfying everyone's discerning taste. Nine of the 13 players who played against Wigan helped us win promotion from the Vauxhall Conference last season. They have found the transition from part-time to full-time quite difficult on occasions. If winning matches against Northampton and Mansfield at home here recently were not readily acceptable to you the losing matches to Mansfield and Wigan (both teams incidentally were playing two leagues aboves us this time last year) are obviously totally unacceptable to your recently acquired, success refined, palate. Last season it was you and the players together - and no one else I promise you - who carried this club into the Football League and it was then I believed that, despite my cynicism, you were different to every other band of supporters up and down the country. Your enthusiasm and unconditional support had an effect on my decision making last June. But I was wrong. I have no doubt this present calamitous crisis will be resolved and that you will have something to cheer about at the end of the season but for me Saturday was a watershed.
Last season the players withstood the massive loss of Glyn Creaser, rallied, and eventually won the Championship and FA Trophy double. So far they have withstood the loss of Keith Scott to Swindon and the loss of form of individuals, to stay in contention in the Third Division. Now they will have to withstand perhaps the greatest loss of all - the inspirational Terry Evans. And if they have to play against you also then so be it. Not all of them would win scholarships to Oxford or Cambridge University, not all of them would delight you with quick witted conversation and not all of them have the tidiest habits or the best manners in the world, but despite the condescending view of them, widely held from within the club, they are a better class of people. they still possess a decent spirit and a never say die attitude and I'm throwing my lot in with them. Together we will attempt to get you another day out at Wembley and promotion at the end of the season. Whether you deserve it or not is another matter. And by the way, I alone will pick the team. If you wish to pick the side then apply for the job - it may be available sooner than expected!"
A 'Cheer up Martin' campaign was launched by the Bucks Free Press after O'Neill refused to talk to the press and also the Club's official telephone newsline 'Ringing The Blues'. Club Chairman Ivor Beeks said "Martin did take umbrage to the way a minority of fans responded. That was hard for him to take." While O'Neill later commented "I've decided not to say anything for a while. I don't want to hear myself anymore. I have got sick of listening to myself. I am deciding to clam up"
The comments didn't stop over 800 Wycombe fans travelling to Gillingham the following Saturday where a late goal from Tim Langford saw Wanderers snatch all three points when most people had settled for a draw. It was a howler from The Gills defence that led to the goal with 'keeper Steve Banks punching a Steve Guppy through ball to defender Gary Breen who then headed the ball into the path of Langford who was more than happy to slot home his 15th goal of the season. O'Neill walked straight down the tunnel at the final whistle leaving the travelling fans to celebrate with the players. Despite the victory Wanderers dropped to 5th place in the table but were still well in touch with the leading pack as a relatively traumatic February drew to a close.
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