by Paddy von Behr
PAUL Hayes has moved up and down the country in his 13-year career, but he has never seen a club quite like Wycombe Wand-erers.
After just one full season with the Chairboys and facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines last month, Hayes was the subject of some impressive fan intervention.
The Wycombe Supporters’ Trust stepped in to speed up the 32-year-old’s recovery from an Achilles problem with the purchase of a state-of-the-art shockwave therapy unit.
Hayes was back in action ahead of schedule and, last weekend, popped up in stoppage time to equalise against Carlisle and put a stop to his side’s four-match losing run.
And the Wycombe skipper believes he would still be stuck on the treatment table if not for the generosity of the club’s supporters.
“It is touching and it is fantastic for me that the trust, the board, the chairman and the management are willing to do that for me,” said the former Scunthorpe striker. “Hopefully I can repay them on the pitch.
“It makes you appreciate what’s around you. I have only been at the club for 18 months but it feels more like four or five years. As soon as I arrived, everyone made me feel welcome and important.
“We have got a great club and the trust have put money into the club to buy this machine. I’m ever so grateful and if it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t be back now.
“It’s come from the fans and it just shows the togetherness of this small club.”
Manager Gareth Ainsworth labelled his captain “above this level” after the clash but Hayes reserved his praise for Cian O’Doherty, after heading straight for the Wycombe physio to celebrate the goal.
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with the physio in the last eight weeks and it was just the fact that he has put a lot of time and effort into me – days off and coming in early. He doesn’t get paid extra for that.
“He went that extra mile and it was appreciation for the fact that if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been out there.
“When the manager has kind words to say about you, you appreciate that but football is one game at a time. If you have a couple of bad games, people will say you have lost it again.”
That consistency is something Hayes achieved in his first season at Adams Park, netting 15 goals in all competitions, as the Chairboys finished fourth before their agonising play-off final defeat against Southend United on penalties.
“What we did last season was an absolutely fantastic achievement and you could say we punched above our weight,” he added. “Our budget is one of the lowest in the league.
“As a player the gaffer wore his heart on his sleeve and that’s his philosophy for us. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves, we go out to achieve things.”