Archive for March, 2000

Saddlers Crash At Home

roger6 @ 11:23 am Saturday 18 March 2000

2 goals, including a spectacular one on debut by Paul Hall, but after a stirring fightback Walsall again fell to a sucker punch and left Bescot today pointless, losing 3-2 to QPR.

Sir Ray dropped Ricketts from the squad completely, fuelling speculation his departure may come before next week’s transfer deadline, and Graham Fenton partnered Mark Robins up front. Chris Marsh returned from a long spell out injured, so Ian Brightwell dropped to the bench. Paul Hall started on the right, meaning Darren Wrack moved to the bench.

Walsall had a nightmare start, and were 2 down in 15 minutes, courtesy of a Bjarni Larusson own goal and Stuart Wardley. But Tony Barras pulled one back on 36. Paul Hall cracked a great shot from the edge of the box to equalise, only for Chris Kiwomya to seal the points for Rangers 17 minutes from time.

The battle to avoid the drop now looks like a straight battle between West Brom and us – West Brom losing 1-0 at home to Huddersfield, meaning the gap remains 4 points.

Walsall travel to Port Vale on Tuesday in a game they must win. They then visit Tranmere next week. West Brom travel to resurgent Portsmouth, who must be expected to beat them. West Brom’s run-in in full is reprinted here:

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Well done Jeff Bonser

roger6 @ 11:22 am Saturday 18 March 2000

Encouraging news from the club over the weekend – chairman Jeff Bonser has replied to criticism from fans and outlined the reasons why Walsall have not followed up interest in several key players this season. This marks a major change in policy for Walsall Football Club, which is to be warmly applauded – namely, direct 1-2-1 statements from club to fans, via the internet, explaining decisions taken. Well done Jeff. I hope to follow this up be arranging a drink with Roy Whalley and Jeff Bonser after the April 1st home game with Barnsley. Steve Blake, Walsall FC webmaster, the man whose efforts have made this progress possible, will hopefully also be in attendance.

Here’s Jeff’s press release, for those who missed it:

JEFF BONSER SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
ON SADDLERS QUEST FOR NEW PLAYERS

Judging from my recent postbag, one overriding concern of supporters is that as a Club, we do not provide enough information about what attempts we are making to bring new players into the Club.

Let me put the record straight.

TOM BENNETT

Tom was signed on a 1 month loan period from Stockport County.

He did very well for us, and we enjoyed some good results.

During the loan period we enquired whether Tom would be available for either an extended loan or permanent transfer. Stockport County indicated that either option would be acceptable to them.

However, when the loan period ended, Stockport had a change of heart. They were not prepared to offer an extension to the loan period, nor did they want to sell the player. Indeed, Tom went straight back into the Stockport Team.

This meant that we had to look elsewhere, hence the introduction of Michalis Vlachos from Portsmouth.

KEVIN HARPER

A Premiership standard player, who had not managed to perform to his potential at Derby.

It suited both Derby County and the player to be put in the shop window by joining Walsall on a loan basis.

His initial impact was limited due to personal problems, however during the remainder of his time with us he did prove himself to be a very good player, and he helped us to achieve some good results.

During Kevin’s time with us, we spoke to Derby County on numerous occasions about the chances of Walsall taking the player on a permanent basis.

Neither Derby County nor Kevin Harper were prepared to commit themselves at this time. It suited them to keep their options open in the hope that a big club would make a move on him.

Eventually Portsmouth made a £300,000.00 offer, a bid matched by ourselves.

The problem however, was that Portsmouth, backed by a multi-millionaire Chairman, offered Kevin Harper a 3 1/2 year Premiership standard contract to secure his services, at a level that he would not contemplate.

Even if we had matched Portsmouth’s contractual offer, the player would still have chosen Portsmouth, who he perceived to be a much bigger Club than ourselves.

LEE MILLS

Our interest in this player, from Bradford City is not generally known..

However, recently I spoke to City Chairman, Geoffrey Richmond on numerous occasions about taking Lee Mills on loan.

There were other Clubs interested, including Huddersfield Town who confirmed that Bradford City wanted a loan fee of £250,00.00 for Lee Mills to the end of the present Season. In addition, the players wages also had to be paid, and these were Premier League level.

I was not prepared to enter Walsall F. C. into this kind of deal.

