Archive for December, 2007

Gerrard Contract Signed – and More!

Neil @ 3:22 pm Monday 31 December 2007

The club have announced that Anthony Gerrard and youngsters Mark Bradley and Troy Deeney have all signed new contracts until 2010.

There have been rumours for a day or two on the message board that Anthony Gerrard had signed his contract offer, but it is even more pleasing news that the highly promising Bradley and Deeney have also both signed, especially with Bradley’s major breakthrough into the first team squad this season.

UTS would like to add its congratualtions to the club and the three players.

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Walsall vs Doncaster Rovers Preview

Neil @ 10:23 am Monday 31 December 2007

The excellent win at Oldham on Saturday not only brought the curtain down on as successful a twelve months as I can remember for the Saddlers in a very long time, it also set things up nicely for the New Year’s Day fixture. Fourth placed Doncaster Rovers are coming to town in yet another stern test for Walsall, sitting nicely on the fringes of the play off spots in sixth and just a single point behind. What we shouldn’t forget, however, is that Sean O’Driscoll will be seeing this as an even sterner test that Richard Money does. A visit to one of the Division’s form teams, with a run of tough fixtures to come (they have Carlisle, Swansea and Leeds to play in January)? O’Driscoll will be feeling that they need something from this one, especially having lost to the Saddlers at home.

Walsall will, of course, be welcoming back Danny Fox, while Ishmel Demontagnac will be serving his one game suspension for his sending off in the reserves. Despite the fact that Dobson (probably) and Boertien (possibly) should be fit, it’s difficult to see Dicky Dosh making too many changes, so they may be looking at a place on the bench. A lot will depend on the fitness of Tommy Mooney. If the captain is back, I’d expect a 4 4 2 of:

Ince, Weston, Gerrard, Dann, Fox, Deeney, Wrack, Bradley, Sweeney, Mooney, Ricketts.

That might be seen as a little hard on Richard Taundry, after his excellent performance on Saturday, but if Mooney doesn’t make it, and the Express and Star are saying that this is unlikely, then he might keep his place in a 4 5 1 of:

Ince, Weston, Gerrard, Dann, Taundry, Deeney, Wrack, Bradley, Sweeney, Fox, Ricketts.

Doncaster have a team full of familiar names. Neil Sullivan, Kevin Horlock, Bruce Dyer, James Hayter, Paul Heffernan and Ritchie Wellens have all crossed our path in the past and Hayter, Heffernan, Dyer and their own Lewis Guy can be very dangerous on their day. (It seems Doncaster, like Swansea and Sheffield United, have had a policy of acquiring every striker they can in recent seasons). However, midfielder Paul Green has been the goalscoring hero over Christmas.

Predictions?

I’d like to thing we could win this one. This run of form we are on breeds confidence and the players must be going into every game thinking they can win it, even against a team above us in the table.

However, during the unbeaten run, we have been going through a sequence of win, draw, win draw, so that points to a draw tomorrow!

Martin Butler – Better and Better

neilr @ 8:40 pm Saturday 29 December 2007

The Express and Star are reporting that not only have we managed to off load the problem that was Martin Butler, we have made a profit on the deal.

Whatever the true causes of the fall out with the player (and UTS’s sympathies tend to be with the club on this one), it is certain that he was not going to come to any form of reconciliation. The loan period at Grimsby was coming to an end and everyone at this end seemed to be eager to find a solution to the problem.

It now transpires, however, that Grimsby have not only signed the 33 year old forward, but have also paid a small fee to the Saddlers for his services.

One can only call this a definite result!

Oldham Athletic vs Walsall Report

neilr @ 6:26 pm Saturday 29 December 2007

The Fat Controller might well be getting fed up with saying this, but this was, yet again, our best away performance of the season so far.

Let’s get things into perspective. We might well be on a superb run of form, but Oldham were not that far behind us, having gone eleven games without defeat.

Money had gone for a 4 5 1, in the absence of the suspended Fox and the injured Mooney, with Ricketts playing the lone striker role he used to dp so well at for Bolton, Taundry in at left back and Demontagnac on the left, Sweeney moving inside. It worked like a dream.

