Archive for August, 2005

Will This Be The Day Matty Goes?

neilr @ 8:16 am Tuesday 30 August 2005

Well, the transfer window closes tomorrow and it has to be a time of trepidation for Saddlers’ fans. It’s a case of “will he, won’t he” for our brightest young talent.

Matty Fryatt has been the subject of untold transfer rumours, especially since his outstanding performances for his country in the European under 19 Championships. However, the strain and the uncertainty seems to be taking a toll on the youngster. His performances against Swansea and Bournemouth this weekend have both looked as if he’s got other things on his mind and he was criticised by his manager, Paul Merson, on Saturday, for playing as if he was trying to impress the watching scouts, rather than for the good of the team.

The other worry for Saddlers’ fans, of course, is that we are desperately short of striking options anyway, with Leitao and Larossa as the only other senior strikers, and it being debatable whether Larossa is quite ready for the rough and tumble of the third tier of English football yet.

So, what should we be hoping for?

Well, if Matty is to go before the window, let’s hope that it’ll be today, to give Merson a chance of getting in a replacement, at least. Otherwise, and this may be the best option anyway, we’ll be hoping that no one will take the gamble on Fryatt until January when , with a successful half a season behind him and clubs getting desperate, his value might be even higher.

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Walsall vs Swansea City Report

neilr @ 5:04 pm Saturday 27 August 2005

This was, quite frankly, as shambolic a performance as you could ever wish to try and avoid, and that’s putting it mildy.

The first surprise was that the new keeper brought in as cover for Oakes while Coleman is on loan turned out to be not Rafa, but Irish youngster Rene Gilmartin, who we have had on trial for a few weeks. The second (or was it?) turned out to be Merson “doing a Ranieri” and making wholesale changes again. The Saddlers lined up Oakes, Pead, Westwood, Staunton, Bennett, Wright, Smith Taylor, Wrack, Leitao and Fryatt, with Fox failing to even make the bench.

Whatever the intention, it didn’t work, especially in midfield. Swansea were playing it long in the first half and, with Smith still patently unfit, to the extent that he just should never have been playing, the game just passed by the Saddlers’ midfield, with the other three failing to get hold of the ball. It still came as a bit of a shock, however, when Swansea scored, via ex Saddler Martinez and Craig Pead’s heel.

It was, possibly even more of a shock, however, when Walsall equalised when Fryatt turned Iriekpen brilliantly and, despite him mis-controlling the ball, the Swansea defender duly bought him down. Matty rarely misses from the spot. The Saddlers could even have gone in undeservedly leading, when a Westwood header from a corner smacked against the bar.

The defence had been under constant pressure during the first half, as the midfield were getting no possession at all and it looked as if changes were bound to be made at half time. They weren’t.

The second half was a chapter of seriously bad defending. Swansea had no problems embarrassing the Saddlers to the extent of no fewer than four more goals, not one of which could have been called good from the defensive point of view. Staunton and Bennett kept swapping position for some reason, and the defending was shambolic, specially down the flanks. Staunton was badly at fault with at least two of the goals and had a hand with the others as well. The worst example was giving the ball away on the edge of Swansea’s box and just not having the legs to get back. The jitters spread to the other flank as well, where Pead started making mistakes and the middle pair were by then all at sea.

Jorge did manage to get a goal back, but even that was debatable, as most fans were sure that the ref was going to blow for a foul on the keeper.

Eventually, Merson made the swop of Osborn for Smith (to cheers from the crowd!) and Standing for Wrack, but it was all far too late and, although the Saddlers’ play speeded up considerably and the team looked far, far better, the game had been long lost.

The crowd booed when Westwood was named sponsor’s man of the match, but it’s difficult to say who did deserve it. Certainly not a defender or midfielder!

This performance was down to team selection and tactics. Merson needs to learn this isn’t Chelsea, he isn’t Jose Mourinho and a settled defence is a better idea than changing it every game.

Coleman Goes Out On Loan

neilr @ 12:28 pm Friday 26 August 2005

Walsall have sent reserve ‘keeper Dean Coleman out on loan for the rest of the season to Halesowen Town.

