Archive for November, 2006

Bonser Refuses To Blame Merson

Neil @ 3:12 pm Thursday 30 November 2006

Jeff Bonser has, in a completely out-of-character moment, decided to open his heart to the Express and Star today.

He has admitted to mistakes, but says one of his biggest regrets was letting Colin Lee talk him into getting rid of General Manager Paul Taylor at the time.

He says that he did not blame Merson for the team’s poor performance the season before last, but remains silent on where he sees the blame for the relegation under the former Arsenal player’s wayward stewardship of the club.

Bonser says that he was aware of “Merson’s personal demons” while he was the manager and says that he did try to help him over his troubles. He said that he did “get close” to Merson while he was at the club and many Saddlers’ fans would say he got too close, letting that relationship effect his judgement, so that the damage caused was far greater than it need have been. He says that he is pleased that Merson is now trying to carve out a career in the media.

Bonser goes on to say that he has a close working relationship with Richard Money, but that it is just a working relationship.

He also has pledged that, if any players are sold in the January transfer window, the proceeds will be given to Money for squad strengthening.

Money “Pleased” With Free Weekend

Meanwhile, back on the pitch, Money has told the Evening Mail that he will be glad of the break this weekend, giving us three extra days recovery time before the next League game at Bury.

He says that Danny Fox, Michael Dobson and Chris Westwood have been playing with minor knocks for some time and a free weekend will do no harm to them or, for that matter, the rest of the squad.

“I am 100 per cent pleased to have a break next weekend,” Money said. “It means we can plan our training differently.
We have been anxious to give the players a two-day break at some stage to recharge their batteries. Not playing next Saturday gives us that opportunity.
I’m not happy about being out of the cup but, in terms of our promotion challenge, it won’t do us any harm at all.

And if Macclesfield beat Hartlepool in the cup on Saturday that will be a great result too because that would give us a break on January 6 after the Christmas period.”

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Norwegian Based Striker Signs

Neil @ 12:02 pm Wednesday 29 November 2006

Walsall made their first signing for the January transfer window this morning. Surprise, surprise, it turns out to be Par Cederquist.

The 6 foot 2 inch Swedish striker had been rumoured to be joining the club for a couple of days, as we said yesterday. He has a tremendous goal scoring record in Norway, of better than a goal every other game, at 0.52 goals per game.

As the player was on contract at the end of the August transfer window, he will not be able to play until the January window opens. He will, however, be joining from next week, so he can train with his new team mates and be ready for action as soon as he is allowed.

Richard Money was obviously excited at the prospect of his new signing, telling the Official Site that he didn’t expect the tall, pacy striker to take long to settle in, due to the similarities between Norwegian and English football. He also said that he had tried to sign the player in the summer, but the deal had fallen through for one reason or another, with Cederquist going on to score 10 goals in 11 games for his club in the second half of the Norwegian season.

Par Cederqvist

Walsall Transfer News

Neil @ 4:17 pm Tuesday 28 November 2006

Richard Money has been seen as having a need for reinforcements in the January transfer window, ready for an out-and-out promotion push. It looks as if there will, indeed, be movement, as the club acts from a position of strength.

Money had let it slip that Walsall were looking at a 6 foot 2 inch Scandinavian striker during a Radio WM interview last week. One Walsall fan site is already certain that the player concerned will be Par Cederquist of Raufoss. The 26 year old has the enviable strike record of 0.53 goals per game. Whether this is the man or not, the Birmingham Mail has said that there should be an announcement on the transfer tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Saddlers have also been joined by trialist Geordie Lyall.

The 30-year-old Canadian full back has spent the last seven years with Vancouver Whitecaps and was named the Supporters’ Unsung Hero in 2005.

He moved to the Whitecaps in 1999 after starring for the University of Victoria, and was a regular in the reserves before signing an A-League contract the following year.
Lyall made 20 appearances for Vancouver this season as they finished fourth in the USL first division’s regular season before winning the play-offs.

Lastly, the centre back situation looks like getting better too. Aussie Allan Picken, who has been sidelined by injury problems since his arrival has undergone a knee operation this week. The op has shown there was some debris in his knee which was causing his problems and that has now been cleaned out. Although it will be some time before he’s match fit, his presence will be welcome come the heavy going on January and February.

