Walsall – meeting the opposition.
The opening day of the Football League Two campaign will see Micky Mellon’s Tranmere Rovers play host to Walsall at Prenton Park.
This same game was played last December, as fans were able to return to the ground for the first time in nine months. The Whites would go on to lose that game 3-1. However, much has happened since and as the likes of Manny Monthe and Ash Taylor brace themselves for a return to Merseyside I had the great pleasure of talking to @BescotBanter about the experiences they’ve had supporting the club and the threats that they believe they will pose in a game that may or may not be a sign of what’s to come throughout the next ten months.
How long have you been a Walsall supporter, and how did you first come across the club?
We’re lifelong Saddlers. Born and bred in the town, we’re duty bound to follow them up and down the country, as well as the leagues.
Having a look back at last season, how would you say that it went in terms of expected success, and how will this upcoming campaign be any different? What are your expectations/predictions/ambitions for the next ten months?
Last season was a disaster. A worst-ever finish coupled with fans’ Covid-enforced boycott saw us slope through a season we’d all happily forget.
This season is a bit of an unknown. A new manager, squad, and backroom set up have breathed new life into the club and fanbase as a whole. However, until the team plays some competitive games, we’d be silly to offer a prediction to how the campaign will play out. The chairman has insisted he’d like to see the team challenging towards the top of the table, and, as fans, we’d like to see that happen too.
What are your thoughts on new gaffer Matthew Taylor? This will be his first time in a permanent manager role. What were your thoughts on the dismissal of former manager Brian Dutton?
The appointment of Matthew Taylor seems to be a shrewd bit of business. An experienced former player, Matthew brings a wealth of knowledge to the club and, along with First-Team Coach Neil McDonald and Technical Director Jamie Fullarton, has already begun to reshape the club.
We’re optimistic, but will always be weary of any so-called new era, as there have been so many false dawns over recent years. But there appears to be a new attitude both inside the boardroom and at the training ground, so, for now at least, we can continue to look ahead with a positive mindset.
Former assistant Brian Dutton’s days were numbered as soon as he replaced Darrell Clarke at the helm. Regardless of how the team performed he was part of another failed regime at the club and, even if his stay had been extended, he would have struggled to win over the doubters, especially as the performances were nothing to write home about.
What are your thoughts on the way that the club is run, the owners in particular? Who owns the club?
Our chairman and majority shareholder is Leigh Pomlett. A local lad, Leigh loves the club as much as the most loyal of supporters and, despite getting off to a rough start with the failed Darrell Clarke era, has always been upfront with fans and seems to be keen to keep on closing the gap created by former chairman Jeff Bonser, who preferred to keep supporters at arms length.
Whilst the issue of the freehold of the club’s Banks’s Stadium home is yet to be resolved, we’re happy with how Leigh has done since he took his place at the head of the table and are keen to see if his latest appointment pays off.
What players will pose the greatest threats to Tranmere in the opening game of the season? Are you worried about any of the hosts’ men? If you did have any, what were your thoughts on the dismissal of Keith Hill at Prenton Park? From afar, what do you think Mellon will bring back to Merseyside from his time in the SPL?
With an almost completely rebuilt squad to select from, it is difficult to pick a danger man outside of the strikers, new signings Conor Wilkinson and Kieran Phillips, or pre-season stand-out Emmanuel Osadebe and hopefully soon to be fit Rory Holden. We expect one or all of them to give a few defences a headache over the coming campaign.
As with the Saddlers, Tranmere have been busy in the transfer market over the summer, signing some experienced heads as well as a few unknown quantities. As no-one likes a player to have a good game against their former employers, we’d hope that Kieron Morris is kept quiet during the match, as there’s always a small chance that one of his regular long-distance efforts may actually hit the target!
Not really sure what to make of Keith Hill’s dismissal. Despite helping the team into the Play-Offs, their form was pretty poor towards the end of the campaign, so you can see why the board opted to press the panic button. Can’t help but feel it also left room for plenty of ‘what if’ scenarios after the team ultimately failed to win promotion.
The return of Micky Mellon seems to be the board opting to press the reset button after last season’s managerial strife. Micky, who had been linked with the Saddlers during our various manager-less spells, should have a point to prove after hardly setting the world alight whilst in charge of Dundee United.
What is your score prediction, and how do you believe your manager will address this game?
Always poor at predicting games, so we’d avoid laying any money on this. But you’ve always got to get behind the team, so we’ll go 2-1 Walsall. Hopefully, the gaffer will send the team out with an attacking mindset. For too long, we’ve approached games with a desire to secure the point we began the game with, rather than battle for all three.
Random fact about Walsall?
Last season we gave you the fact that we’re joined as Saddlers supporters by the likes of Pop Idol judge and train aficionado Pete Waterman and aren’t sure how to top it…
What are your worst and greatest experiences as a Walsall supporter?
The last few seasons as a whole have been dismal. With relegation, managerial merry-go-rounds, and players quite simply phoning it in, it’s hard to see how the club will be able to convince the younger generation to ignore the trappings of local Premier League and Championship sides with so little to cheer.
In recent times, the greatest memory has to be the trip to Wembley for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final – a game which may have ended in defeat but saw the Saddlers faithful make a welcome visit to the home of English football.
Sadly, a first in a lifetime event for many modern fans has now been tainted by the EFL’s desire to take what small amount of money the Premier League offered to allow their oversubscribed ‘youth’ teams into the competition.
The game will see a return to Prenton Park for three newly recruited players: Joss Labadie, Ash Taylor and Manny Monthé. What are your thoughts on the club’s recruitment this summer, would you have wanted to do anything differently?
Happy with the club’s recruitment as a whole. After ending last season on such a low, the board, chairman and management team have acted quickly to not only fill in some of the gaps but improve the team overall.
We’d welcome another attacking addition, but overall are happy with the recruitment that has been done, especially as there is still an apparent desire to land a few more players before the window closes in a few week’s time.
You can find great Walsall content via @BescotBanter on Twitter, I’d like to thank them for their time and answers as both are greatly appreciated!