Archive for February, 2006

Ropes and Forest Man Honoured

neilr @ 11:30 am Tuesday 28 February 2006

Ian Roper has been named in the Football League Team of the week, following Walsall’s excellent defensive performance at Southend last Saturday.

The clean sheet achieved means that the stalwart efforts of the back four have been recognised, although Andy Oakes may well feel he should have made it as well, given his superb performance!

Roper finds himself in good company, as he is joined in the honour by former Saddler Julian Bennett, who must have had an impressive time to make the team as a defender when his side won 7 -1!

The full team is on

www.football-league.premiumtv.co.uk/staticFiles/a3/18/0,,10794~6307,00.pdf

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Merson Attacks Walsall Fans

neilr @ 2:42 pm Monday 27 February 2006

There have been several postings about Paul Merson’s extraordinary interview in the Sunday Mercury yesterday in which he attacked the attitude of some elements of Walsall’s support. The full text of the article is now available.

Merson said:

“There was one player who should have played more – and that was me. I spent too much time worrying about other players’ injuries instead of getting myself in shape.
I made seven appearances at Walsall this season and we didn’t lose. It’s so easy as a player-manager to get caught up in a whole raft of matters and neglect your own interests.”

“I definitely want another go at it,” (Football management) “It hasn’t put me off. But it would have to be as a player-boss. A few old heads in the game told me I had retired too early. I’m not finished yet as a player. I still have full faith in myself and know I can play to a high standard.

It’s great to put the boots on again at Tamworth and if I can do well for Mark until the end of the season, then hopefully the phone might ring with the offer of a job.”

Merson blamed “ignorant” fans for his demise.

“There is no doubt a small minority of supporters with short memories forced the decision,” he said. “We’d played five games on the road and I felt I deserved one opportunity at home. What people forget is Walsall were punching way above their weight in the Championship when I arrived at Bescot. In 100 years or so the number of times Walsall have been that high up the league ladder can be counted on the fingers of one hand.”

It appears that Merson is now rewriting history, as last seasons struggles with him in the side seem to have been forgotten, as has the fact that his final failure came not because of “five games on the road”, but after a season and a half of under performing. As for over achieving in the Championship, yes, we were. Until the season Merson arrived, when we promptly got relegated. Or has he conveniently forgotten that fact?

It seems that the “Mr Nice Guy” persona is slipping.

Southend vs Walsall Final Score

neilr @ 5:07 pm Saturday 25 February 2006

Kevan Broadhurst sounds from his interviews as if his favourite phrase is “clean sheet”. He’ll be happy today!

This was a hard earned point, just as the one against Colchester the other week. The home side had much the better of the first half, as Oakes produced several good saves. Having said that, the Saddlers also had a couple of decent chances too, the best falling to Barrowman after he was put through by Fitzgerald, but the keeper, Flahaven, saved well.

Broadhurst also made changes in the second half to try and ease some of the pressure on the Saddlers, which did work, although Oakes had to make the best of his saves early on in the half. The second period, however, was easier for the Saddlers, although they did not get enough decent possession in midfield.

The rest of the results also went well today, with Swindon conceding 7 at Forest and Yeovil losing. This means we move out of the bottom four, on the strength of having scored more goals than Yeovil. On top of that, Tamworth lost at home on Merson’s debut.

Southend vs Walsall Team News

neilr @ 2:10 pm Saturday 25 February 2006

Kevan Broadhurst’s first Walsall team shows two changes from the one which performed so disastrously last week at home. Out go James and Leary for Osborn and Fitzgerald, so we will be lining up 4 4 2:

Oakes, Pead, Gerrard, Roper, Smith, Wright, Osborn, Keates, Mills, Barrowman and Fitzgerald.

Southend United vs Walsall Preview

neilr @ 1:28 pm Friday 24 February 2006

The dawn of the Kevan Broadhurst era couldn’t have brought a much more difficult task, as the Saddlers head for an away trip at a high flying Essex team for the second time on the trot. Yes, after Colchester United, it’s the League leaders, in an attempt to get a point at least from the land of fish and chips and jolly Cockney day trippers, Southend United. Let’s hope Jamie Oliver isn’t taking his nieces there for a picnic, as that would be too much to bear.

Broadhurst will, presumably, be leaning heavily on the opinions of Mick Halsall for team selection, although we have had reports that he watched the last two home games and will, hopefully, have learned a lot from those. The match day 16 will be missing long term injury victim Darren Wrack and club skipper Chris Westwood, while Paul Devlin will be missing for the third game of his ban. Danny Fox may well be fit to play however, and the club are hopeful about Mads Timm, although his availability would cause problems with loanees, as five is the maximum we can have in a match day squad.

The starting eleven could, therefore, be any permutation from Oakes, Pead, Mills, Roper, Gerrard, Fox, Wright, James, Osborn, Kinsella, Leary, Smith, Demontagnac, Constable, Barrowman, Fitzgerald and Nicholls, plus a few more as well!

