Archive for December, 2005

2006 predictions competition

roger6 @ 7:01 pm Friday 30 December 2005

£25 vouchers for the online shop of your choosing for the winner of the UptheSaddlers / AskTony 2006 predictions competition, questions are below, entry deadline is 1am GMT New Year’s Day, judges decision is final… 1 entry per person

1) Winner of World Cup, and how far England get
2) 3 main UK party leaders at end of 2006
3) Walsall’s 2005-6 league finishing position
4) Celebrity couple to split
5) UK Xmas No 1 single (artist only)
6) Oscar winning film (Best Picture)
7) Price of cheapest 42 inch plasma on Argos.co.uk as at 01/12/2006
8- BBC Sports personality 2006
9) Main Xmas day Eastenders plot
10 FTSE 100 closing price last working day of 2006 ( 2005 close 5618.8 )

Post your entries via the message board

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Walsall vs Blackpool Preview

neilr @ 9:31 am Friday 30 December 2005

Well, it’s staring down the barrel time again. Just how did that happen?

One point from two games over the not so festive period (and, what’s worse, two inept performances as well) has taken the Saddlers two steps back yet again, just in time for the arrival of improving Blackpool. We are sitting in a far from satisfactory 13th place, and, of the teams below us, Port Vale, Hartlepool, Scunthorpe, Yeovil and Gillingham all have winnable home games. There is no room for error.

Paul Merson has said that “heads will roll” and that changes will be made following Wednesday night’s capitulation at Bradford, but, to be honest, his options do seem limited. Hopefully Bennett or Fox will be fit enough to come back in at left back and Wright may be available to replace the out-of-sorts Daryl Taylor, but it’s questionable how match fit he could be after such a long lay off. The best news must be that Fryatt should be back.

As for Blackpool, their game at Oldham was off this week, so they have had a longer rest. They are not reporting any injury problems on their Official Site at the moment, so everyone clear your throats to let cheat Keegan Parker know what you think of him.

So, predictions? Blackpool are in the last relegation spot at the moment, but only six points behind Walsall, with a game in hand. That does not, as usual, tell the whole story, however. They are half way up the away form table, with 2 wins and 7 draws from their 13 games, a respectable return and far, far better than ours. It is their home form that has been letting them down. Indeed, their last game, on Boxing Day, was a very good away win at Port Vale.

The Saddlers’ confidence must be rocking following the performances against Tranmere and Bradford and, normally, I’d be worried about an upset here. However, I suspect Merson’s chestnuts will be pulled out of the fire yet again. Home win.

(PS, DON’T FORGET IT’S A 1.30 KICK OFF!).

Bradford City vs Walsall Report

neilr @ 10:22 pm Wednesday 28 December 2005

Well, the team coach turned up late (again) and it didn’t get any better from there, with Fryatt mysteriously out of the sixteen and Bennett suspended after 5 yellows. Merson went for Westwood at right back and Pead at left back despite being right footed, with the left footed Demontagnac on the right wing! The option of 3 5 2 with Ishmel at wing back seemed to have been dismissed.

We were utterly, utterly deadful first half and went in 2 – 0 down, having played a sterile 4 5 1 against a team that’s only won one game in nine.

We improved a little second half, but their keeper still only had one save to make in the ninety minutes.

wfc_2uk said: “We want our money back. I cannot remember a game where I have left and felt so annoyed and angry”.

It was a similar story over on Rivals: “Without doubt, that was one of the most dismal performances I have seen in a long, long time.”

And “Can’t say we were unlucky because we weren’t. We were however, dreadful”.

Even the official site couldn’t find anything positive to say: “It was a disjointed and uncomfortable performance by Walsall against a Bradford City side who didn’t really have to get out of first gear and it gave little to warm the loyal band of travelling fans who were tucked away at the side of the pitch”.

