When the Wycombe Wanderers Twitter feed confirmed the much-anticipated news of Joel Grant leaving the club on Wednesday, I think I speak for everyone, when I struggled to fight off the tears for a good few hours. Joel was the spark in our side, someone who could collect the ball and change the course of the match. Oxford United away last season springs to mind immediately.
The news of Grant’s departure completely overshadowed the arrival of Paris Cowan-Hall from Plymouth the day before. A very like for like replacement for the fast Jamaican, and will almost certainly be on less than half of Joel’s wage.
But, within a day, depression was replaced with jubilation through the fan-zone when American forward, Jon-Paul Pittman returned to the club two years after he left the club for reasons still unknown. He was a fan favourite in his first spell at Adams Park, scoring 14 league goals in 77 matches, and helped guide the Chairboys to promotion in to 2010-11 season. Pittman is still a very solid Npower League Two finisher, but has lost some form in the latter stage of his Oxford United career ( the dark side), but I have every confidence that whether it be upfront or out wide, John-Paul can offer us something. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Pittman’s four-minute hat-trick against Chelsea in pre-season three years ago, I just hope he can show some of his form under Gary Waddock three years ago.
After the three-day manic, and eventually getting my head around Joel’s departure, I began thoughts of whether or not his departure is actually going to be a blessing. Well, after days of deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that yes, yes it is a blessing in disguise for two reasons. Firstly, Joel was a player who could play on the wing or in attack. The signings of Jon-Paul Pittman and Paris Cowan-Hall are two very good League Two level players, who can play wing or attack, for the same cost (roughly) as the wage we were paying Grant. That’s two for the price of one! Secondly, as much as I thought Grant was a stand-out player for Wycombe, when you actually look at the stats, in terms of goal scoring, he only scored 14 times in 68 league appearances, many of them penalties, which made me question, how good actually was he? Well, when Joel arrived, he had the challenge of taking over from Wycombe favourite Kevin Betsy. He didn’t live up to his heights, so for me, he’s nowhere near an all-time Wycombe side. He stood out in a struggling side last season, but his move to the Championship could be a push too far, nevertheless I wish him all the best. The point is though that Pittman and Cowan-Hall combined, potentially alone, can match the goal tally Grant achieved with some ease.
As much as I rate Joel Grant as a silky footballer that he was, personally I believe that the two new additions are more financially viable for us as a club in our current state, and can fill the gap left by Grant. Of course any side would miss a player of his class, but as a lower league football fan, you grow to understand that players will move on. It’s happened all too often for my favourite Wycombe players; Roger Johnson, Kevin Betsy, Matt Phillips, Jermaine Easter, Nikki Bull, the list goes on. Under Gareth Ainsworth’s vibrant, hard-working style of management, along with his tenacious style of football, the hole Grant leaves will be shrunk very quickly.
In conclusion, I will, of course, miss having Joel Grant in our side. I don’t believe in some people’s views that it shows a backward step by the club, instead it could be seen as a step to assuring the club is around for a lot longer. I’ll miss his silky feet and dirty step-overs, mesmerising full-backs on a regular basis, but his talent is more than matchable, and as the title suggests, Joel Grant leaving is certainly a blessing in disguise for Wycombe.
Written by George Stokes, We Are Going Up’s Wycombe Wanderers Blogger
George tweets at @georgestokes13