The Club AGM

Neil @ 1:24 pm Tuesday 28 November 2006

The attendance at this year’s AGM was sparse to say the least, as only 5 shareholders turned up, along with a couple of representatives from Her Majesty’s Press. The time of 9.00 am on a Monday morning was the probable reason for this. The Chairman and principal shareholder, Jeff Bonser, was, once again, absent.

The Trust had asked several questions this year, which are below, along with the answers (or, to be more accurate, in most cases non answers). A question from Geoff Allman is also included, as it may be of interest.

1. The increase in turnover, the reduction in staff costs and the return to an operating profit shown during the year up to May 2006 is a remarkable turnaround given the previous year’s position, and this a great success-story for the club. We assume that around £400,000 of the £943,000 increase in turnover is due to the sale of Fryatt and Bennett. How is the other £500,000 increase in turnover accounted for? Is this increase sustainable year-on-year?

We acknowledge the kind words expressed by the Walsall Supporters Society about the club’s remarkable financial turnaround during the last twelve months and I can tell this meeting that your Board of Directors are very proud of what has been achieved.

In answer to your question, the overall increase in turnover for the year ended 31st May 2006 is due to a continued improvement in all areas of the business, with the football, conferencing and banqueting, commercial and retail departments all contributing improved turnover compared to the previous year. The Board would like to emphasise that this increase is as a result of the club’s trading activities and remains committed in our attempts to sustain this year-on-year.

2. The operating lease on the land and buildings was frozen during the financial year in question. What was the trigger for this freeze?

The operating lease on the land and the buildings was temporarily reduced during the year for a period of twelve weeks as this was an arrangement that mutually suited the club as both tenant and landlord at the time.

3. In the Chairman’s statement it is noted that the Board plan to “continue to develop the Club’s infrastructure… wherever possible.” Other than the new training facilities are any specific plans in-train for the next 12 months?

There are a number of minor projects in the early planning stage, such as a new club shop to be situated here at Bescot Stadium, but the key focus and commitment of the Board in the coming months is the new training facility.

4. In Note 3 the accounts show that ‘Other operating charges’ increased by £136,000. To what specific items do these charges refer?

The increase of “Other Operating Charges” of £136,000 relates directly to the unavoidable costs associated in generating the additional turnover as discussed in question 1.

5. The club continues to show a cash outflow and limited cash at the bank. Can the Board confirm that the club’s cash requirements are currently outstripping its cash income and that this is one of the triggers for the increased financing of £240,000? How do the Board plan to return Walsall FC Ltd. to a cash-generative position?

The Club’s current cash requirements are not outstripping its cash income. Of the overall cash outflow of £208,000 sustained in the year, £137,000 relates to ongoing investment in Capital Projects that will ultimately yield increased and sustainable revenue for the club for years to come. The increase in financing reflects the Board’s on-going and continual commitment to these projects and ultimately to the security of the Club in the long term.

6. There seems to be a link between the lack of cash and our debt requirements, and the issue of cash is also crucial in covering debts falling due within one year or on-demand. In 2005 these were reported as £465,000. Were these creditors paid with monies from the sale of players and re-financing? Other than further re-financing how do the Board plan to meet this year’s costs falling due of £417,000?

As outlined in the Chairman’s statement, the Board would like to emphasise that even in our most difficult times we have always paid our creditors and this policy will be maintained.

7. We note the further increase in Director’s loans of £298,000 during the season, in order to maintain the Club’s short-term viability. We are grateful for the Director’s demonstrable commitment to the Walsall FC. Clearly, though, this is not a sustainable position either for the Directors or the Club. How do the Board plan to reduce these liabilities? Should the circumstances of the individual Directors responsible for the loans change, how secure is Walsall FC’s future?

The increase in Director’s loans during the year was not made in order to maintain the Club’s short-term viability.

8. Can the Club confirm that future special offers pertaining to season ticket holders, for instance the Mini Reds initiative, will be available for all areas of the ground, including the Lower Floors-2-Go Stand?

