Highs and Lows: Walsall's 06 Review
What an eventful year it has been for the Saddlers. They should make a film; it has really been that intense in and around Bescot during 2006. Michael Caine would play Richard Money, as he would tell his players to blow doors down, and Paul Merson would be played by…well Paul Merson, as it`s impossible to think of an actor that would be right for the part. Matt Daimon is closest I think. 2006 has seen five managers, moving from one league to another, return of Deano, and a reality check.
It all started on January 2, when Walsall travelled to Bristol City in a rosy 12th place in League 1 - it was rosy now, but at the time, every single Walsall fan was thinking of the Play-Offs. We of course lost 3-0 and Merse came out and said that we were still good enough, bla, bla, bla. By the time Merson was sacked, it was February and the Saddlers were 20th, just above the drop zone on 36 points. Mick Halsall took temporary charge of first-team affairs, before Kevan Broadhurst was seen as the man to save Walsall from the dreaded drop to League 2. He had a good start with a 0-0 draw at runaway leaders Southend and a 2-1 win away at Tranmere, where Grant Smith grabbed a brace. That was as good as it got under Broadhurst, and he was sacked just shortly after Walsall`s relegation to the basement division was confirmed with a 3-1 home defeat to Huddersfield. Not good at all.
Mark Kinsella took charge of the team at the end of April, which saw the struggling Saddlers pull off a superb spirited 1-0 win at Gillingham, but then we slipped to a 2-1 defeat at home to Barnsley, who went on to win promotion through the Play-Offs. But, DD had been appointed and was sitting in the crowd assessing his squad ready for a busy summer, and it certainly was indeed at the Bescot. Nine players were released, while six players (Clayton Ince, Michael Dobson, Martin Butler, Hector Sam, Tony Bedeau, and Alan Picken) entered the Bescot gates. Early pre-season training in May meant that the team would be fit and fresh for the new season, after the lethargic Merson regime had failed. The rest is history?
Little bit more to it than that. DD had a fantastic start as Walsall manager, with five wins in his first seven games. Not bad. And so far, he has only lost two matches, so all is good with the Saddlers sitting at the top of League 2. However, yesterdays match with Bristol Rovers has shown that all is not as comfortable as it was during November, as three league wins out of three made sure the Saddlers had a nine point gap at the top of the table. Now, the gap is down to two points. Bit nervy. I just hope that we don`t do what we did last season, and that`s throw it away come tomorrow, when we play Peterborough.
Without trying to sound too pessimistic about 2006, it has been a really eventful year, which may have seen relegation, but DD has come in and proved that it was just bad management that caused the minor downfall. This season will be a season to remember, not matter what happens. As they say, football has its highs and lows.
Happy New Year!!!