STAN COLLYMORE

Another surprise for fans. However I can confirm that I had extensive conversations with Doug Ellis over the New Year period, about taking Stan Collymore on loan to the end of the Season.

We agreed a weekly wage for Collymore that would have been far beyond anything Walsall Football Club had ever paid.

Doug Ellis agreed to the deal, but unfortunately Stan Collymore rejected the move to Walsall, insisting that he only wanted to play in the Premier League.

I hope that his information will prove to supporters that strenuous attempts have been made to bring top class players to the club. I can also promise that these attempts will continue and I remain hopeful that there will be new signings before Thursdays transfer deadline.

Jeff Bonser
Owner

Swain Blasts Bonser

roger6 @ 11:23 am Wednesday 15 March 2000

The well-respected local football journalist Martin Swain tonight has responded to Jeff Bonser’s statement – on www.westmidlands.com:

“I will not put the future of the club at risk by chasing dreams,” says Walsall owner Jeff Bonser. And that’s his problem.

He’s right. He is not a dream-chaser. And he thereby misses the entire point of football. The Bonsers of this world may be able to keep a club ticking over handsomely on a handful of pork scratchings, a few balls of string and a clutch of Balti pies.

But they cannot understand why none of their financial husbandry makes any sense without dreams. Without the dream that you might one day win a promotion or reach a Cup Final or beat Manchester United.

Or in Walsall’s case, take advantage of having come up trumps with Ray Graydon and given him a genuine chance of staying in the First Division.

If ever a coach or manager and a group of honest, journeymen players deserved to stay up, it was this bunch at Walsall. If ever an owner deserved to go down, it is Bonser. And I’ll tell you why.

When the Saddlers beat Oldham on that unforgettable May day last season to clinch a miraculous promotion, the platitudes from the Walsall boardroom were soon flowing thick and fast.

I quote Mr Bonser from the Express & Star two days later, Monday, May 3.

“We don’t intend to sit back. Ray and Paul Taylor will be evaluating the squad and deciding where we need strengthening. We aim to get the club in a situation where we can give a good account of ourselves in the First Division.

“We don’t want to be involved in a relegation battle and are not going up just to make up the numbers.”

But that’s precisely what Walsall have done. You know it, I know it and so does Bonser. They have made up the numbers, and it is a tribute to Graydon’s skills and his players’ efforts that they have fought against the odds, produced some stirring victories and are at least still in touch.

They at least have tried to keep the dream alive long after Walsall fans surely began to wonder if they had been conned.

On the back of Bonser’s promises, they bought season ticket prices hiked up to record levels. And they bought them in record numbers.

But then the reality behind Bonser’s promises soon became clear. The two or three positive signings Graydon must have craved were ignored. Instead, Walsall once again became a summer trading post for every footballing Tom, Dick and Harry.

Now that is not to deny the essential truth behind the owner’s assertion that the club’s financial well-being should never be put at risk. No-one expected Walsall to start bidding for Ruud van Nistelrooy. But just a little faith, just a little bit of a gamble from the boardroom . . . that would have given fans hope.

That would have been a valuable contribution to those supporters’ dreams. Had it happened, had Walsall at least given it a go,’ the howls of protest that so angered the owner last week could never have been justified.

And this newspaper would back him entirely in his condemnation of that protest descending into any kind of direct abuse, intimidation or, God forbid, violence.

But emotions are running high because those supporters thought that, for once, their club had a chance, a real chance of changing things.

Instead, it was the same old Saddlers. There was no boldness. There was no ambition. With all due respect to the gallant efforts of Matias, Padula and Bukran, they were cheap, piece-meal solutions while valuable money was tossed away on less successful daliances with Tony Daley, Abou and the Brazilian Bica.

Bonser says £1.2m more has been spent on “player expenses”. But, perversely for a club which prides itself on financial acumen, strengthening was derailed by false economies.

Instead of signing new blankets to keep warm this winter, Taylor kept stitching patchwork on to the old Second Division quilt. As proved when Tom Bennett and Kevin Harper gave sight of the kind of signings Walsall should have made five months earlier.

Now Bonser is at war again, launching a scatter-gun tirade against those who dare to criticise, even impugning the motives of Express & Star reporters Nick Elwell and Steve Madeley.