All future special offers pertaining to season ticket holders are still under review at this moment in time.

9. We request that shareholders are provided with written answers at the AGM, in-line with corporate governance best practice and to enhance the transparency of the Board’s approach.

Written answers have been provided.

In addition, Geoff Allman asked if the Chairman realised how much shareholders appreciated his efforts in giving us such facilities as the Bonser and Stadium Suites and the Ramada Hotel and whether he realised how disappointed we were in not seeing him at AGMs.

The Chairman replied (and this is word for word, so any mistakes are attributable to Mr Bonser):-

As far as my non-attendance at recent AGMs is concerned, please be assured that this is not intended as a sleight to shareholders. I have a heavy business schedule that has made it impossible to attend some of these meetings. The important point, however, is that I keep a very watchful eye on club finance throughout the year, and that the financial report financial report being considered, as the result of the work that I and my colleagues have undertaken on behalf of the club. Mr presence this morning would not have made any difference to the financial results, but I hope that the work I am undertaking on your behalf will result in the Club continuing to make tangible progress both on and off the field.

I would like to thank the shareholders for their support and to give you the assurance that your Board are fully committed to laying the foundations for this Club, so that it will be able to face the future with optimism and confidence.

Club AGM. The Trust Questions.

Neil @ 9:44 am Monday 27 November 2006

Despite the improved financial position of the club, the Supporters’ Trust still have some pertinant questions to ask at the AGM:-

1. The increase in turnover, the reduction in staff costs and the return to an operating profit shown during the year up to May 2006 is a remarkable turnaround given the previous year’s position, and this a great success-story for the club. We assume that around £400,000 of the £943,000 increase in turnover is due to the sale of Fryatt and Bennett. How is the other £500,000 increase in turnover accounted for? Is this increase sustainable?

2. In the Chairman’s statement it is noted that the Board plan to “continue to develop the Club’s infrastructure… wherever possible.” Other than the new training facilities are any specific plans in-train for the next 12 months?

3. In note 3 the accounts show that Other operating charges increased by £136,000. To what do these charges refer?

4. The club continues to show a cash outflow and limited cash at the bank. Can the Board confirm that the club’s cash requirements are currently outstripping its cash income and that this is one of the triggers for the increased financing of £240,000? How do the Board plan to increase the Club’s cash-generative position?

5. There seems to be a link between the lack of cash and our debt requirements, and the issue of cash is crucial in covering costs falling due within one year or on-demand. In 2005 these were reported as £465,000. Were these creditors paid with monies from the sale of players and re-financing? Other than further re-financing how do the Board plan to meet this year’s costs falling due of £417,000?

6. We note the further increase in Director’s loans of £298,000 during the season, in order to maintain the Club’s short-term viability. We are grateful for the Director’s demonstrable commitment to the Club. Clearly, though, this is not a sustainable position for the Club. How do the Board plan to reduce these liabilities? Should the circumstances of the individual Directors responsible for the loans change, how secure is Walsall FC’s future?

7. We request that shareholders are provided with written answers at the AGM, in-line with corporate governance best practice and to enhance transparency of approach.

8. Can the Club confirm that in future all special offers pertaining to season ticket holders will be available for all areas of the ground, including the Lower Floors-2-Go Stand? For instance, the Mini Reds incentive. We are keen that the Club do not create a two-tier level-of-support based upon tehcost of a season ticket.

Walsall vs Notts County – Olde Fashioned Fayre

neilr @ 10:56 am Sunday 26 November 2006

People have asked more than once this season why I describe this Division as “God Awful” and why it’s so important to get out of it. Yesterday proved the point.

Notts County have one of the best away records in Division 2, having lost only one game away from Meadow Lane in the League this season. They turned up, however, with a first half tactic of hitting it long to the big centre forward (the one and only Jason Lee), with a whippet (Junior Mendes) running off him. Add to that a physical approach in defence and midfield (no fewer than three players were forced to go off with blood injuries), plus some well drilled set piece routines, and this was no spectacle of fast flowing football. The Saddlers had to earn their right to play.