Merson: I\’ve lost 7 million

roger6 @ 6:22 pm Wednesday 28 December 2005

Tomorrow’s Times newspaper carries a long interview with Saddlers boss Paul Merson, during which Merson reveals he has lost more than £7 million gambling. The full interview is available in the paper or online at:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,27-1961617,00.html

Bradford City vs Walsall Preview

neilr @ 1:08 pm Wednesday 28 December 2005

Walsall go into tonight’s game at Bradford looking to improve their away record, having only picked up one disappointing point on Boxing Day.

There are no new injury worries reported in the camp, with only the long term absentees Wrack and Wright (who is on the verge of a return) definitely missing and Fox and Merson himself doubtful. Merson has, however, said there will be changes tonight and the return of Ishmel Demontagnac following his suspension is likely to be one, giving the side a much more balanced look than on Monday.

As for Bradford, they have a slight doubt about danger man Dean Windass, as his Zimmer frame is bent and he may be replaced by teenager Steve Claridge. Lee Crooks is definitely out, suspended.

Predictions? Bradford have lost five times at home this season and Manager Coiln Todd is under pressure, so, for a team with any pretensions in this Division, this is a game from which a point should be the minimum target. With our away record, however, I’d want to see the team and formation before making any rash predictions.

The game is still definitely on as I write, at 1.00 pm, but, if you are driving tonight, take care, as the forecast is very cold with the possibility of snow. No accidents, please, chaps and chapesses.

Geordie\’s Pub Guide to Bradford

neilr @ 4:40 pm Tuesday 27 December 2005

Here is the Bradford guide for those that haven’t had enough beer yet.

I have to say, in my experience, Bradford away can best be described as one of the more eccentric trips. Certainly finding decent pubs has proven a mission near impossible, and when I have managed it they always seemed to have moved or ceased to exist the next time I visit. That’s not to blame the pubs, maybe it’s the train station that moves or even the ground, I don’t know.

In a state of near panic one year I gave a tramp a pound to tell me where the nearest pub was, to which he replied, “by the theatre” great answer…but no he didn’t get another quid for telling me where the theatre was, I’m not that stupid.

To add to the problem Valley Parade (as I will continue to call it), is served by the lesser of the City’s two stations Forster Square. Your best bet is to walk through the concourse and out of the back of the station to Cheapside where you will encounter the Midland Hotel, all in all a pretty decent hotel bar with a big screen and friendly locals.

The best crop of pubs from here is heading away from the ground onto Westgate, and if you can find it The Beehive is well worth stumbling upon for Real Ales and a nice Christmas atmosphere, so much so that you probably won’t want to traverse the 3/4 of a mile up Hamm Strasse and Manningham Lane to the slightly more basic Bradford Arms, the usual away pub of choice at 6.23 minutes walk to the ground.

This pub once changed its name to Nellie Denes, and then back to the Bradford Arms, but “ha ha” did it fool me??.

It also used to be managed many years ago, by Bantams legend Charlie Storer, although the various re-fits have inevitably erased any reference to this.

Just a quick mention to anyone requiring food, there are some splendid curry houses in Bradford, one of which is on Manningham Lane namely The Valley. It’s between the Bradford Arms and the ground and if you fancy something different pre, or post match this is the place to try. Indeed looking at the weather forecast it might be an essential part of the evening.

Walsall vs Tranmere Match Report

neilr @ 9:46 am Tuesday 27 December 2005

It must be Boxing Day. We never seem to get the hang of Boxing Day. Yesterday was no exception.

I said in the match preview that this game was a potential banana skin, and so it proved. Fortunately, the result wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Merson started off with a 4 4 2, in the absence of Demontagnac, with Murphy in goal, Pead, Gerrard, Roper and Bennett across the back, Standing, Osborn, Kris Taylor and Leitao in midfield and Constable and Fryatt up front. It just didn’t work.