Meanwhile, Southend Captain Kevin Maher will play through the pain barrier tomorrow, after getting a broken nose during their win vs Chesterfield last week and he will go “under the knife” on Monday to have his nose reset

Midfielder Mark Bentley is also facing a fitness test after injuring his ankle against Brentford and isn’t expected to play and striker Wayne Gray (scorer of their first goal at Bescot this season) will also be missing with a hamstring problem.

Best news of all is that star striker Freddy Eastwood is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow of the season after getting his hat trick against Chesterfield. His replacement? Likely to be former Saddler Lee Bradbury, signed during the transfer window!

United will welcome back defender Efe Sodje who has now completed a one match ban for also reaching five cards this term.

Their danger man is, of course, Shaun Goater – say no more.

Predictions? New manager syndrome might kick in, of course, but this is a daunting prospect. We have decided to take this very seriously and have travelled today and are stopping overnight, but Southend have only lost twice at home this season (although they have also drawn 5 times, which means they have only the sixth best home record in the Division). Like Colchester, this is a very tough trip and we don’t have the advantage of the opposition having their minds on a game at Stamford Bridge this time. I can’t see anything other than a home win, but let’s hope for another improved performance.

Geordie\’s Pub Guide to Southend

neilr @ 1:08 pm Thursday 23 February 2006

The first day out of the Broadhurst era brings an ironic yet apt trip to the outer reaches of the Thames estuary.

Apt, because Southend is hometown to “The Piranhas” whose song “Tom Hark”, is the well worn home-goal celebration music, heard ad-nausium at Walsall away games under the previous manager.

Ironic, because hopefully the spiritual home of the cockney jolly boys outing will witness the end to our team bus resembling one.

If you are hell bent on sampling the tacky delights of the front “you could all head down to the Esplanade where the lager tastes like lemonade”, and gaze across to the Isle of Sheppey wondering how such expensive drinks could contain so little alcohol. Seriously, unless its fresh air you’re after, don’t bother because….there are some nice pubs and a great chippy, right by the ground.

Nearest station is Prittlewell (trains from Liverpool St), nearest pub to the station being the rather strange smelling Railway Tavern. Avoid and head down to the Blue Boar, a grand corner bar next to the pedestrian crossing on the way to the ground. Here you can enjoy a pint of Flowers and unusually, some Thai food.

If you prefer more traditional fayre there are two pubs just yards apart on Victoria Avenue just two minutes from the ground. The Golden Lion is the favourite for away fans, although the adjacent and more home orientated Spread Eagle is also fairly relaxed.

Both bars boast big screen sport coverage and pool tables but the Spread Eagle has a far more impressive range of ales, including Highgate Mild!

Terry Jeffreys, secretary of the Shrimpers Trust, has contacted UTS to say “Shrimpers Bar doesn’t let away fans in any more, unfortunately. It’s become too popular to get everyone in. On Monday, the Spread only had Greene King IPA and Fullers London Pride on. I haven’t seen Highgate Mild on for ages, mores the pity.”

For your seaside fish and chips (or jellied eels if you prefer) try the Fish House chip shop is across the road from the Golden Lion/Spread Eagle near to the traffic lights heading back towards Prittlewell station.

Broadhurst named as boss

davec @ 11:31 am Wednesday 22 February 2006

Kevan Broadhurst has this morning been announced as the new Walsall manager. Chairman Jeff Bonser told the club website that Broadhurst has the “qualifications, knowledge, and experience that we were looking for”. Broadhurst enjoyed a successful playing career for Birmingham City before moving into coaching.

His most recent posts came in a 6-game spell at Bristol Rovers, but the bulk of his managerial career was spent at Northampton Town. The figures don’t look all that impressive, but this site is mindful of the instant reaction it gave when Ray Graydon was appointed, so judgement will be reserved.

It is clear that Broadhurst has only initially been given the role until the end of this season, with the clear brief to avoid relegation. If that is achieved, he can expect to continue in the post.

The appointment brings to an end frenzied speculation linking all manner of names with the Bescot hotseat, including John Aldridge, David Platt and David Kelly – but the chairman’s dual determination to appoint somebody not currently working for another club and perhaps within his budget saw Broadhurst given the honour.

Give your reaction here

Footnote – users of the official WFC text alerts (25p per message) were, according to the official site, the first to know Broadhurst was the man. Although readers of this site’s message board (free) would have had a good idea more than 24 hours ago – as you can see from this message

Graydon Appointed – At Leicester

neilr @ 11:15 am Monday 20 February 2006

The Leicester Mercury is reporting that City are set to add the experienced head of Ray Graydon to their staff alongside manager Rob Kelly and assistant Mike Stowell.

The former Walsall boss will be drafted in to ease the burden on Kelly and Stowell, who have been at the helm since the departure of Craig Levein, Peter Houston and Kenny Black.

Kelly, who has got the top job until the summer, said: “Ray knows the game and is very experienced. His role will be to help us in any way we need and I am sure he will be a valuable addition.”

Graydon will not be a director of football but will work alongside the present duo until the end of the season.

