Archive for April, 2005

Hartlepool vs Walsall – Report

neilr @ 3:03 pm Saturday 30 April 2005

Brought directly from the ground from the Fat Controller.

The Fat Controller had no hesitation at half time when he described this as the best exhibition of attacking football from the Saddlers away from home for many a long year.

Walsall went in three goals to nil up against a team challenging for a play off place and it was completely deserved. A Julian Joachim shot was deflected into his own net by Westwood as early as the tenth minute and Joachim got a goal of the season contender in the 14th, by beating two defenders before hammering the ball home from 20 yards as the other defenders stood and watched.

Joachim later went off, worryingly holding his hamstrings, to be replaced by Fryatt, but the Fat Controller says it didn’t look too serious.

With half time nearing, Fryatt released Andy Surman, in his last appearance for the time being, on a one on one and he made no mistake.

The Fat Controller reported that the middle of the park was being completely dominated by Osborn, Standing and Surman, with both wingers (especially Wright) looking very dangerous. The defence dealt easily with the few threats that materialised during the course of the half.

Some 200 to 300 home fans were seen to leave as number three went in.

The second half of these games can be an anti climax, but this time, it was only in terms of no more goals being scored. Walsall again dominated the play, with chances going begging. Fryatt could easily have had a hat-trick and, if their chances had been taken, this would have been a completely embarrassing afternoon for Hartlepool. As it was, the only scoring came from a Boyd penalty for the home side, after Pead was adjudged to have brought down his man.

Merson did change things further, bringing off Mark Wright for Jorge Leitao and Simon Osborn for Mark Kinsella, making his re-appearance after his long term injury and suspension, but nothing altered the Saddlers’ total domination of the game.

The only down side were bookings for Pead, Perpetuini and Leitao.

With Torquay also winning this afternoon, the Manager of the Month award for April has to be between Merson and Rosenior.

Man of the Match – almost impossible to say, but, as games are won and lost in the middle of the park, pick any one of the five who played there.

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Hartlepool vs Walsall – Preview

neilr @ 2:10 pm Friday 29 April 2005

Walsall go into tomorrow’s game at Hartlepool with, unbelievably considering the up and down nature of this season, a chance to make it four wins on the trot and give Player-Manager Paul Merson a more than decent shout of the April Manager of the Month award. Considering the position the club was in four or five weeks ago, it seems almost impossible! Since Merson was forced to leave himself out of the side at Swindon and switch to the 4 5 1 formation, it’s played three, won three, scored 7, conceded 1, with each performance better than the last.

So, what are the opposition like?

Hartlepool will be desperate for a win, as they try to cement a play off spot for the second season running. They go into the game in fourth place, but with only one point in hand on Wednesday, Bournemouth and Brentford. They have the third best home record in the Division of:

P 22, Won 15, Drawn 3, Lost 4, Points 48.

So things look a bit ominous for the Saddlers’ chances of continuing their run? Ominous until you look a little more closely, however, as their last five home games have been LLWDW. It seems that the strain of staying in the play off places was starting to tell, even though they won two of the last three at home.

Their top scorer and dangerman is Adam Boyd, with 21 league goals from 41 games. His partner up front is normally Australian Joel Porter, but he has been out with an injury and it’s still not known if he will figure. Their only other injury problem is young defender John Brackstone, almost certain to be out.

As for the Saddlers, it’s the same as the last three games, almost certainly, as Andrew Surman plays his last game (for the time being, we hope) before returning to Southampton. Merson’s only dilemma would seem to be whether to put himself or Mark Kinsella, returning from suspension, on the bench in place of Neil Emblen, freed early to help him finalise his move to New Zealand, as Julian Bennett will still be out for a while.

Predictions? This is a tough one to call, but, in view of the confidence flowing through the side and the nerves flowing through Hartlepool, I’m going for another away win and Manager of the Month for League 1 for April for Paul Merson. 2 – 1 to the Saddlers.

New Kit Launch

neilr @ 11:13 am Thursday 28 April 2005

The new kit for the 2005/2006 season will be launched next Wednesday.

The official site released the news today with little flourish, tucked away at the end of a feature on the five recent signings. As has been widely rumoured for some months on the message board here, there will be a new manufacturer, a “world wide known” brand.

The club is not, as yet, giving away any more clues, for obvious reasons.

Joachim Rumours

neilr @ 9:40 am Thursday 28 April 2005

It seems that the end of this season is likely to be dominated by rumours concerning the future of on-loan Leeds star Julian Joachim.

Paul Merson has made no secret of the fact he would like to push the boat out to sign the striker, given the impact he has had since his arrival, but feels that the player’s wage demands may prove to be too high.

The latest rumour to surface, unsurprisingly in view of his hat-trick on Saturday, is that Hull City are interested. According to the Hull Daily Mail, the Tigers are seeing their attempts to sign a proven striker thwarted by the financial muscle of their Championship rivals.

Peter Taylor has been linked with Swindon’s Sam Parkin and he is known to be a big admirer of Bristol City hitman Leroy Lita. There are reports, however, that Wolves are preparing a £1.5m offer for Lita , more than Hull could afford in transfer fees, or wages. (Wolves’ proposed offer is thought to be worth around £12,000-per-week to Lita).

Reading are believed to have made enquiries about a possible swoop for Parkin, but they have been put off by a price tag of £750,000 – a staggering £500,000 more than Hull offered for the player last summer.

Other strikers currently being linked with City include veterans Brian Deane and Marcus Stewart and, following his performance on Saturday, the Mail also mentioned Joachim’s name.