We are not interested in going to war with Bonser; this paper will put up its record for backing Saddlers against any other. Anytime. Anywhere. But his allegations against two journalists who have been scrupulously fair in dealing with an increasingly volatile scenario do not stand up to any kind of scrutiny.

They may, however, just expose the desperate lament of a man who said one thing and delivered another.

Bonser Bites Back

roger6 @ 11:24 am Tuesday 14 March 2000

Jeff Bonser used the web last night to release a detailed statement in reaction to recent protests against the Board, which is reprinted below. Please note the copyright for this belongs to Walsall Football Club.

“It was with some incredulity that I witnessed a small mob stage a foul mouthed demonstration outside the Main Entrance after the Charlton Match.

If they take that kind of action against a successful and well run Club then (don’t take my word, a recent independent survey into Football Clubs by Deloitte and Touche described Walsall Football Club as being the best financially run Club in the Football League) what would they be doing if I had taken the Club to the verge of financial ruin as has happened at Clubs like Swindon and Crystal Palace? It was with even more incredulity that I read in the Wednesday edition of the “Express & Star” that there were 400 demonstrators. I would like to invite Nick Elwell, the author of that piece of mis-information, to study our CCTV tape, which identifies there were about 40 active demonstrators, and a somewhat smaller number of inquisitive bystanders. I think we are entitled to expect that if the “Express & Star” is going to publish statistics that at least they verify them, and produce the correct information

The behaviour of these demonstrators was totally senseless. They might think that their actions will help the team. I tell you that they are more likely to destroy Walsall Football Club. One effect will be that all matches at Bescot Stadium for the remainder of the Season are likely to have to be policed, which means to the Club, an extra cost of over £7000.00 per game or £35000.00 for the remainder of the Season.

Just what is their problem?

Why are these people protesting against the management of a well run Football Club? All income is accounted for in audited accounts prepared by BDO Stoy Hayward.

There seems to be some disquiet about my pension fund drawing a rent from the Bescot Stadium Site. Let me make clear, I made a significant investment into Walsall Football Club at a time when it was on it’s financial knees, and am entitled to a return from that investment. If anyone thinks that an investor is going to come into the Club and not want a return on their investment they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

We had just lost a very entertaining match to Charlton Athletic. I can understand their disappointment. I felt it too, and so did other members of the Board.

But consider the facts. Charlton lead the First Division by 12 points. They have just won 12 successive League matches. They are the best team in the First Division, by a distance. They enjoy gates of 15,000 plus, and because they receive balloon payments from the Premiership have millions to spend on players.

Yet, despite all this, we competed with them, we gave them a hard game and with a little more luck it might have been a very different result.

So if that was not the reason for the demonstration what was it?

The chanting and obscenities were in the main targeted at myself.

It is not something I enjoy. Indeed, like any other human being it can be very hurtful. It is distressing to my family, and when one looks at the achievements of Walsall F. C. during these past 8 years can hardly be justified.

But if certain people want to get rid of me, that is their prerogative. Although why they have to sink to such depths of vulgarity to say so probably says more about them than it does me.

At the risk of repeating myself, I am quite prepared to sell Walsall Football Club, and to be able to walk away from it. That has been the case for the last 2 years.

During that time the only serious approaches I have received are from speculators who would knock the Stadium down and develop the site, which I have had the option to do since owning the Stadium.

I do not want this to happen. I am a Walsall man. I love Walsall Football Club, and it has always been my intention to only sell the Club to an individual or group whose purpose is to maintain League Football in the town and to take the Club forward.

No such person or consortium has come forward.

The recent brochure compiled and distributed by the so called Independent Saddlers Supporters Association has attracted no response. This is hardly surprising since they do not own the Club, and are therefore not in a position to sell it. They have managed to produce a flawed document, which would receive short shrift from any potential investor that might have glanced through it.

I can promise however that when I receive the right offer I will be relieved to sell the Club and walk away from it.

No one can say when this will happen, but until it does I will continue to run the Club on the same business principles that have served it so well in recent years.

So what are we to expect? More demonstrations, more obscene chanting and loutish behaviour … or worse?

I read comments from Messrs Fellows, Stuart and other I.S.S.A. Officials encouraging demonstrations explaining that they should be peaceful and good humoured. They might think they can control these demonstrations, but I will tell you they cannot.

