‘Meeting the opposition’ – Walsall F.C

‘Meeting the opposition’ – Walsall F.C

Ahead of the upcoming League Two encounter at the Bescot Stadium between Walsall and Tranmere Rovers, I spoke to the Saddlers independent blog and news website @BescotBanter. They gave their thoughts on Walsall’s on and off pitch subject matters as well as giving an insight into Tuesday night’s fixture, amongst other subjects.

How long have you been a Walsall supporter and when/how did you first come across them?

Sentenced to a lifelong love of the club. From the start to the end, we’ll always be Saddlers. Although they don’t make it easy to keep the faith from time to time.

Highest and lowest points across that time?

A recent high has to be the visit to Wembley for the JPT final. Whilst there have undoubtedly been higher highs over the years, famous victories over Arsenal and Liverpool et al, the visit to the national stadium saw thousands of fans both committed and casual descend upon the capital to watch the Saddlers take on Bristol City.

Near financial collapse and proposed Bluenose mergers aside, the 2018/19 season has to be one of the low points in recent times. The club’s almost submission-like relegation from League One was a season-long decline which we’re currently showing little sign of recovering from. There remains a long road ahead.

Random fact about the Saddlers?

Always terrible at these questions. We’re joined as supporters by the likes of Pop Idol judge and train aficionado Pete Waterman, amongst others. We think you’ll agree we win this round of ‘Famous Fan Top Trumps’.

What were your expectations going into the season, and what are now the campaign’s coming to an end?

We were hoping for an upper mid-table finish with a possible late surge towards the Play-Off’s, at the moment we’ll settle for a winning end to the season and a welcome rebuild in the summer months.

Brian Dutton is Walsall manager; he was appointed this season, and it is the 35-year-old’s first time in charge of a club. What are your thoughts on him? Darrell Clarke was sacked, in mid-February, to make that happen. Was it the right time for the club to part ways with the former Bristol Rovers gaffer?

It’s still a little too early to tell in regard to Brian. He’s only recently been able to secure his first win since taking charge and has a long way to go before he will be accepted by the Saddlers faithful. Hopefully, with the upcoming appointment of a Director of Football, and the odd win or two between now and the end of the season, he can prove himself capable of not only leading the team but guiding them back towards the upper reaches of the table.

Darrell Clarke appeared to be looking for a way out for quite some time and, given our run of form, probably jumped before he was pushed. We’re probably a happier club without him and will hopefully be able to repair some of the damage done over the coming weeks and months.

Who are the club’s owners, and what are your thoughts on them?

Leigh Pomlett is the majority shareholder and chairman. A local lad who clearly loves the club, he took over from Jeff Bonser and has sought to reconnect the club with its fans, although not helped by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there is still a long road ahead if the club is to truly begin to challenge not only for a place in the third tier but the leagues above.

Your danger men?

Only one true danger man at the moment, Rory Holden. He is capable of unlocking the opposition back-line and, as seen over the weekend, is a major player when it comes to our attacking line. His injury lay off saw team performances dip and goals almost completely disappear. Hopefully, he can continue to make the team tick before the inevitable move to pastures new.

The last time the two clubs met was in December at Prenton Park. The visitors won 3-1 in a League Two encounter .. thoughts on that game?

Always welcome the opportunity to burst a bubble and the fact that the game was the first to be played in front of fans for quite some time will (sadly) serve as a highlight of the campaign. You can draw your own conclusions as to just how successful the season has been, given this particular highlight.

How do you see the game this upcoming Tuesday night panning out? (Score prediction etc) and why, if you do, do you think that the game will pose more questions than the last encounter did?

We’re not expecting a repeat of the most recent outing, although we will come into the game on the back of a win over Forest Green so shouldn’t be discounted as a threat. We’ll go with a 1-1 draw.

What starting eleven do you think Dutton will select?

The gaffer has sought to make few changes overall, although injuries and fatigue will always play a part. The team v Forest Green was; Rose; White, Clarke, Sadler, Melbourne; Wright, Kinsella, Perry, Osadebe; Holden; Gordon. We’re not likely to see too many changes, with Alfie Bates and Cameron Norman possibly coming in.

Thoughts on Tranmere? The club in general.

Rovers appeared to be amongst the favourites to go up at the end of the campaign. And, despite the recent run of results – which we hope to capitalise upon – we expect that to be the case when the curtain comes down in May.

Thoughts on the Saddler’s winter transfer business? That plays a good part, more often than not, in improving a club’s chances of meeting their late found ambitions.

We were in a panic mode setting in January and made signings simply to fill a few gaps. Lincoln City’s Max Melbourne has slotted in well and could even make a permanent move in the summer. Sadly the departures had much more of an impact upon the squad, something which has to be addressed in the summer.

I normally finish the ‘meeting the opposition’ Q+A by asking for your thoughts on current squad members that have played for Tranmere previously. Considering that there isn’t any in your current squad who match that description, what are your thoughts on current Rovers forwards Kieron Morris and Corey Blackett-Taylor who have both played their football at the Bescot Stadium before their time on Merseyside?

Kieron Morris was a fairly consistent performer overall. Loved a shot wide of goal, but always had the potential to improve and was capable of changing a game if motivated.

Former loanee Blackett-Taylor made the odd promising performance but, as with many of our loanees, was here for match sharpness and to hopefully put himself in the shop window. Saying that we’d have welcomed his return as a permanent signing but it wasn’t to be.

23-year-old midfielder Rory Holden is Saddlers main threat. @BescotBanter describes him as being a major player when it comes to their attacking style of play.

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