Kris Taylor had an anonymous first half, rivalled only by the ineffective Standing and Constable, which tended to leave Osborn playing on his own. I left the ground with some Blues fans (God knows what they were doing there) who said they were really sorry for Osborn first half, as he never had a “pass”. The “wingers” weren’t on the wing, I’m not sure where Kris Taylor was, and Constable kept trying to make exactly the same runs as Fryatt, but without the same quality. The result? Continual attempts to try and play the long ball down the channels, where it was quickly gobbled up. The one time someone did get free, it was Constable and he was let down by an appalling first touch.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Tranmere started getting more and more confident once they’d survived the first five minutes and Facey and Greenacre were a real handful. Fortunately, Roper and, especially, Gerrard were quite awesome. Despite pressure, neither keeper had a lot to do.

Changes were needed at half time and Merson made the one eveyone around me was calling for, taking off the little boy lost, James Constable, and bringing on Daryl Taylor on the wing, with Jorge going up front. Immediately, the ball began to “stick” more and we started to threaten. This was countered, however, to some extent, by the fact that Daryl Taylor was having a complete nightmare, as he pulled out every time there was anything like a physical challenge.

It seemed to be just a matter of time before one or the other teams scored, probably from a defensive error, but Tranmere were starting to look the most likely. Merson made another change, with Nicholls coming on for Standing and Jorge moving back to the wing. That was probably an error, as we started losing possession again and Tranmere were coming forward with purpose. Merson, therefore, went for a change of formation, to a 4 3 3, with Jorge dropping into midfield and Fryatt, Nicholls and Taylor going up front. That, at least, pushed Tranmere further back, although we weren’t getting enough quality possession. It also meant that Jorge had gone from left wing, to right wing, to left wing, to right wing, to centre forward, back to right wing and then into central midfield, all in the same match. No wonder he looked confused.

Even after all that, the Saddlers should have grabbed a winner, as first Fryatt had a glancing header well saved by the keeper (I honestly think he was stretching too much to get a proper contact) and Daryl Taylor contrived to miss an chance from three yards out, blocked on the line. It would have been rough justice on the visitors, however, as they were probably the better side in the second half.

Overall verdict?
Murphy did what he had to well, with a couple of good saves in the second half. Pead had little marking to do, so I was a little disappointed he didn’t contribute more going forward. Gerrard and Roper were simply awesome, especially Gerrard. Bennett made one superb tackle second half (which led to the dangerous Facey going off), but was caught out of position several times. With the best will in the world, he’s not a full back, just cover. Standing showed one or two nice touches, but was mainly ineffective. Osborn? I heard someone say he’d gone back to last season – yep, playing four men on his own. Kris Taylor? Reputedly carrying a knock, but was second to everything and far too lightweight. Struggled all game. Daryl Taylor? Hasn’t looked the part since the injury and just not up for a physical challenge. I’m afraid he’s going backwards if he can’t get over that problem. Leitao was wasted on the wing and it was crying out for him up front. Constable? If he’s the answer, I’m not sure what the question is. Looked like a cheap Matty Fryatt, without the same class. Fryatt? Made all the movement up front, except when Leitao was with him and must have felt as if he was playing the back four on his own. Nicholls? Too inexperienced, as shown toward the end when we were on the attack and, for some reason, he took the ball to the corner flag and then promptly gave away a goal kick.

Tranmere were a basic third division outfit, strong, physical and quick. The most worrying aspect is we were muscled out of the game far too many times. Granted the ref made a few strange decisions, but, basically, we looked tired in the second half and, let’s face it, that doesn’t bode well for three more games in the next week.

Walsall vs Tranmere Rovers Preview

neilr @ 8:45 am Saturday 24 December 2005

Walsall go into their Boxing Day fixture against Tranmere looking to extend an enviable home record that seems almost to have “snuck up” on people without them noticing. Granted that some of the performances haven’t been great, notably the last home league game against Hartlepool, but the run has continued and the players’ confidence must now be high enough that a real concerted effort is possible.