Fortunately, this all looks like paper talk at the moment, but it does show that Merson needs to try and sort out Joachim’s position as soon as possible, otherwise it may be sorted for him!

Merson Worried About \’Arry

neilr @ 12:38 pm Wednesday 27 April 2005

Paul Merson has told the Express and Star that he is worried that the ever more likely relegation of Southampton from the Premiership may scupper his move for a season long loan for Andrew Surman.

There have been rumours in the national press, denied by Harry himself, that Redknapp will resign as Manager of Southampton if they are relegated. Merson has said that he is worried that the replacement of Redknapp would mean the loan deal for Surman couldn’t be negotiated until a replacement were found and any new manager might want to keep the player anyway.

Merson has also revealed that he has started contract negotiations with Simon Osborn and expects to be speaking to Darren Wrack very shortly. He has said, however, that Wrack would be offered less than his current salary, as he is one of the higher earners at the club.

Emblen Allowed To Leave

neilr @ 1:00 pm Tuesday 26 April 2005

For the second time this season, Walsall fans have to say goodbye to an old favourite.

Zigor Aranalde had his critics, but was always appreciated for his efforts by many Walsall fans, so his leaving without warning was seen as a lost opportunity to say goodbye. Fans will be pleased to here that, despite the fact he has been released from his contract early to allow for his move to New Zealand, Neil Emblen should be at the final game of the season against Stockport to allow the opportunity for the fans to show their appreciation for his efforts, according to the Express and Star.

“Slaphead” wigs may well be in evidence.

Merson – My Tactics Were Wrong

neilr @ 8:06 am Tuesday 26 April 2005

Paul Merson was being interviewed on the Talk Sport Breakfast Show this morning by Brazil and Beecroft and said what many a Walsall supporter will have wanted to hear.

He was asked what it was like to be managing lesser players who were incapable of doing the things he did. His answer was that he has players capable of playing at a higher level and the only thing that had held us back this season was inconsistency, caused mainly by his team selection and tactical decisions. Let’s hope this is a real sign that he has learned his lessons at last and that we can look forward to a much more successful season next year.

Merson Stays As Player Manager

neilr @ 1:01 pm Monday 25 April 2005

Jeff Bonser has decided to end press speculation and announce that Paul Merson will continue as Walsall manager next season – or will, at least, be offered a contract.

Despite a roller coaster twelve months in charge, the Chairman says he has seen enough recently to make his mind up that Merson should stay. He told the official site:-

“Paul Merson took over a very difficult situation at the end of the 2003/04 season,” he said. “While he could not save us from relegation, I saw enough from him to believe that he deserved the chance to continue as manager for the 2004/05 season.
It was never going to be easy. A number of established players left the club and a major team rebuilding exercise had to be undertaken.
Paul has made some astute loan signings to ensure our continuation in League One, and his willingness to give some of our young players first-team experience will reap future benefits for the club.
Do not forget also the contribution he has continued to make as a player, where his influence has often been decisive.
I believe that this season has been a very valuable learning exercise for Paul, and that he deserves the chance to continue in his present role.
We want Paul to succeed and believe that he can lead us to a successful 2005/06 campaign and a bright future.”

It is noticable, however, that there is no indication of the length of any contract to be offered.

Sort Merson’s Contract Out Now!

neilr @ 9:49 am Monday 25 April 2005

As readers of the site will be aware, Upthesaddlers.com has, in recent weeks, received information from two separate sources at the club that there has been no decision made so far as to whether to offer player-manager Paul Merson a new contract or not.

Merson’s contract expires this summer and the only thing that has been said on the subject of a renewal is the Manager’s own statement that he had been told he wouldn’t be here next season if the club were to be relegated.

With the club finally achieving safety with the excellent win on Saturday against Hull City, it is surely time for Chairman Jeff Bonser to make a decision one way or another.

Whether he will decide to keep Merson on, or whether he wants to bring a new man in, that decision needs to be made now, in order to give time over the summer to sort out the squad for next season. A very large number of the squad are out of contract themselves and the introduction of the transfer window to this division next season means that the Manager will need as long as possible to ensure the squad is ready for a play off push next season.

Time to act one way or another, Jeff!

Walsall vs Hull City – Party Poopers

neilr @ 5:41 pm Saturday 23 April 2005

Walsall decided to leave their best performance of the season until the last but one home game, but certainly decided to make the most of it.

Make no mistake, this was not a lucky win, or a hard fought one, but a comprehensive defeat of a disappointing Hull City side who were never at the races. In a mirror image of the game at the KC stadium, the Tigers lined up in a narrow formation, trying to exploit the talents of Nick Barmby “in the hole”, only to be torn apart by the home side’s extra width and pace down the flanks.

Julian Joachim took most of the plaudits for an extremely well taken hat-trick, which also owed much to some terrible Hull defending, but, if Standing, Wright and, especially, Surman had had their shooting boots with them, this could easily have been doubled.

It’s difficult to pick out the highlights, as there was so many, in a performance which saw the Saddlers, for the first time this season, concentrate on keeping the ball and which resulted them in completely dominating possession. Certainly there is no doubt that Hull’s Man of the Match had to be their keeper, Boaz Myhill, who kept the score down to a respectable level almost on his own.

Walsall’s Man of the Match had to go to Julian Joachim for a performance which had the crowd chanting “Bonser Sign Him Up”, but the outstanding Osborn, who held the midfield together defensively, and Standing weren’t far behind. Both wingers exploited the space they had been given to the full, although Wright did waste a couple of reasonable chances. The defenders and the goalkeeper had little to do and what they had was competantly dealt with.

The only question remaining at the end was where have these performances been all season?

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