SPURS WILL KNOW THIS WON’T BE A GIMME!
WYCOMBE will travel to White Hart Lane in the FA Cup fourth round as huge underdogs – but, in midfielder Luke O’Nien, the Chairboys possess a player who knows how to make short work of a handicap!
O’Nien’s dad, Terry, was a professional golfer on the UK Tour and has evidently passed those skills to his son.
Nicknamed ‘the Bandit’ on club golf days, 22-year-old Luke plays off 18 but regularly shoots rounds just single-figures over par.
“We normally play for drinks afterwards and I’m not usually the one buying them,” laughs O’Nien, who started his career as a trainee at Watford before joining Wycombe in July 2015. “I put it down to my prowess on the short holes. I’ll back myself on any par three!
“To be honest, though, I’m like anyone else. On my day, I play well. I played off 18 the other day and got 40-plus points, so I got called a bit of a bandit.
“But then I played the week after and didn’t get anywhere near that. It’s a sport that takes tremendous dedication to master. My life revolves around football so I’m never going to match my dad.
“He’s getting on a bit now, so I like to think I can hit it a little bit further and faster than he can these days.
“But, whenever we play together, he still gives me the handicap and he still holes it from all over the place or gets very near the flag.
“He’s still got a couple of trophies at home and he tells some great stories. Even now, he gets to play in top tournaments with the big names – Greg Norman and people like that.
“Quite how close he got to the top I don’t know, but he gave golf a great go. When he finally called it a day, I remember him saying ‘I’ve given it my all and I couldn’t have tried any harder’. I think that’s a good attitude to have in sport and it’s certainly rubbed off on me.”
O’Nien, who spent the 2014-15 season on loan at Wealdstone, was part of the Wycombe side pushed to the brink by plucky Stourbridge at Adams Park last weekend.
Only a late header from manmountain Adebayo Akinfenwa spared Gareth Ainsworth’s men a replay against the Evo-Stik NPL minnows. Now, the boot will be firmly on the other foot against a Spurs side that has lost just three of their 25 matches this season, none at home.
“Yeah, but we’re 13-or-so games unbeaten ourselves,” counters O’Nien. “Of course, we’ll give them a lot of respect because they are a Premier League team at the end of the day.
“But we won’t change the way we play. We’ll be going into tackles, we’ll be going in hard. We’ll be trying not to let them settle.
“This is my first time in the fourth round. In fact, it’s the first time for a few of us and it’s the kind of game all of us wanted.
“We had Blackpool away in the Checkatrade Trophy the day after the draw, so we were sitting around in the hotel just after dinner and we all gathered round the big TV.
“Spurs came out of the hat first and we were all looking at each other saying ‘Go on then, let it be us’. Then it was. I’m sure people have seen the videos on social media and stuff. Everyone was buzzing.
“When you’re in the fourth round as a smaller club, you just want a big team. Near, far, nobody cares. And, of course, you want to play away. Getting to play at a lovely old stadium like White Hart Lane will make it even more special. It’ll be a great day for the club.
“Can we do it? They’re all good
players and, if they perform at their best, we know it will be very tough. All you can do is put in a good performance and hope that’s enough.”
The game is a chance for Wycombe’s players to tout their talent to a vast audience.
And, while the majority will be hoping to impress top-flight scouts, O’Nien is hoping his appeal stretches to the other side of the world.
The playmaker’s maternal grandfather was born in Singapore and is actually the younger brother of politician Lim Kim San, a hero in the tiny Asian state for his pioneering house-building schemes.
While O’Nien himself was born in Hemel Hempstead, he would love to play for the country of his ances- tors. “Someone told me recently that I qualify for the national team, which was a nice surprise,” he explains. “Whether they come knocking or not isn’t up to me, but you never know.
“The last time I went was 2004. It’s a beautiful country but it’s not the kind of place you can really pop to and come back. You need to spend a few weeks or even months there.
“My brother goes often and it’s certainly somewhere I’d like to go more frequently. I’ve got some lovely family over there.
“My heritage isn’t particularly well known. When I tell my friends I can play for Singapore, I don’t think they believe me. But I can – and, hopefully, somebody will take notice.”
NEXT UP: Totten
UP FOR THE CUP: Luke O’Nien, left, is relishing Wycombe’s tie at Tottenham and, inset, Adebayo Akinfenwa who wrecked Stourbridge’s dreams last weekend nham eased past Aston Villa in the third round at White Hart Lane