The Guest Blog - Volume I
Normally, if you were to ask a football fan on the 2nd of July 'How has pre season been for your team so far?' then they'd probably give you a blank look before pointing out that everything is a bit dull, and nothing has really happened yet.
Not really been the case for us this year has it?
Last Monday I was full of optimism. First day of pre-season, and rumours circulating that both Will Grigg and Febian Brandy had been spotted on official photo's at training. I'd even planned a weekly(ish) blog so I could chronicle the successful season we were destined to have. Of course, those rumours turned out to be nonsense and we're all familiar enough with the events of the last week involving those two not to need me to go through them again. Added to that this mornings departure of Jamie Paterson to Forest and we could be forgiven for being a bit despondent.
Comparisons have been drew between this, and the decision to sell Dan Fox and Scott Dann to Coventry in January 2008 and the fear that history may be about to repeat itself. To me though it has more of a January 2006 feel about it. That season we had a team that was mid table in League One, but in January our strike force was decimated by the sale of Matty Fryatt to Leicester and the decision to release the homesick Jorge Leitao.
Hopefully this is where the comparison will end, as that team was duly relegated at the end of the season under a string of useless managers and equally useless striker replacements. This time however, we have something we didn't have on either of those previous occasions. Time.
There still two months until the transfer window closes and for us to find replacements, admittedly it would be nice to have them on board by August 3rd. However, in 2006 I recall it being about two weeks, and to replace Scott Dann we had about two minutes. We also have a manager who has a growing reputation for spotting a diamond in the rough and turning them into half decent League One players, not to mention a transfer kitty that will be boosted by the best part of one and a half million quid thanks to the Grigg and Paterson sales. Given the defence and midfield are pretty much sorted already. I'd be happy to start the Tranmere game with a back four of J Chambers, Downing, Butler and Taylor, a midfield of Baxendale, Mantom, A Chambers and Hemmings, with a bench with the likes of Purkiss, Holden and Featherstone on it.
The biggest plus we have though is the departures of Brandy, Grigg and Paterson. That may seem a strange thing to say, but Walsall's reputation for developing players and selling them on will be wonderfully enhanced this week, and that may mean players who may not have considered us as an option previously because of our narrow minded one year deals and rubbish wages, may just start taking note of what we can offer, and what they can do for themselves by performing for us. This in turn increases their desire to actually do well for us rather than going through the motions (we've had our fair share of those) and hopefully it will lead to us still being able to pick up where we left off last season.
Firstly though, we have the unprecedented pre-season tour to Trinidad & Tobago and that does at least guarantee that, unless Andy Butler is captured by pirates while he's out there, we wont be losing any more players over the next few days.
The most important thing from a supporters point of view is that perspective is kept. We're not starting from scratch. Ok, the roof has been blown off but the foundations are still strong. Am I as optimistic as I was last Monday? No, not quite, but I am excited by it all. One thing is for certain, the next few weeks certainly wont be boring.