Richard Money lined up with:

Ince, Westwood, Dann, Roper, Taylor, Mark Wright, Kinsella, Dobson, Keates, Butler and Tommy Wright, making his debut.

The first twenty minutes were devoid of decent chances, other than Clayton Ince proving his worth yet again with a tip round the post from a header that was worthy of any game and the Saddler being very fortunate when Parkinson deflected a shot from his own player wide when it seemed County had to score. The oportunity, needless to say, came from a set piece..

Wright was looking lively, in fact a little too lively, when he picked up a yellow card for an over the top reaction from the referee when letting the keeper know he was around. Not that long afterwards, the ref (Mr Swarbrick – remember that name) did get one of his few decisions right, giving the same player a finger wagging, despite the County fans baying for blood, when he went for a ball with the keeper he had every right to go for.

By this time, the Saddlers had started to get a grip on the game and it paid off in the 27th minute. Kinsella got ahead of the strikers, produced a run into the box and, when held up, slipped the ball to Wright who gleefully smashed home a left foot shot.

Walsall were now getting on top and Butler, set up by Tommy Wright, contrived to miss a superb chance.

A long range effort from Tommy Wright also went just over, along with a Dann header, while, at the other hand, Ince had to be alert to prevent Dann putting through his own net, before, just before half time, Keates took a free kick on the right, Roper made the run across the keeper and the ball sailed right into the far corner.

Second half saw the Saddlers keep that edge, carving out the better chances. Butler had one wonderful chance that he failed to put away from a wonderful through ball from Bedeau, on for Mark Wright and also should have done better with one headed chance.

However, Walsall had, by then, conceded their first home League goal this season, when the referee, not for the first or last time, gave a free kick for no one knew what (the County players didn’t appeal) and the shot from it squirmed under Ince after he’d made the save. An error always did look the only way we were likely to concede.

All in all, the centre backs were superb, Kinsella and Dobson won the midfield battle and Tommy Wright’s support for Butler was exemplary.

Man of the Match for me, however, had to be the wonderful Chris Westwood, who had a fantastic game against the tricky former Tranmere man, Parkinson.

After all that, three of our four rivals lost and we stand seven points clear, 10 clear of the play off spots and an incredible 14 ahead of 8th place. Lovely.

Macclesfield reflections

roger6 @ 4:03 pm Wednesday 22 November 2006

Walsall’s cup exit to Macclesfield last night has left Saddlers fans in reflective mood today, with opinion split into two camps. General disappointment at leaving the FA Cup more than offset by the cushion of sitting six points clear at the top of league 2; against those who are more critical of recent performances who see a disturbing lack of goals stemming from a midfield lacking creativity and pace down the flanks.

The debate on this site’s message board is as lively as always.

Hereford United vs Walsall The Gap Grows

neilr @ 6:07 pm Saturday 18 November 2006

These are the days that get you promoted. A difficult game, against a team in a decent run of form, with a decent home record, and yet three more points gained.

Richard Money bought in Chris Westwood for the suspended Craig Pead, as expected, but also sprang a surprise or two by replacing Wright with Wrack, Taylor with Kinsella, moving Fox to left back and Keates to wide midfield.

You could argue that this was a typical Walsall performance this season, as the back four were outstanding and were also given superb protection from what must be our best centre midfield pairing of Dobson and Kinsella.

The game was always going to be tight, but any quality that was shown came from the Saddlers and Walsall always looked like coming away with all the points from the moment Richard Money made the change of bringing on Demontagnac to add more pace up front and Clayton Ince produced one world class save to tip the ball onto the post.

The Saddlers finally took the lead when Chris Westwood put away a sublime cross from Mark Kinsella with half an hour to go, shortly after we were denied what the WM commentators thought was a nailed on penalty for a foul on Butler, but which the Fat Controller thought was a good tackle (although he admits he was in a small minority – probably of one).

Kinsella was outstanding, as were both centre backs and Dobson was always able to give his player coach the space and time he needed to stamp his class on the game. The Fat Controller gave his Man of the Match to Kinsella, but says the returning Westwood was also not far behind.

