Wembley 2015 - Where are they now?
A look at where the history making starting eleven from the JPT Final against Bristol City, are now.
Richard O'Donnell - Left the Saddlers at the end of 14-15 and moved to recently relegated Wigan Athletic. The athletic stopper hasn't enjoyed the best of times since leaving the Banks's, O'Donnell left Wigan in February 2016 for Championship side Bristol City and has since finally made his way to Yorkshire with strugglers Rotherham United.
Ben Purkiss - The hugely popular full-back was released at the end of the 14-15 season, finding his new home just up the M6 at rivals Port Vale. Purkiss is currently captain of the Valiants, however his new side are in deep relegation trouble following the failed Bruno Riberio experiment.
Paul Downing - On paper, Downing is a defender who joined the Saddlers after his release from local Premier League side West Bromwich, went on to make over 150 appearances for the Saddlers and was a mainstay of the side that missed out on promotion by one point. Pretty impressive? Well, in reality Downing wasn`t particularly quick, strong or good on the ball and never really managed to convince the Saddlers fans that he was anything but a rank average League One centre half. In the Wembley final Bristol City`s commanding centre-half Aden Flint, personified the gulf in class - and power- between the two sides. His time at MK Dons so far goes to prove that assessment by the supporters is probably correct.
James Chambers - Retired after the 14/15 season following 3 seasons of good service alongside his everlasting twin-brother, Adam. James went into the business side of things following retirement, however is regularly spotted at the Banks`s cheering his brother, and former teammates, on.
Andy Taylor - Another signed by Dean Smith in the summer before the 'sexy football` evolution of 2012/13, Taylor was certainly more solid than spectacular. 140 appearances for the Saddlers showed his worth to the cause and even though the emergence of Rico Henry pushed Taylor more to sidelines last season, he still provided able back-up and fitted in nicely to the 5-3-2 employed by Smith and Whitney during that campaign. Now plying his trade at League Two play-off chasing Blackpool.
Jordan Cook - Signed with much promise in the summer of 2014 - I think he may even have been lauded as the 'marquee` signing that summer - however on the whole he failed to make significant impact on the Saddlers first team. Cook did however feature heavily in 14/15 season run to Wembley and his second half cross-shot was probably the closest that we came to scoring that day. Finished his Walsall career with a stunner against Barnsley in the play-off final, which showed there was some talent there, and has subsequently joined League Two Luton Town.
Adam Chambers - The only member of the starting eleven to still be at the club, Chambers joined in 2011 and is still going strong in the holding midfield role. When he retires, he has a strong case to be remembered as a genuine Saddlers icon from this particular era.
Sam Mantom - A controversial selection for the final having only just come back from injury following a long lay-off and by doing so displaced Michael Cain who had played a big part in the Wembley run. A passive performance from Mantom in the final highlighted the decision by Dean Smith to drop Cain and it`s something that Sam never really shrugged off. Left under a bit of a cloud in the summer after he joined Scunthorpe United, where he has been in and out of a team challenging at the top of League One.
Anthony Forde - Well, I think we`ll always remember THAT free-kick from Mr Forde. 84 minutes on the clock at a rain-drenched Deepdale and up stepped the Irishman to wrong-foot Thorsten Stuckmann in the Preston goal to make it 1-0 to the Saddlers. Forde had a solid couple of seasons at Walsall, strangely enough he was probably the only player who Sean O`Driscoll managed to get the best out of and joined the mass exodus of July 2016 to join Championship side Rotherham United. Will soon be back in what many will feel is his natural level, League One, next season.
Romaine Sawyers - The enigmatic play-maker who split opinion more than marmite, either defined everything that was good about Dean Smith`s Walsall or personified everything that was wrong with it. At times it literally seemed like our support was split 50/50 on Sawyers, online arguments about his merits and faults were commonplace during his time at Walsall. One man though who has unwavering support for Sawyers is Dean Smith, and Romaine duly linked back up with Smith when his Walsall contract expired in 2016. I personally loved the guy, but can understand why others didn`t.
Tom Bradshaw - Another goal-scoring hero from that night in Preston, Bradshaw chased down a loose back-pass to slot past Stuckmann and make it 2-0 on the night to Walsall and effectively seal our passage to Wembley. Bradshaw`s goal-rate was impressive but his all-round improvement was also striking and earned a well-deserved move to Barnsley in 2016 where he is starting to find his feet at Championship level. A recent brace against Aston Villa was particularly pleasing to see.