Kelly, who has known former Aston Villa winger Graydon for a long time, added:

“Everyone chips in as and when they are needed.
That is how it was under Craig as well. I am manager and Mike is my assistant but the titles mean nothing. We are all working together.
We have had great help from the Academy coaches John Rudkin and Steve Beaglehole, but that meant taking them away from their main jobs.
The arrival of Ray will enable them to return to the Academy.
It was important to get someone in with a lot of experience and I’m delighted Ray has agreed to join us.”

It always seemed unlikely that Jeff Bonser would have considered having Graydon back, but yet another candidate has bit the dust.

Walsall vs Oldham Athletic Report

neilr @ 7:51 pm Saturday 18 February 2006

If there’s one thing that has been proved time and time again over the last two and a half seasons at Walsall is that, if you try and make players of our standard do anything different, it’s usually a complete disaster. Today was no exception.

As we predicted yesterday, Mick Halsall was indeed tempted to go 3 5 2, with three central defenders playing so well at the moment and, it turned out, to match Oldham’s line up.

The team was Oakes, Mills, Gerrard, Roper, Pead, Leary, Keates, Smith, Wright, Barrowman, James. This meant that, irony of ironies, in a team formation that doesn’t use wide men, we lined up with two right wingers!

It didn’t work. Pead and Wright were not able to get forward enough to provide the attacking threat that the Oldham wing backs did, non of the middle three looked really that comfortable and, worst of all, Barrowman and James were completely incapable of holding the ball up long enough for the wing backs to join. We were awful.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t because Oldham were any good. In fact they weren’t. They were just more used to playing the system they were using.

Unfortunately, they also carried a goal theat, in the shape of regular nemesis Luke Beckett.

For the record, Warne went close for Oldham in the first half and James had one shot saved. That was about the sum total of the entertainment.

In the second half, James had a free kick curl very narrowly wide, but the game was looking like heading for a completely boring bore draw, before Luke Beckett robbed one of the defenders of the ball and rounded Oakes, who seemed very slow to react and slotted home.

Two minutes later, Gerrard attemted a clearance in a nothing situation, which seemed to ricochet around before bouncing into the net off Warne.

Oakes didn’t inspire any confidence all afternoon and, quite frankly, no one escaped from this exhibition with much credit. Unless we find a goal threat, we are in trouble deep, as no one looked like scoring.

Walsall vs Oldham Athletic Preview

neilr @ 1:00 pm Friday 17 February 2006

Well, two games under Caretaker Manager Mick Halsall have seen improved energy levels and a better work rate, but, unfortunately, only marginally improved results. The team needs to start delivering now and getting away from the trap door to Division 2 and the signing of Scott Fitzgerald should help, as it has been difficult to see where the goals were coming from of late. Do that and we might be seeing Mick in charge until the end of the season, when there will be time for a more considered appointment to be made.

Danny Fox and Chris Westwood will be missing from defence again, with calf and hamstring problems respectively, so Mark Wright will have to probably deputise at left back.

In midfield, Devlin will be on the second game of his three-match ban, but Michael Leary will return from his two-game suspension. However, he may have problems ousting the men in possession.

Up front, James Constable is still struggling to shake off a niggling injury that he’s had in recent weeks and Mads Timm is struggling to overcome the back injury that he picked up last weekend. Halsall is expected to give a debut to front-man, Scott Fitzgerald, who scored the winner against Oldham for The Bees earlier in the season.

The line up, I suspect, may look like:

Oakes, Pead or Mills, Gerrard, Roper, Wright, James, Keates, Smith or Leary or Mills, Demontagnac or Smith, Fitzgerald, Barrowman or Nicholls

Or even, given the personnel available and who’s playing well (especially the three centre backs), Halsall may well be tempted to go for a 3 5 2, with Pead and Wright as wing backs and a central midfield of, say, Keates, Smith and Leary. We shall see.

Danger man Chris Porter, who scored against us at Boundary Park in December and has nine goals to his name so far, has been struggling with an ankle injury that he picked up in Wednesday evening’s 3 – 0 win at home against Forest (in the game that ended Gary Megson’s tenure at the City Ground), but is, unfortunately, expected to be fit.

One time Walsall target (in his Manchester United days, or so it was rumoured) and key midfielder Richie Wellens suffered a hamstring strain during that game but should also be OK, as should fellow midfielder Paul Edwards.

David Eyres, 42 later this month, could be part of the travelling squad after overcoming a recent niggling injury.

Predictions? Oldham go into the game in eighth place and chasing a play-off place. They had a good 3-0 victory over Nottingham Forest on Wednesday evening but their away form isn’t too good, having won just once in their last six games on the road. Over the course of the season, they have drawn 6 and lost 7 of their 17 away from Boundary Park, so it looks as if it is their home form that is keeping them in the hunt.

We lost narrowly at Boundary Park back in December, in a game that has had a big effect on our season so far, as it was when we lost the promisingly influential Eric Skora to injury, when he looked as if he may have been capable of turning the season around on his own. It was not to be then, but I’m expecting tomorrow’s game to have a beneficial effect as we get the three points we need so badly. Home win.

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