Gareth’s experience will be invaluable to Wycombe this season. (©PAphotos)
by Mark White
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Gareth Ainsworth has been appointed Wycombe Wanderers club captain for the forthcoming season.
This comes as no surprise to those in the know, as the 37 year-old has been a huge influence both on and off the field since his arrival at the club.
Ainsworth carries an air of confidence that you would expect from an experienced and highly respected professional. This poise has carried through the squad and into the stands, generating further enthusiasm and optimism from the 12th man to get behind the team.
It could be argued the captaincy choice will be the perfect catalyst to start the campaign positively. A view further endorsed by the Chairboys’ eye-opening pre-season crusade.
Ainsworth has a refreshing CV of clubs, and is not one to be labelled a journeyman, quite the contrary. After a rocky start to his professional career with rejection at Blackburn Rovers and stints in the Conference, Ainsworth signed professional terms with Preston in 1992, making 82 appearances over three years, scoring 12 goals.
From here he moved to Lincoln City, where he is still regarded as a ‘legend’ – a term often bandied around without thought, but with Imp supporters his status is highly regarded - as Ainsworth ranked an impressive 4th in the ‘Top 100 Lincoln City League Legends’ list in 2006.
This is thanks to an exciting two-season spell at the club where he scored a significant 36 goals from 83 appearances, placing him in East Midland folklore.
His blistering form triggered interest, and a club record £500,000 move to Port Vale, in the summer of 1997, before a big-money move a year later to Premier League side Wimbledon, for another club record fee of £2 million.
Bizarrely this stage of his career is his most traumatic, and arguably made him the player he is today. As when he reached the heights of the Premier League his career nose-dived somewhat, with only 36 appearance across an injury hit five year period with The Dons.
A fly-by move to Wales took place in mid-2003, where Ainsworth had a ten-game spell as a Cardiff City player. He helped them gain promotion, via the play-offs, to Division One, but saw himself surplus to requirements. Not one to give up he moved to QPR later that year, where the nightmare ended as he found himself again.
It is this, the latter part of his career, where Ainsworth has grown into the model professional known today. With the love affairs at both Wimbledon and Cardiff short lived, Ainsworth found his perfect match at QPR.
He spent seven years and played 141 games for the R’s, finding the net on 36 occasions, despite more injuries. Similar to his time at Lincoln, Ainsworth is a cult figure at QPR, where he took the role of player coach in May 2008 before taking temporary charge of the side on two separate occasions during tremulous times off the field.
Looking to prolong his playing career Ainsworth moved on loan to Wycombe in November 2009, before signing an 18 month contract early in 2010. His time at the club has gone from strength to strength, which is something manager Gary Waddock recognised in his appointment.
"Gaz's experience, enthusiasm and knowledge made him the ideal choice. He's been great for the club since day one and he's a really good character to have around the place," he said.
Ainsworth himself understands the importance of the role and aims to be a success: "To be officially given the armband was a very proud moment for me and to be club captain is a real honour,” he said.
"I know there are thousands of people who would love to have that number seven shirt and I will give everything I've got. I want success for this club and we want to give the fans something to cheer about - we're going to try to be entertaining and play good football, and to be the leader of that makes me very proud."
A leader of Ainsworth’s quality will further stabilise the club, with his ability to perform and be a presence at all times, he will rouse the team in their quest for promotion, and no doubt firmly wedge himself in the hearts of another set of fans in doing so.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.