Once the word gets round that there is likely to be a spot of bother at Bescot Stadium, the ‘rent-a-mob’ crowd from miles around, with no interest in the Club, but who never miss the chance to have a good punch up, will move in. Messrs Stuart and Fellows, and the rest of the I.S.S.A. Committee will have lit a fuse that they will not be able to control, and there will be violence and someone will get hurt.

I warn you now, both Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and their followers, had better take note of this fact, once this happens there will be a drastic change in my stance.

I have seen violence erupt on a number of occasions during the past 12 years at Walsall Football Club. During the past couple of months there have been a couple of occasions where Directors have faced physical intimidation. I will not allow that to happen.

Everyone needs to understand that if a situation is created whereby my position becomes untenable before a replacement owner is found there will be draconian consequences for the Club.

At that point all arrangements that I have made with the Bank will be cancelled, and Loan and Bank Guarantees withdrawn. The Club will then face immediate financial ruin and closure.

Perhaps it is time that we started to ask a few questions about the likes of Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows. Many supporters will have read their articles in the local press, for which presumably they are paid. They promote an anti-board theme, and make no secret of their desire to get rid of me and the rest of the Board.

But who are these people? Perhaps in one of their forthcoming articles they might tell us something about themselves or put details on the Internet.

Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart are constantly pontificating about how the Club should be run. Are they qualified to do this? What are their present jobs? Do they have the kind of business experience that suggests they are sufficiently well informed to tell us how to run the Football Club? – I would doubt it!

And what plans do Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart have for Walsall Football Club? We all know they subscribe to and encourage the ‘sack the board’ sentiment. But if me and the present Board go, what are they going to put in it’s place?

Let Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart provide an answer to a scenario where their actions lead me to removing my services and Bank Guarantees from the Club, and as a result, the Club faces instant closure. Can I assume that Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart will step in with their bank guarantees to keep the Club going? I challenge them to state publicly what their plans are if, as result of the problems they are inciting, I and the Board no longer feel able to operate.

And what do we know about I.S.S.A.? They hold occasional meetings in local public houses and issue press bulletins to local newspapers. Their whole philosophy for creating a successful Football Club seems to based on “spend, spend, spend”. They give no indication about where the money is coming from, and really need to understand that spectacular spending, which really means spending money that you do not have, is a form of gross mis-management. Inevitably this will lead to the Club facing a financial crisis.

The claim to have 500 members, but I challenge them to provide documentary evidence of this. Let them produce a detailed membership for independent scrutiny.

It took them 2 years to produce a brochure they were talking about in 1998, so they are hardly dynamic. They planned to issue leaflets at the Charlton match, but could not manage to do so in time. These are the people who are telling us how to run the Football Club.

It was amusing to note that one of the brochures was sent to Tiny Rowlands ….. who died 2 years ago. Perhaps they are looking for help from beyond the grave.

Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart talk about raising £50,000 to buy shares in the Club that would give them influence in the board room. Where is the £50,000 coming from? ……… Passing a bucket round at one of their meetings? I state categorically that I will never sell any of my shares to I.S.S.A. Their antics and rantings will dissuade any investor from buying the Club. If they behave like this towards a well run and successful Football Club nobody has got a chance, potential owners will not want the hassle of having to deal with such people.

And if Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart do not have a plan, or are not able to make necessary financial commitments themselves, what are they doing espousing policies that will ruin Walsall Football Club? Are there sinister reasons for their actions or are they simply out to make a name for themselves? Are Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and their members aware of the consequences if they drive me out, with no one else ready to step in? Have they thought about the part they will have played in bringing 112 years of Professional Football in Walsall to an end? Have they considered the potential loss of 300 full and part time jobs in the town as a result of a senseless and ill considered campaign?

I can only appeal to the decent and fair minded people, who make up the vast majority of supporters to make their feelings known against the rabble who seem intent on undermining everything that has been achieved at Walsall Football Club.