This was a superb advertisement for the Division, with both teams trying to play football, but, with Scott Dann planting home a header for his first goal of the season from a Taundry free kick in the second minute, the Saddlers were always just in control of the game.

The Fat Controller reports that the defence was outstanding, with Richard Taundry displaying the promise that he has been showing for some time in the reserves (the FT is a regular there), while Wrack and Bradley ran the midfield, giving the other three time to join the outstanding Ricketts, who was roaming wherever he liked.

Ricketts added another in the second half, taking on a Taundry pass and holding off the defender before planting the ball home. Dann was unfortunate not to be given a penalty for a blatant shirt tug in the second half and Ricketts could have also added a third just before the end, when, with no backlift, he smacked a 20 yard drive against the post.

According to Oldham fans at the ground, Ricketts left them on loan following an “altercation” with the manager. let’s hope they won’t have kissed and made up at the end of his loan period, as the man is class at this level.

The Fat Controller’s Man of the Match award, without any doubt, goes to Scott Dann, however, as he did not miss a single header or tackle all afternoon.

With Leeds and Forest losing (amongst others), this win puts the Saddlers up to sixth in the table. perhaps that first ever visit to Wembley isn’t that far fetched after all?

Oldham Athletic vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 11:22 am Friday 28 December 2007

What can you say about Oldham? A name synonymous with Britain’s industrial heritage – a town of “dark satanic mills” – a town proud in its past history, once rich and bedecked with the trappings of success, such as the magnificent Victorian Town Hall and the many well endowed churches, fed by the riches of the local industrialists trying to buy their way into heaven on the backs of the downtrodden, all with the looming presence of Saddleworth Moor and the Pennines in the background. Oh yes, and also Boundary Park, a place so desolate that Scott of the Antarctic and Amundsen would have thought twice about going anywhere near it. The only place that can be any colder has to be Grimsby. There certainly isn’t any more fitting place to say goodbye to 2007.

This is going to be a real test of both football and character for the Saddlers, as the problems of a thin squad start to bite. It is also a chance to measure progress against the low spot of the 0 – 3 home defeat to a then struggling Oldham earlier in the season – all the more so as they are one of the improving teams of the Division and also have Lee Hughes unfortunately finding his goalscoring touch again.

Richard Money’s major problems will, of course, be in defence and on the bench. Gerrard has now reached five yellows and the mandatory one match ban and Danny Fox’s indiscretion in his first game back after suspension at Vale park means that he’ll be missing. I’d expect Roper to come in for Gerrard and I think everyone will be hoping that Boertien is fit enough to replace Fox. If not, Taundry should come in for what is likely to be a much tougher game than his debut against Millwall, who played without a right winger.

Mooney is the other major doubt, having gone off early doors on Wednesday. If he is missing then I think we’ll be likely to see a 4 5 1 / 4 3 3 of:

Ince, Weston, Roper, Dann, Boertien or Taundry, Deeney, Wrack, Bradley, Sweeney, Demontagnac, Ricketts.

Michael Ricketts will be one man doubtless looking forward to the game, as he takes on his employers. Whether we want him to play well, if we are thinking of a transfer in January, is a completely different matter, however!

As for Oldham, they will be without former Baglady Sean Gregan in defence and the experienced ex Wigan man Andy Liddell, both of whom are out injured. Their major threats are Blues youngster Neil Kilkenny in midfield and the former Wolves loanee Craig Davies up front. Oh yes. And somebody called Lee Hughes.

The former Albion man took a while to settle down, following his release from prison in the Summer, but is certainly finding his form now. Four of his seven goals this season came during December.

Predictions?

Of course, this should be the classic encounter of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Oldham are on an 11 match unbeaten run, the Saddlers on a 14 match one. Oldham have drawn 5 of the last 6 at home, Walsall 5 of the last 6 away. This should have draw written all over it, but there are other factors at work. We are coming off the back of a poor performance in the last away game, the 1 – 1 draw at Port Vale, achieved thanks to an injury time goal from Michael Ricketts, and injuries and suspensions are beginning to effect our chances. With the best will in the world, I think this looks like a home win. I’d certainly be delighted if we managed to come away from the North West with a point.

