Archive for December, 1999

Saddlers 1 Tranmere 2

roger6 @ 11:31 am Sunday 26 December 1999

7,000+ at Bescot for a Boxing Day farce that told the story of the season so far – if you fail to put away chances, you will get punished in this division. And, time for honesty, Sir Ray’s front two of Rammell and Robins are the weakest strike pairing in this division, with the possible exception of Swindon. And where are we this Christmas? Facing relegation, a point above Swindon.

Contrast this with Tranmere, who today looked a very, very ordinary side. Their finances are poor – but they still went out a few weeks ago and bought a £500k striker – Wayne Allison, a fact pinpointed by ex-saddler David Kelly as the difference in mentality between the Walsall board and the Tranmere board. And today the winner was scored by Allison, after Jimmy Walker fumbled his header on the line.

A goal-less first half saw long spells of Saddlers pressure. Gino and Pedro were outstanding – Rambo had a header brilliantly saved on the line, and the linesman made a name for himself by demonstrating a fundamental ignorance of the offside rule.

On a day when you’re guaranteed one of your biggest gates of the season, a question for Mr Whalley? Would it be a good idea to open all your refreshment stands? Perhaps then we might have got a cup of tea and returned to our seats in time to see Gabby Bukran fire in the opening goal on 46 minutes after good work from Robins.

The following 20 minutes of the second half saw Walsall miss four, probably five gilt-edged chances, the best falling to Mark Robins, one-on-one with the keeper. A chance that many strikers would have put away. But his shot was blocked by the inspirational keeper.

Tranmere broke Saddlers’ hearts with two killer strikes midway through the second half – the first a shot from the edge of the box by Andy Parkinson, the second a header from Allison that Walker tried to claw back from the line.

A flu-striken Sir Ray came out of the stands to try and revive the team for the last 15 minutes, but even the introduction of Siggy and Micky couldn’t hide the fact the Saddlers had lost their shape.

The disappointing result cannot mask a good performance from the majority of the Saddlers team, particularly Bukran who comfortably won the man of the match. But defeats puts Sir Ray’s men in a hole – five points now from safety, and heading back to the 2nd division.


Fans demo against board

roger6 @ 11:30 am Sunday 26 December 1999

After the 2-1 defeat a group of around 150 Walsall fans demonstrated against club owner Jeff Bonser. The protest led Ray Graydon to comment: “If the fans say that they want Mr Bonser to go then I must go as well. He is the owner, a man of integrity and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with him. What funds are available will be spent but I must find the right players.”

You’ve got to question Ray Graydon’s logic. The fans are asking for Graydon to be given some money to buy, at least, a decent striker. It’s in his interests, if not to back that call, then at least to remain quiet.

Apparently “funds are available to buy the right player”. Mr Bonser, please reveal exactly how much Sir Ray has to spend.

Kelly\’s Wise Words

roger6 @ 11:30 am Wednesday 22 December 1999

Former Saddlers player David Kelly has warned the Bescot board they are risking repeating the mistakes of 10 years ago by not investing in the club to stay in the first division.

Speaking to Go2Birmingham, Kelly pointed out that when Tranmere were at the bottom of the division earlier this year, they dug deep to spend £500,000 on striker Wayne Allison. Since when they’ve made a remarkable surge up the table. Kelly also pointed out that first divison clubs receive substantial TV income – Walsall have already featured twice on Sky this season, and are likely to be on the box again twice more before the season’s out.

So read this Jeffrey Bonser and the Saddlers board – full article below:

NOMADIC striker David Kelly is back in the West Midlands on Boxing Day threatening to add to Walsall’s relegation worries 11 years after his goals won them promotion.

And the former Cadbury’s factory floor sweeper, now a wealthy man, is sad that the people running the club apparently failed to heed the lessons from the last time they mingled with some of soccer’s elite.

The Saddlers picked up £650,000 from West Ham United for “Ned” Kelly in 1988 but invested only a fraction of the cash on new players and went straight back down.

Now they seem to be heading for a repeat after manager Ray Graydon has been allowed to spend only £20,000 on one defender and they are one place off the bottom of the First Division.

Kelly, 34 years old and still knocking in the goals for Tranmere, said: “First Division clubs get a lot more money than those in the Second, through Nationwide, Sky TV, gates, sponsorship and so on.

“So Walsall should invest cash to stay up. Ray Graydon has done a fantastic job for them with limited resources, but he needs some help now.

“When Tranmere were bottom of the table earlier this season, we had a conversation with our club secretary who warned that it would be a financial disaster if we were relegated from the First Division.

“That’s how important it is to stay up. We spent £500,000 on a striker, Wayne Allison, and brought in a couple of other players, and we have turned it round in the league and had some great cup results.

“Walsall have had ten years in the wilderness. Now their aim must be to finish fourth from the bottom and stay in the division. That’s a realistic target.”

Since leaving the Saddlers Kelly’s moves around the country have cost £3 million in transfer fees, taking him to West Ham, Leicester City, Newcastle United, Wolves, Sunderland and finally Tranmere.

The lad from Weoley Castle has won Republic of Ireland caps and played under managers like Alan Buckley, Tommy Coakley, Kevin Keegan, Graham Taylor, Mick McCarthy, Jack Charlton, Ossie Ardiles, Brian Little, David Pleat, John Lyall, Billy Bonds and John Aldridge.

But he will always be grateful that Walsall gave him his first chance when they took him as a raw teenager from Alvechurch and put him on the road to stardom.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that his ambition is to be the Saddlers’ manager one day!

He will be released by Tranmere in the summer, and he said: “I still enjoy the game so much I want to continue playing as long as I can.

“My wife, Claire, reckons I shall be playing on parks pitches when I am 42.”

Ned will have many of his friends and relations at Bescot on Boxing Day, and he said: “My hope will be that we win the match but Walsall stay up. Theirs is one of the first results I look for every week.”

Kelly lives in Little Aston and is a business parner of his former Walsall manager, Tommy Coakley. They own Swingers driving range and nine-hole golf course at Lichfield.

Coakley has continued to act as the player’s adviser ever since he had to sell him to West Ham over a decade ago, and they are great friends.

“It will be my first-ever competitive game at Bescot, and I expect a bit of good natured stick from the fans which is natural, because they should be giving all their support to Walsall,” he said.

Graydon swoops for Harper

roger6 @ 6:17 pm Friday 17 December 1999

Walsall have confirmed the loan signing of Kevin Harper from Derby County. The former Hibs striker is scheduled to be at the Bescot for the next month. The player has spent much of the season on the bench at Pride Park.
Meanwhile general manager Paul Taylor has confirmed he hopes to bring in another player on-loan, with a chance that the moves could eventually become permanent. Taylor has revealed he has been working behind the scenes for some time to set up the deals and he now feels he is very close to a second deal.
He will not reveal who his second target is or just what area of the team he is now looking to strengthen but it is no great surprise hitman Harper has been targetted to bolster the Saddlers’ flagging attack.
Ray Graydon has confirmed that unless the forwards who are presently at his disposal start to do better he will change things in a bid to seek the firepower to ensure the Saddlers pull out of the bottom three. While Walsall have not been scoring as many goals as he would have hoped the team have also not been creating as many chances as he would have liked either.
A creative midfielder could also be on Taylor’s hit list but it seems unlikely he will be seeking to bolster the Saddlers’ defence as Walsall already have cover in place for the back four.

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