Just to complete a wonderful afternoon, Lincoln City managed to go down 1 – 3 at home and Wycombe could only get a point from a 1 – 1 draw with 10 man Grimsby. Thank you, Alan Buckley. The Saddlers finish the day no fewer than six points clear at the top of the table and an incredible 14 clear of 8th place.

Hereford United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 2:17 pm Friday 17 November 2006

Just like the old days. A chilly November afternoon trip to the country and the wilds of deepest, darkest Herefordshire. Ronnie Radford, Dixie McNeill, Hereford bulls paraded before the game, muddy pitches, jumpers for goalposts . . . . . . . . pity Alan Buckley’s not still with us, making their defenders look silly!

Back into Richard Money’s fold comes Chris Westwood, presumably in place of Craig Pead, whose appeal was unsurprisingly turned down this morning and will, accordingly, be missing three games.

Resources at the back will be the biggest problem, as Anthony Gerrard is still unavailable and Allan Picken not quite ready yet, so there won’t be much cover for the back line, which picks itself.

The rest of the squad is reporting a clean bill of health, so the major interest is likely to be what part Darren Wrack is likely to play in the proceedings. I have a funny feeling that we might see a 4 4 1 1 of:

Ince, Westwood, Roper, Dann, Taylor, Wright, Dobson, Keates, Fox, Wrack, Butler, with Sam, Bossu, Kinsella, Demontagnac and Bradley or Bedeau (who can play full back at a pinch) as the likely subs.

Graham Turner sees his Hereford squad in a healthy state. He’ll have Martyn Giles and Trent McClenahan available for selection, as well as the returning Simon Travis. Top scorer Stuart Fleetwood is facing a race against time to return to full fitness following a virus, but majority of his squad is available for selection.

Amongst that squad will be the dangerous on loan midfielder John Eustace (ex Coventry, Middlesbrough and Stoke City) and the much travelled Neil McKenzie. Eustace’s move to Edgar Street was something of a surprise, as I would have thought he’d have attracted clubs from a higher Division. He is certainly well capable of running the show at this level.

Predictions?

Hereford go into the game lying two places outside the playoffs in 9th, twelve points behind the Saddlers.

Their home record is very creditable, however, being the fourth best in the Division:

Played 8 Won 5 Drawn 1 Lost 2.

They don’t concede many at home (6 in 8), but they don’t score many either (11 in 8).

The central midfield is the worry for me, as the Dobson/Keates partnership has not been working very well of late, which is why I think we may well see Wrack partnering Butler tomorrow, in more of a 4 5 1 than a 4 4 2. If that’s the case, this will be a tight game and I’d take a point now. Score draw.

Geordie\’s Pub Guide To Hereford

neilr @ 10:57 pm Wednesday 15 November 2006

Hereford is another on of those old school “big turnout” away games and as such there can be a bit of an atmosphere in the town centre when we visit.

That said it’s a lovely town, and the ground despite its ramshackle appearance has some redeeming features. Its only 5 minutes from the station, has a bar that on my previous visits has admitted away fans, and wait for it…an away end with a roof!

Heading away from the station towards the ground down Commercial Road there is a half decent Wetherspoons called the King’s Fee, and a quiet bar/restaurant in The Merton Hotel if you fancy something a bit more salubrious.

The town centre has more pubs than you could shake a stick at, but if I had to pick a couple I’d go for The Litten Tree also on Commercial Road, and turning right and heading away from the ground at the bottom of Commercial Road The Victory, a splendidly eccentric establishment that serves its own brews under the name “Spinning Dog Beer”.

I would personally not bother with the rather soul-less Kerry (formerly Farmhand and Firkin) although it’s also handy for both station and stadium.

At the ground there is The Oxford pub which can be a bit tetchy as it’s predominantly a home bar, but I’ve never experienced any problems apart from slow service!

I would definitely recommend the club bar underneath the main stand as you can watch the players warm up through the window, although it’s a fair trek to the away end, and a few stragglers were known to give the match a miss during the dark days of the early 90’s. Surely not now though with such compelling away performances, I’m sure everyone will down their pint, stop moaning and get behind the lads at 2.58 pm sharp.

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