I will state categorically that Walsall Football Club will have nothing to do with Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart or I.S.S.A., neither would any other decent organisation. They burnt their bridges when they launched an obscene and personal attack on Paul Simpson last Season. A player incidentally, who made a useful contribution to our promotion success. I wonder whether people are aware of the filth that is written in the I.S.S.A. Fanzine for which both Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows must carry responsibility. The publication is so revolting that is has been banned from distribution in the Saddlers Club by the Supporters Club Committee. The press are fully aware of the filth written in this fanzine and I find it very difficult to understand why they have not commented on the obscene nature of the publication. The two people responsible for the fanzine and the foul language found in it are Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows and it is very difficult to understand how this qualifies them to be invited by local newspapers to write weekly columns. “Express & Star” reporters are well aware of the obscene remarks made against Paul Simpson and I would find it very interesting for them to publish their views on how Simpson was treated in the offending article.

It is not my business to tell the “Express & Star” who they should invite to make contributions. However many supporters must be wondering why they choose to invite articles from a minority group, and ignore the official Supporters Club who represent a membership of 3,000. Perhaps there is a hidden agenda that I am not aware of.

I leaves me to wonder whether the “Express & Star” are content to knowingly print articles and information from I.S.S.A., who they know are an organisation that organises foul-mouthed protests, distributes antagonistic leaflets, prints a fanzine that contains obscenities and advertises on the unofficial web site which incites actions that lead to violence and result in criminal offences.

Surely as an organisation that provides the “Express & Star” with many column inches of news and pays substantial amounts for advertisements we are entitled to expect balanced reporting of our affairs and that any so called facts and statistics used are accurate . I merely pose the question whether Nick Elwell or Steve Madeley are capable of this standard of reporting or whether they are too closely tied to the agenda set by Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart . Perhaps they are more interested in cheap headlines, rabble rousing articles and career advancement than an actual portrayal of the facts.

I.S.S.A. does not have widespread support. We can attract more people to our quiz nights than they can to their meetings, so we concentrate our efforts on developing a good working relationship with Walsall Football Supporters Club, who have 3,000 members and are far more representative of our supporters base. As a result of the efforts of the Saddlers Club members they are able to make significant financial donations to the Football Club which we use for team strengthening.

Let me make quite clear, if Walsall are relegated at the end of the Season myself and the board will be bitterly disappointed. That is not to say it will happen, because we have a fighting chance of retaining our place. We will do our upmost to retain our First Division status, but we will not put the very existence of the Club at risk.

Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and his I.S.S.A. supporters tell us that relegation would be a disaster. They ought to consult their dictionary or journalist colleagues at local newspapers about what a disaster really is. It applies to war, plagues, famine, floods, earthquakes, avalanches, aeroplane crashes etc. These are disasters. This just reveals how blinkered and narrow minded Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows really are. For us to be relegated to the Second Division would be bitterly disappointing but football is a game of promotion and relegation, and if we are relegated there will be other Club’s who go down with us. That is the nature of the game. What is important is that we have a healthy Club that can compete effectively next Season, no matter what division we are in. We want to stay in the First Division, but if that does no work out we shall aim to bounce back at the first opportunity, but we will not bankrupt the Club in the process.

Finally, let me clarify my position. While I own Walsall Football Club I remain totally committed to the cause. I will not tolerate violence or mob rule, and if that happens I walk away, and the Club closes.

I will not put the future of the Club at risk by ‘chasing dreams’ as has happened at some other Clubs who are now facing ruin. We will, and do, invest in improving our playing strength. It should not be forgotten that during my period of ownership the Club has achieved two promotions and moved from the Third Division to the First Division. This Season we will have invested over £1.2 million more in playing expenses than last Season. That is FACT, and anyone who refuses to accept this statistic really does not want to understand, perhaps does not have the intellect to be able to do so or has other sinister reasons behind their apparent ignorance.

I believe the vast majority of supporters appreciate the transformation that has taken place in Walsall F. C. over the past 8 years, they may not like but do understand the difficulties we face in competing against Clubs who enjoy much greater support to call upon and have far greater resources than ourselves.

These people are the life and soul of the Club, not those who peddle filth on the unofficial web sites, or chant obscenities in pointless demonstrations. It is the decent majority whose continuing support can lift the team through the final vital weeks of the Season, and whose loyalty offers hope for the future. They must not allow the idiotic fringe to sabotage the team’s chances of remaining in the First Division, or to put the future of the Club at risk.

Just remember that our success last Season was based on teamwork and togetherness both on and off the field. This sense of comradeship was inspired by Ray Graydon, it is at the very core of his belief for what is required to make a successful Club.

