QUICK, YOU’RE ON IN 5 MINS!
DURING David Moyes’ doomed tenure at Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand famously criticised the lateness of the Scotsman’s team announcements – but it is unlikely any Red Devil experienced the fate that befell Steven Craig last Saturday.
The Wycombe frontman scored the first of his side’s two goals in a battling draw at Southend United, clinically diverting Sam Wood’s mishit volley from close range shortly before the half-hour mark.
The goal was his first for the club since late November, but its significance took on a new level when it emerged that Craig had only been told he was playing five minutes before kick-off.
Such a late call-up may have fazed a lesser striker, but the experienced 34year-old admits his last-minute selection was not too much of a shock.
“The gaffer (Gareth Ainsworth) mentioned to me on the Friday that Fred Onyedinma was struggling a bit so I should be ready, although his name was on the team-sheet on the Saturday,” the Scottish Premiership veteran said.
“But he wasn’t feeling perfect before the game, so assistant manager Richard Dobson told me to get my stuff on. I was half prepared for it, so it didn’t affect me too much.
“If you’re called up like that it is more a physical thing than a mental thing, because you don’t really have time to think about the game – you’re just out there and getting on with it.
“I am experienced enough to know you always have to be ready, and fortunately I was able to go and get a goal that helped us to a really good point at the weekend.
“It felt great to be back amongst the goals, especially against a very strong and organised side like Southend. To come away from that match with a draw after the way the game went shows the character we have in the changing room.”
That character has played its part in Wycombe’s surprise bid for promotion to League One, with Ainsworth’s men – third before the weekend – having occupied an automatic spot for much of the season.
And after the Wanderers boss recently suggested anything other than a place in the third tier for next season would be a failure, Craig admits there is only one aim at Adams Park.
“I think if we don’t finish in the automatic promotion places it would be hugely disappointing for us as a group,” he said.
“We have been knocking on the door of top spot all season, so it would be great to finish there. The best aspect for us is that it is all in our hands.”
Wycombe’s fortunes at present are in stark contrast to last season, when a lastday escape was necessary for the Chairboys to remain a Football League side.
“The transformation in 12 months at the club has been amazing. I think the supporters, especially, realise we have come a long way in that time,” continued the exFalkirk and Ross County hitman.
“The gaffer did his homework over the summer and recruited really smartly. We may have a pretty small squad and budget compared to some other clubs, but there is a really tight-knit feeling in the group.”
BRIGHT LAD: Wycombe’s Steven Craig after his goal in the 2-2 draw at Southend. Inset: Celebrating at Torquay with boss Gareth Ainsworth last year