Wrack and Wright are both still out (although Wright is very close to being fit), Demontagnac is finishing his suspension and Merson is rated only 50/50, after playing the last game with an injury. Fox may have recovered enough to play. Everyone else is reported as being fit and available, including Westwood and Staunton, so selection will be interesting. The current run has had much to do with the pairing of Roper and Gerrard and the question is, will Merson be tempted to change it, with the number of games due in a short space of time?

Tranmere themselves have injury problems. They have top scorer Chris Greenacre (knee) and defender Ian Goodison (thigh) struggling to make the game and will still be without forwards Chris Dagnall (ankle), and Calvin Zola (back), as well as goalkeeper John Achterberg. On loan defender Simon Francis (Sheffield United) will return after being cup tied against Carlisle.

Tranmere are a shadow of the team which reached the play offs last season. They were tipped widely to be in contention this season, but I was one of the ones who doubted that, as they had lost too many influential players and not replaced them. However, although I expected them to be mid table at best, the extent of their struggles has been a surprise. A nice, easy win for the Saddlers, then?

Well, their League position (20th and out of the relegation spots only on goal difference) doesn’t tell the whole story. They have won three and drawn two away from home, which is actually a better record than we can boast, so they aren’t complete push overs. Look on this as a potential banana skin and let’s hope we treat it accordingly. Home win.

Jorge Leaves Bombshell

neilr @ 11:32 am Friday 23 December 2005

As had been rumoured on the message boards on this site for some weeks now, the club have announced that Jorge Leitao will be leaving in January, to return to Portugal.

Jorge has become something of a legend amongst Walsall fans, since becoming our last “big money” signing in August 2000. The talented centre forward had taken time out from the game to complete his University degree and was brought in on trial on our pre season tour. He was taken off before anyone from any other club could identify him after scoring two first half goals and was quickly signed up.

Jorge’s all action, no nonsense style soon endeared him to fans and he was an integral member of the side which gained promotion and he has himself said that the day at Cardiff is one of the high spots of his career.

He did have some ups and downs in his time at the club, such as when having a lean time in the Championship (sic) under Ray Graydon, but was re-instated by Colin Lee for the Managers first game in charge away at Charlton in the Cup and duly obliged by scoring two superb goals and combining superbly with Byfield on the day to write another glorious chapter to his Walsall career. His most consistent high spot, however, was the wonderful, almost telepathic, understanding he achieved with his fellow Portuguese speaker, Brazilian Junior.

He has played an extremely credible 258 games for the Saddlers in his time at the club, scoring 71 goals and became, almost certainly, the most successful of our foreign imports and one who will be extremely difficult to replace.

Jorge’s final game, appropriately in view of the comments I made about the Charlton game being one of his finest hours, will be the FA Cup Third Round tie at Barnsley. He will then return to Portugal to play for Beira Mar.

Good luck Jorge, we will all miss you.

Football League Awards

neilr @ 1:58 pm Thursday 22 December 2005

The Football League have set up some official awards this year and fans will be able to vote on various categories.

Fans will be voting for Fan of the Year and Best Away Ground and can find the details on the Football League site; http://www.football-league.co.uk. The awards are in conjunction with Fourfourtwo magazine and details of their participation can be found on their site, http://www.fourfourtwo.com.

Four four two will announcing their nominations for the “Top Fifty Players in the Football League”.

The presentation night will be March 5th and the other categories to be announced include:-

Championship Player of the Year
League 1 Player of the Year
League 2 Player of the Year
The Football League Young Player of the Year
The Football League Top Apprentice Award (by division)
Goal of the Year
Most Admired Football League Club

INDUSTRY AWARDS

Community Club of the Year
Fan of the Year
Best Club Sponsorship
Best Club Marketing Campaign
Best Kit – design
Matchday Programme of the Year
Best Club Web-site
Best Ground – voted for by away fans
Contribution To Football Award

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