Archive for June, 2005

Death of A Legend – Colin Taylor

neilr @ 4:13 pm Thursday 30 June 2005

There are a few players who you can say directly influenced your decision as a kid to follow your team. The folk heroes are the usual ones, those with something different, something which made them stand out from the crowd, like a shot of ferocious venom, someone, in fact like Colin “The Cannonball” Taylor.

Walsall’s barrel chested, ginger haired, goal scoring left winger of the 1960’s was always one of my boyhood heroes. He joined the club in 1958, from his home town club, Birmingham League Stourbridge, and made his Saddlers debut not long afterwards against Millwall in August of that year.

For the next five years, he made the left wing spot his own, with his pacy, strong direct running, cannonball shooting and crosses which only Tony Richards was brave enough to get a head on (or so Richards always joked). He, from that left wing berth, scored an incredible 21 goals in our promotion season of 1959/60, then manged to top that the following season as we climbed to the heights of the then Division Two, with another 33!

It was too good to last, of course, and he was snapped up by Newcastle United in 1963, only to return some twelve months later to write another chapter in his Walsall career. He spent another three and a half successful years with us, so successful, in fact, that e earned a move to Crystal Palace in 1968, only to return again the following year for his third spell, which finally terminated in him leaving for non league Kidderminster in 1973.

Colin’s final record with the Saddlers was 491 appearances, with 11 as sub, with an incredible total of 190 goals.

And that’s what made him special – those goals. He had the hardest shot I’ve ever seen – period. He could (and did) score from virtually the half way line. I even played against him in a charity match years later – he scord a blinder, of course. With his barrel chested shape, shock of red hair and direct style, he was the sort of player legends are made of – which is a good job, as that’s what he’ll always be – Colin Taylor, Walsall Legend, RIP.

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It\’s Crystal Palace – Revenge Would Be Sweet

neilr @ 8:20 am Tuesday 28 June 2005

The draw for the first round of the Carling Cup was made this morning and the Saddlers have got a chance to get some revenge for a disgraceful decision.

There were a lot of factors, as usual, which contributed to our relegation the season before last, but one of the major ones was a blatant dive by Tommy Black to earn Crystal Palace a late penalty at Selhurst Park and deprive the Saddlers of the point which would have kept them up and give them the point which, eventually, saw them into the play-offs. We have now been presented with a chance of revenge, being drawn away to Palace in the first round of the Carling Cup.

Quite what teams will turn out is another matter, however, as Paul Merson did not see the competition as a priority last season and turned out a reserve side at Sheffield Wednesday, and Palace are likely to do the same.

The trip will also be a difficult one for fans, as it is in week commencing 22nd August and will be sandwiched between the away trip to Hartlepool and the Bank Holiday weekend fixtures of Swansea at home and Bournemouth away.

Westwood Signs For Walsall

neilr @ 11:27 am Monday 27 June 2005

It was probably the worst kept secret in football, but it has now been confirmed that Hartlepool’s Chris Westwood will be signing for the Saddlers.

We had the story that the Dudley born central defender was going to return to his West Midland roots by signing for Walsall back on the 30th May and there had been rumours about for even longer than that, but now the waiting is over.

Westwood is a six foot, pacy centre back, who can read the game well. He started his pro career at Wolves, under youth team coach (and his future manager), Chris Turner. He broke into the first team, playing 4 games with another 2 sub appearances, scoring one goal, but felt that his chances were being limited under the then Manager, Mark McGhee.

He then moved to Reading, but picked up a very serious injury before making any appearances and was freed by them. He spent some time with Telford United getting back to fitness (and modelling for a friend’s sportwear business), before Turner took him the the Victoria Ground.

The rest is history. He made 267 appearances for Hartlepool, plus 7 as sub, scoring nine goals, and was twice voted their player of the season. He became something of a folk hero, not least because of his changing hairstyles, but his stay ended unfortuantely when he was harshly sent off during their play off defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.

His signing for the Saddlers should give Paul Merson the experience he wants at the back.

Westwood In Blue and White

Coventry Want Staunton To Stay

neilr @ 3:51 pm Friday 24 June 2005

Coventry Manager Micky Adams has stepped up his efforts to keep Steve Staunton for another twelve months.

Paul Merson had been planning to sign his former Aston Villa team mate Staunton as a player coach for the coming season, as the former Ireland international has made no secret of the fact that he wants to go into management when he retires.

It has now been reported, however, that Adams has stepped up his efforts to get Staunton to accept an extension to his contract at Coventry, as he also wants the experience of the player to steady his back line in the coming season.

