The Guest Blog - Volume IV
At the end of the first edition of this blog, I predicted that the next few weeks following the departures of Grigg, Brandy and Paterson would be anything but dull, and so it has proven as since our return from the Caribbean last week we`ve seen two good away friendly wins, a defeat to Rushall, four new signings and another new kit.
The benefits of our excursion to Trinidad & Tobago became apparent about 2:30 on Saturday afternoon after entering an Aggborough that was hotter than the centre of the Earth. Thankfully, we were already acclimatised to playing in conditions hot enough to almost melt the goal posts and managed to come out on top in what was quite an entertaining game for a friendly.
Speaking of entertaining friendly games, any of the small army of Walsall fans who made the trek up the A38 to Alfreton saw the most one sided performance I can remember us producing in one of these games. I doubt Alfreton themselves were any more dominant when they battered a Sheffield Wednesday XI 14-0 two summers ago. The interest levels were peaked slightly more pre-match by the triple signings of Milan Lalkovic, Craig Westcarr and Troy Hewitt. I can`t remember the last time the Saddlers signed three players in one day, and for them all to take the field and find the net that night is something that has probably never happened in our long 125 year history.
The Lalkovic signing has impressed me, for two reasons. Firstly it appears to have really annoyed our dingle neighbours as a number of them thought he was going there and can`t believe the former mossiv club have lost out to us. But more importantly, it speaks volumes about Dean Smith`s growing reputation in the game. If it was merely first team football in League One they wanted him to be exposed too then there`s plenty of clubs nearer to Chelsea geographically who would have fit the bill. If Jose Mourinho, possibly under the slight influence of ex Saddler and Chelsea youth team boss Ade Viveash, is loaning players to us then that`s a massive shot in the arm for the setup we have here. Although the initial loan is only for six months, I`d be surprised if we weren`t able to extend it for the season if we wanted too. Romelu Lukaku pulled up trees in his loan spell at West Brom last year and they still managed to keep him for the whole season. Also, without meaning to sound unkind, if he was only six months away from the Chelsea first team, he wouldn`t be signing for us now.
The only thing I did leave Alfreton unsure about was the performance of our trialist keeper Richard O`Donnell. Yes he was loud, but so is Bowesy, but I wouldn`t sign him to play in goal. Erratic communication between himself and firstly Holden, and secondly James Chambers would have cost us two goals in any other game. However, judging a man based on one friendly performance is never a wise idea, and he`s clearly done something right as this morning he became our fourth signing of the week when he also penned a one year deal.
If ever we needed reminding of exactly why you shouldn`t read too much into friendly results it came last night as, following the thrashing of Alfreton, we were beaten 2-1 by Rushall. I know it was a Development squad, but you`d have still expected us to win the game. The proper tests start now though, and for once I`m actually looking forward to the home friendlies and the visit of Dirty Leeds on Saturday.
And then there`s our new third kit. When I saw the clubs tweet saying they`d broken with the norm and gone for a cream kit I expected it to look horrific, but the pic doesn`t look too bad. I'll take a trip up to Bescot later when getting my friendly tickets and have a proper look.
Finally, I can`t end this without a quick footnote on last week`s documentary, Footballs Suicide Secret, presented by old mate Clarke Carlisle. Stress and depression is something I`m all too familiar with, both in my own life, and also because my girlfriend is a mental health nurse. Sometimes as fans we forget that these players are still normal people as well, and maybe we should all consider that the next time we decide to start ironically chanting "International Superstar" to an underperforming striker, or call an ex player a Judas ladygarden on Twitter for moving to another club in the same division for more money.
For anyone who didn`t see it, it`s going to be repeated on BBC1 soon and would recommend watching it.
See you all Saturday.