This is something of a shock, as Merson had said that he wanted three goalkeepers on the books this season, because of the transfer deadline. It is safe to assume that we are about to announce the signing of Spaniard Rafael Gonzales Robles, who has been on trial at the club, and that Coleman will be on an instant recall clause, otherwise we are left with youth teamer Luke Tilt as back up.

Walsall vs Swansea City Preview

neilr @ 10:09 am Friday 26 August 2005

It’s back to League action this bank holiday weekend, with the double header of newly promoted Swansea at home, followed by fancied Bournemouth away.

Swansea go into the game tomorrow having made a mixed start to their life in this division. They’ve won two and lost two of their opening four League games and slipped to a 3-1 extra-time defeat at the hands of Reading in the League Cup on Tuesday.

Their major threat up front is the man managers at a higher level have always seemed reluctant to take a risk on, presumably because of his lack of pace, Lee Trundle. (Well I remember him getting a hat trick against us for Wrexham just after joining them from non League Rhyl). Trundle has, however, missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and is rated as very doubtful for the game. In his absence, watch out for Ade Akinfenwa, who led the line so well for Torquay on his last visit.

They do have a few selection problems, with defenders Kris O’Leary and Ijah Anderson are both suspended (O’Leary has got a yellow or a red in every game this season), and defender Garry Monk (calf) and midfielder Adrian Forbes (hamstring) also expected to be missing. Yet another defender, the experienced Kevin Austin, is rated only as ’50/50′. They will, however, be reinforced in defence by the return of former player Christian Edwards who is on loan from Bristol Rovers.

There should be a welcome from the home fans for former Saddler and Swansea folk hero, Roberto Martinez, who will skipper the side from midfield.

The Saddlers will be at full strength, with the exception of long term injury victim Daryl Taylor, but the line up is anyone’s guess yet again, as Merson has promised changes with another game due on Monday. It seems that he has decided on a Premiership style squad rotation system and nothing is going to change his mind at the moment. I would, however, expect a return to 4 4 2 for the home game, given what happened against Southend.

Predictions? We’ll spank ‘em with their defensive woes and so many players out injured or suspended. I’m looking for a comfortable 3 – 0, personally.

Roper Up For Loan?

neilr @ 4:14 pm Thursday 25 August 2005

The Bristol local evening newspaper is carrying a story that Bristol Rovers are considering trying to take Ian Roper on loan.

Presumably, the Saddlers have circulated Ian’s name to clubs as being available for loan for this story to have leaked out. The big, popular defender looks like becoming a casualty of the savings needed to bring player-coach Steve Staunton into the club.

Geordie\’s Pub Guide To Bournemouth

neilr @ 3:05 pm Thursday 25 August 2005

It’s a bit early, but, on the assumption that many Saddlers will be making a weekend of it at the seaside, here’s Geordie’s guide to retirement land.

Well its Bank Holiday Monday and it’s a seaside trip, so I guess there will be a fair few staying over and a few heading down for a day trip, so I’ll kick off by mentioning that the ground is a fair shank inland, and also more in Boscombe than Bournemouth!
If you intend taking in the salt air to stiffen the appetite/thirst, before heading to the match then the pick of the sea-front bars at the Bournemouth end is probably Hot Rocks American diner. Typically expensive and tacky BUT has a nice outdoor terrace with a sea view, and suitably adjacent to the excellent although usually packed Harry Ramsden’s on the sea front. From here you can easily walk up past the amusements to the main drinking area in Bournemouth town itself which is centred around Christchurch Road (all usual pub chains available) the pick of which is The Brasshouse.

Then get a taxi to one of the pubs near the ground (see below) If you walk the other way along the seafront to Boscombe don’t be tempted into The Neptune on the sea front – life’s just too short, head instead up the hill into Boscombe town-centre and The Portland on Ashley Road. By then you will only be 6.5 minutes from the ground, and if you’ve walked it the whole way you’ll certainly deserve a pint.

Either walking Further up Ashley Road towards the ground or heading East from Bournemouth there’s the Queens Park pub on the corner of Holdenhurst Road which is both away fan and family friendly, and is served by one of the local breweries, which I always finds enhances the day out. With two large rooms its probably the most comfortable near the ground pub for spending an hour to chew over the pre-match fat and swap Forest jokes.