Quite where this leaves matters, it’s difficult to say. Staunton wants to move into the coaching side of the game, but it’s difficult to see where he would fit in at Bescot on the playing side, with Gerrard, Roper and Bennett on board and the seemingly imminent arrival of Chris Westwood meaning the centre back berths are filled and Staunton has himself said he is reluctant to play full back any more. Perhaps another twelve months at Coventry might seem more attractive to the player yet.

Staunton

Surman Update

Meanwhile, the Evening Mail is carrying confirmation of the story we had on the 16th June, that Andrew Surman’s return to Bescot depends on the outcome of an argument between Chairman Rupert Lowe and ‘Arry Redknapp:

“Eager to cut costs, Lowe wants his manager to base the just-relegated Saints’ attempt to climb straight back to the Premiership mainly around his younger players.
If the Southampton chairman gets his way, 18-year-old Surman is unlikely to be allowed out on loan as he would probably figure in the first-team squad at some stage.
But Redknapp, who proved two years ago at Portsmouth that he knows what it takes to get teams out of the Championship, wants to lean more heavily on experience”.

Everton Prodigy Vaughan Bescot Bound?

neilr @ 1:01 pm Wednesday 22 June 2005

Paul Merson has begun drawing up a list of alternative targets if the Julian Joachim deal falls through and one of the names is Everton’s teenage sensation James Vaughan.

The 16 year old is unable to sign a professional contract until his next birthday, was born and bred in Birmingham and Merson believes that a loan would be an attractive proposition for David Moyes, who blooded the youngster last season, when he became Everton’s youngest ever scorer aganst Crystal Palace, breaking you-know-who’s record.

In fact, he, in one fell swoop, broke the following records:

1. The youngest ever Everton senior player. He broke Joe Royle’s record as Everton’s youngest post-war player by 11 days.
2. The youngest ever Everton League goalscorer. He beat a certain Wayne Rooney who was 16 years, 361 days on 19/10/02 when he scored against Arsenal.
3. The youngest ever Premiership scorer. He beat James Milner, then at Leeds, by 86 days.
4. The youngest ever Premiership player to score on his debut.

He also managed a goal in each of his first two games for England under-17s. He is nearly 6 foot and scored 7 goals in 16 outings for the Toffee’s reserves last season.

WRACK SIGNS NEW CONTRACT

Meanwhile, back at Bescot, Darren Wrack has signed his three year extension this afternoon, according to the Official Site. The Cleethorpes born winger turned central midfielder has been with the club since 1998, so this contract extension will take him up to a testimonial season.

Unusually in this day and age, Wrack will become the second player after Jimmy Walker to earn a testimonial in recent seasons and, in the process and injuries permitting, this will move him well up the all time appearance list for the Saddlers from his current 300 odd.

Hartlepool\’s Westwood a Free Agent

neilr @ 7:22 pm Monday 20 June 2005

Hartlepool United have officially announced that Chris Westwood will be leaving the club when his contract expires on the 30th June.

This means that the rumours about him wanting a move nearer to his roots in the West Midlands were, indeed, true. Walsall have been continually linked with the 28 year old centre back since those rumours started some time ago and the club’s interest was confirmed by Chairman Jeff Bonser last week, but Nottingham Forest, Stockport County, Rotherham United and Luton Town have also been reported as being interested. Any of those could be considered to be within commuting distance of Westwood’s home town, Dudley.

Developments can be expected quicky now Hartlepool have made the announcement, although it is difficult to see how Merson’s supposed interest in both Westwood and Staunton fits together.

Joachim, Walsall and Oldham Athletic

neilr @ 8:16 am Monday 20 June 2005

There have been a few rumours around the message boards over the weekend, especially on the BBC 606 board, that Oldham Athletic have suddenly shown an interest in Merson’s number one target, Julian Joachim.

Oldham, with their new American backers, have made numerous signings for the up-coming season and seem to be linked with just about every striker going, including Luke Beckett, although they failed to reach an agreement on a fee for him.

The Joachim story, however, seems to have originated from their official site message board, where a poster said that their supposed interest in Scott Taylor was “just a smokescreen” for a bid for JJ. All of the rest of the talk appears to have originated from this.

At the moment, then, this just looks like message board talk, pure and simple, although Oldham certainly have the resources to make an offer for JJ, if they wanted to.

Merson Wants Another Coventry Man

neilr @ 1:21 pm Friday 17 June 2005

Paul Merson is looking at the possibility of bringing in his former Aston Villa team mate Steve Staunton to join the coaching set up.

There have been rumours flying around for some time that Merson had an interest in ex team mates Ian Taylor and Steve Staunton and he has now confirmed that he would like to get on board the former Aston Villa, Liverpool and Coventry defender.

