Gareth Ainsworth: Stay at Wycombe, or switch to Millwall?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 17 October 2019, 08:34

The next few days, or even hours, could prove to be pivotal in the managerial career of Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth who, not for the first time this season, is being hotly linked with a move away from Adams Park.

The second-longest serving manager in English football’s top-4 tiers has a huge decision to make.

Should he stay at Wycombe? As he did - eventually - amid frenzied speculation that he was set to leave for Lincoln City last month.

Or, is the time right to depart the Chairboys after a staggering seven years at the helm? With Millwall waiting in the wings...

Stay at Wycombe

Simply put, Ainsworth is loved at Wycombe.

The club placed their faith in the then-fledgling young boss back in 2012, and he’s repaid them favourably, particularly over the course of the last 18 months during which the rock-loving gaffer has led his troops up to League One, preserved the club’s status in the division, and now he’s in the lofty position of 2nd in the table. That’s seven places above Sunderland - who he's also been linked with - albeit having played a game more.

He flirted with the Lincoln job earlier this season, but in the end he cemented his future to Wycombe.

The club’s stupendous start to the current campaign has yet to show signs of disintegrating, and while there’s still a long way to go, he has the chance to create history by becoming the first ever Wycombe manager - in 130+ years of their existence - to lead the club into the Championship.

While Ainsworth has been open and honest about his ambition to manage at the next level, propelling Wycombe into the second-tier would surely mean to much more to him than doing the same with Sunderland, or moving up a division to Millwall mid-way through the season.

Speaking of which….how possible is a move to Millwall?

It's no surprise that Championship outfit Millwall have identified Ainsworth as one of their main managerial targets, with the Wycombe boss currently leading the betting ahead of Gary Rowett, Adam Barrett and Tim Cahill.

Ainsworth, applauded for his man-management skills, usually employs an attractive brand of football but when it's necessary he's not afraid to dig in to get results, using Wycombe's underdog status to his advantage in this division.

This would fit the bill at Millwall, providing he gets the supporters on his side. If you don’t have the backing of the fans there, then it’s very difficult to turn the tide as Ian Holloway recently revealed to The Sack Race.

Ainsworth's stock is higher than it's ever been, and given how quickly things can change in football, the 46-year-old may decide that the time is right to test himself in the Championship.

He's reportedly already held talks with Millwall, and if that's the case the interest in a switch to the capital is obviously there.

Neil Harris was given time to build a team, and the patience paid dividends. Now the door to the Lions Den looks to be open for Ainsworth to attempt to continue the good work of the club’s former gaffer.

But, judging by social media reaction - which admittedly must be taken with a pinch of salt - many Millwall fans would prefer Rowett over the former QPR caretaker.

Is Sunderland still an option?

If the betting is to be believed then a switch to Sunderland appears to be the most unlikely option of the three. For the simple reason that betting has been suspended on former Bolton boss Phil Parkinson returning to management with the Black Cats.

At the time Ainsworth was the second favourite, but chances of an appointment now look remote with Parkinson expected to be unveiled prior to Saturday’s clash against...Ainsworth’s Wycombe.

The chance to restore the feel-good factor around Sunderland - and in the process lead them to promotion - is undoubtedly appealing. However, this is a club who chomps through their managers.

During Ainsworth’s seven years at Wycombe, Sunderland have had nine different bosses, the latest of which was Jack Ross who was sent packing despite only losing seven of his 60 league matches in charge.

Ainsworth knows that if he had left for Sunderland, a fast start would have been needed otherwise history tells us he would soon be toast. He certainly wouldn't have been afforded the same time to develop and mould together a team as he was at Wycombe, but his salary would undoubtedly have swelled as would his transfer kitty.

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