Managers like Ray Graydon are hard to find. They are not employed by accident. If the atmosphere at Bescot Stadium is poisoned by a small bunch of morons, it is highly likely that he will look elsewhere for employment and who would blame him?

And what about the effects demonstrations have on players? Last Tuesday the mob picked on Michael Ricketts because he had announced his decision to move to another Club when his contract expires. This is his right under the Bosman Ruling.

Does anyone in his right mind think that by hurling abuse at him he is likely to change his mind? It is more likely to have the opposite effect. These things happen in football as has been the case with Emille Heskey at Leicester City. All that matters is that while Michael Ricketts is a Walsall Football Club player he does his best for the Club, that is all we have the right to expect.

Perhaps Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart need to sit down and consider some of the home truths and answer the questions that I have put to them. They need to take a long hard look at what their organisation is doing to Walsall Football Club. They purport to support the Club but I will tell them straight that what they are doing is wrong headed and damaging to the Club. If Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and their followers want to ruin Walsall Football Club they are going the right way about it. They should stop now and concentrate their efforts on supporting the team.

I would like to thank the many supporters who have written to me and spoken to me with messages of support for what we are trying to achieve at Walsall Football Club. Their words and thoughts are much appreciated.

Jeff Bonser
Owner

Fans Fury at Harper Loss

roger6 @ 11:24 am Tuesday 07 March 2000

Walsall fans from around the world have expressed their anger at the news Kevin Harper has gone to Portsmouth. Yesterday 650 people visited this site, with many leaving messages criticising the board’s lack of ambition. Protests are planned before, during and after tonight’s game with league leaders Charlton, being shown on Sky TV. Ray Graydon looks set to name an unchanged line-up – but Michael Ricketts is sure to be in for a hot reception from Saddlers fans following confirmation from Graydon that the striker will be leaving this summer. Just 1 season ago Ricketts was playing reserve team football. Sir Ray has made massive progress with the player, keeping faith with him which many fans felt was misplaced.

Some comments are reprinted below. Commercial sites, please note: you can use these for no fee!

“A combination of disgraceful non-planning, pathetic business awareness and blatent lies have made this come about, and may be what sends us down.”
Paul

“Is it really all that much to ask of a club that is projected to have a £4.5m turnover this year to spend 100-200 grand on a couple of players?”
Anonymous

“Bonser has all but finished hammering the last nails into the coffin that is our chance of survival this year. I am so angry. The board have just let it all go.”
Jim

“I can’t think of many worse things that could have happened at this stage of the season as far as the confidence of the players and the fans are concerned.”
Neil

Walsall 1 Grimsby 0

roger6 @ 11:25 am Saturday 04 March 2000

A deserved 3 points today against Grimsby – but the matc overshadowed by dramatic events surrounding Kevin Harper.

There were a lot of angry Saddlers fans at the start of the game, believing Kevin Harper had been bought by Portsmouth for £250,000. This prompted chants against the board, and a pre-match mini-demonstration. As it turns out, Sir Ray Graydon went on West Midlands radio after the game to say that Harper rang in this morning to say Portsmouth had made a bid. As a result he didn’t feel able to play. Ray said Walsall would match Portsmouth’s bid – so the player now faces 48 hours where he will listen to offers from Walsall, Portsmouth and perhaps other clubs, before making a decision.

It’s a scenario many fans saw coming. The player has been at loan on Bescot for over 2 months, has consistently put in great performances, but the board have waited until a rival club have put in an offer before starting to act. There’s talk of horses bolting – let’s hope it’s not the case. The next 48 hours may prove crucial to the Saddlers’ survival chances. If Harper does go to Portsmouth (fellow-relegation fighters) when Walsall have been in a prime position to sign the player for the past 2 months, there will be a lot of discontent amongst the Bescot faithful.

The game itself was not particularly pretty, but both sides tried to play football. Mark Robins’ brilliant header from a Brightwell cross was the goal the won it for us. And in truth we could have had a few more – Pedro had a free-kick brilliantly tipped over – Keates blasted over in the final minute, and Robins had 2 efforts cleared off the line. Grimsby also hit a post, but today the Saddlers earned a vital 3 points.

Let’s just hope Paul Taylor can use all his powers of persuasion to convince Kevin to sign for us.

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