Staunton has been offered another year by Coventry, so this would seem to depend on how much he wants to move into coaching and whether he feels ready yet. On the playing front, the move would sit a little less comfortably, given the arrivals of Pead, Gerrard, and Fox and the current moves for Westwood.

Meanwhile, one time Merson target, Dunfermline midfielder Gary Mason, has at last accepted a new two year contract to keep him north of the border.

Southampton and Surman Latest

neilr @ 8:47 am Thursday 16 June 2005

The Express and Star was carrying a story last night about Walsall’s chances of getting the impressive Andrew Surman back on a year long loan next season.

One of the problems with Harry Redknapp at Pompey, according to Milan Mandaric, was his reluctance to use home grown talent, being more likely to try and bring a player in (and yes, I know about his record at West Ham, I’m just quoting Mandaric). Walsall fans were very hopeful, therefore, that, despite their relegation, Harry would be unlikely to want to use Surman himself in the current season.

The Star was saying last night that Merson is optimistic about getting Surman back, despite admitting that he will be reporting back for pre season training at the Saints:

“Andrew has got to report back to Southampton at the start of pre-season and I’m sure he’ll be doing his best to force his way into their plans, said Walsall chairman Jeff Bonser. But if that doesn’t happen then I’m sure Harry will be looking to get him out on loan again, and if he goes out on loan anywhere we’re confident it will be to us because Harry liked the way we played Andrew last season.

Merson has been encouraged by suggestions that Redknapp plans to build a potential return to the Premiership around old hands next season. The former West Ham and Portsmouth chief’s record suggests he favours experienced men to mount promotion challenges from the second tier of English football, and there are signs he will adopt the same policy again.”

However, events down on the South coast do not seem to be backing that optimism up at the moment, according to the Southampton Rivals site, TheUglyInside:

“Olivier Bernard, Henri Camara, Anders Svensson and Jason Dodd have all departed, Antti Niemi, Kevin Phillips and Peter Crouch look to be on their way and who has been brought in?
Exactly. To the amazement of many fans, the ‘Del Boy’ of football has not made any signings, as of yet, this is where the worries begin.
Redknapp has been linked with a number of experienced, quality players such as Dennis Wise, Lee Clark and Teddy Sheringham, all of whom you would imagine would jump at the chance of joining a sound, homely club.
But the Lowe is refusing to budge on his stance of not increasing wages, leaving Redknapp to wonder how he is going to attract any high profile players to the club”.

The suggestion seems to be that Chairman Rupert Lowe wants to “cut his cloth” accordingly this season and is not sanctioning the sort of wages ‘Arry would need for his wheeler dealing, leading, presumably, to depending more on internal resources, such as their up-and-coming youngsters. We shall watch developments with interest.

Hartlepool Fans’ Sites Sure Westwood to Sign

neilr @ 11:33 am Tuesday 14 June 2005

Although the rumour mill seems to have died down a little, with the Chairman on holiday, the various Hartlepool fans’ sites seem to be more convinced than ever that Walsall are favourites to sign defender Chris Westwood when his contract expires at the end of the month, although the local press have mentioned Forest, Luton, Stockport and Rotherham also being interested in the player. Indeed, one, Poolsonline.tk, their Sports Network site, has already published their farewell to Westwood piece. So, if he is going to sign, what sort of player is he?

Name: Chris Westwood
Date of Birth: 13/2/77
Born: Dudley
Previous Club(s): Wolves, Reading, Telford
Position: Central Defender

Westwood was a member of Chris Turner’s youth team at Wolves, but, after making the initial breakthrough to the first team, he picked up a bad long term injury and was released from Molineux. He went to Reading, but made no appearances for them, before being released, still some way short of full fitness. He had a long spell at Buck’s Head trying to get his fitness back (including at one point a spell modelling kits for a friend’s business).

He then was signed for Hartlepool by Chris Turner, but they didn’t really see what Westwood was capable of until he got a full pre-season’s training behind him. He then proved to be a

“Quick centre half, reasonable in the air and solid in the tackle. His pace has got him (and Pools) out of trouble on numerous occasions, and he’s frequently the player dashing back to make a saving tackle when one of his colleagues has been beaten”.

”On his day he’s a class act at the back and has even filled in occasionally at right back”.

He’s also well known for his hairstyles, which have included George Berry and Rio Ferdinand tributes!

The Luton and Stockport links are made here:

http://www.thisisthenortheast.co.uk/the_north_east/sport/football/hartlepool/news/140605.html

Westwood in Action

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