The Cherry Tree right by the ground has had its up and downs in my experience, I found it a bit tetchy in the couple of visits following the LDV Vans semi-defeat, and apparently there was a tightening of door-policy last season following some Chava activity during the visit of Port Vale (tut..wouldn’t you just know it). However, both MMF and UCOW had a good time here last season according to the message board, but bear in mind last season was a Tuesday night and this is a Bank-Holiday Monday. Should be ok, but the Queens Park is near enough should there be any problems getting in.

Just a quick recommendation for anyone staying over who likes their real-ale, try the splendidly named Goat and Tricycle on West Hill. Probably a bit too far from the ground for Monday match-goers, but excellent for unwinding if you travel Sunday night.

*Usual disclaimer re closures – over to the various Bournemouth Saddlers for help.

Fryatt Wigan Bound?

neilr @ 12:20 pm Thursday 25 August 2005

There are an increasing number of rumours on the message board that Walsall’s England under 19 star Matt Fryatt will be on his way to the Premiership soon, in the shape of a move to Wigan Athletic.

Wigan have been looking for a replacement for Nathan Ellington, recently sold to Albion, and have had a bid for Dean Ashton turned down. It hjas been reported now that, in an attempt to bolster the size of his squad for the rigours of the campaign to come, that Paul Jewell has turned his attentions to the third tier of English football, having made a bid of over a quarter of a million for 36 year old Dean Windass. It is also rumoured that he is interested in Fryatt and has had a bid accepted of over £1 million.

Of course, this could just as easily be one of the baseless rumours that have been flooding the Walsall boards for some time, but this one does seem to have more going for it than the Villa, West Ham, Everton and Sunderland rumours. Indeed, Manager Paul Merson has been hinting that two Premiership sides have made enquiries since Nottingham Forest opened the bidding war last week.

Forest No Longer Interested In Fryatt?

neilr @ 12:02 pm Thursday 25 August 2005

Nottingham Forest have signed Tranmere’s French born striker Eugene Dadi. The 32 year old, who has also played for Toulouse, Aberdeen and Livingston, would have been out of contract at the end of the season and that is the reason Tranmere were willing to listen to offers.

The signing is a free transfer, so, presumably, someone will have paid off his contract and it remians to be seen whether this signing will mean Gary Megson ending his interest in Fryatt.

Forest Offered Johnson Plus Cash

neilr @ 10:29 am Tuesday 23 August 2005

Paul Merson has revealed in an interview with the Express and Star that Nottingham Forest had mentioned a player swap deal for Matt Fryatt.

Merson’s nightmare scenario has always been that an offer will be made for the England under 19 star that the club and player will want to accept, but too late for him to look for a replacement before the transfer deadline.

One answer to that is, of course, a player in exchange for at least part of the fee and, this week, as he expects an increased offer from Forest for Fryatt, Merson has revealed that their former Ipswich Town and Crewe star David Johnson was verbally offered to him as part of the unacceptable opening gambit.

While it is likely that Forest will come back with more cash this week, it still seems unlikely that Fryatt will want to move to another club in the same division and Johnson’s wage demands would be likely to be too high for the Saddlers, although Merson has said in the paper that he is an admirer of the player and he does have similar attributes to Julian Joachim and could play the lone striker role in the 4 5 1.

Crystal Palace vs Walsall Preview

neilr @ 8:35 am Tuesday 23 August 2005

I had thought of trying to do the impossible today and do a full preview of the first round Carling Cup tie at Selhurst Park. The problem is, who knows what the two starting elevens are going to look like?

Paul Merson last season at the same stage of the competition at Sheffield Wednesday, played a completely different eleven from that he had the previous Saturday. He has already said that he will be making changes to suit the opposition and the circumstances this season, so I really have no idea what the line up is likely to be. Certainly I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those players yet to start this season were lining up at kick off, such as Gerrard, Roper, Kinsella and Larossa. Fryatt, I would have thought, will be rested anyway, even without the possible need to stop him being cup tied.

As for Palace, normally I’d be saying the same sort of thing, as they would be resting players with promotion back to the Premiership being their only real priority. However, Michael Hughes, Jon Macken and Aki Rihilahti could all figure, as they are making their comebacks from injury. Don’t expect Andy Johnson to start, although, if selected, Macken and Dougie Freeman are no slouches at this level!

Predictions? Don’t be silly, that’s too much of an unknown when the line-ups are impossible to predict!

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