Port Vale vs Walsall – Reaction

Neil @ 12:00 pm Thursday 27 December 2007

It takes a lot of different qualities to succeed in any sport. One of them is, of course, skill and talent, something that the team showed in abundance in dealing with Millwall in the last home game. Another, however, was amply demonstrated at Vale Park on Boxing Day – sheer guts and will to win.

One of the most dramatic changes that Richard Money has managed to bring about with the Saddlers, when compared to the disaster that was Paul Merson, it is that they do try to keep going in the face of adversity with an indomitable team spirit. There you are, 1 down with 90 minutes gone and reduced to ten men, but you don’t give up. One quality cross from Rhys Weston and Michael Ricketts had the class to be able to put the chance away, three minutes into stoppage time.

I’ve seen the result put down to luck – but that is to misjudge the situation. Leeds United have, for example, either got winners or salvaged points in the last minutes of several games this season. That, like our result yesterday, is not down to luck. It is down to team spirit, to having the desire to win and the confidence that comes from a long unbeaten run. Luck seems not have anything to do with it, as the more you succeed, the “luckier” you get.

Richard Money’s job, for some time, has been to make sure that the player’s feet stay firmly on the ground and that the confidence that helped bring about yet another valuable point yesterday does not turn into arrogance, something which can be truly destructive. The signs so far look good, as we go into the January transfer window in a wonderful League position and a chance to strengthen.

Port Vale vs Walsall Preview

neilr @ 9:35 am Monday 24 December 2007

Port Vale – a name that conjures up a picture of a lush green valley, dropping down to a pretty little harbour with fishing boats bobbing about in the water – especially when you have to go through Etruria to get there. Still, as we all know, it’s really in a place called Burslem, which is the North Midlands answer to some of the more depressingly dark and dismal Lancashire mill towns. Oh dear, at least it’s a local derby for Boxing Day.

Walsall will be going into the game waiting for news of two players following the excellent win against relegation threatened Millwall on Saturday. Star in the making Mark Bradley limped off in that game, having taken a stud in his shin, but he is expected to be fit. It seems he was taken off as a precaution. The other is Michael Ricketts, substituted on Saturday at half time feeling the effects of a virus. His importance to the side is shown that, despite the fact we dominated the second half, we just weren’t holding the ball up as well in the second 45 minutes. Hopefully, he’ll be fit, which would mean an unchanged side. Paul Boertien may make the bench, however, as he recovers from his injury and, of course, the outstanding Danny Fox, now revealed as a target for Leeds, will be back from suspension.

Probable line up, therefore:

Ince, Weston, Gerrard, Dann, Fox, Deeney, Wrack, Bradley, Sweeney, Mooney, Ricketts.

Rhys Weston, a player that John Toshack must surely be taking a serious look at to regain his place in the Welsh squad, will be returning to the club he spent a short period with at the end of last season. Hopefully, his excellent for will continue and he can show then what they’ve been missing.

Another who will be returning to his old club is, of course, Vale Manager, Pelsall born Lee Sinnott. One of the Walsall youngsters to have been let go too early because we needed the money, he went on to have a good career at Watford, Bradford and Palace especially.

The re isn’t any news from the Vale camp as yet, as to whether they suffered any injuries in their 2 – 0 defeat at Forest on Saturday. Their main danger man will be an old “friend”, however, in the shape of former Shrewsbury and Crewe striker (and firework tosser) Luke Rodgers. I’m sure that, once it is safe to do so, there won’t be any taunting of him for his two penalty misses at Chasetown in the Cup.

Predictions?

There are a couple of sequences here that could be under threat. One is the superb unbeaten run we are on at the moment, and the other is the win – draw – win – draw pattern that is part of that. Vale are currently 23rd out of 24, with just 16 points from their 21 games, managing only 16 goals in the process. They have won just two in 10 at home. There really should not be any better chance to get two wins back to back than this and consolidate that place in the play off berths. Away win.

Gerrard to United?

Exile @ 9:42 am Sunday 23 December 2007

Rumours floating around the internet and less salubrious sports columns suggest that United may be interested in purchasing Gerrard when the transfer window opens.

Leeds were running the ruler over a few of the youngsters when they came for a lesson in humility just last week, and it’s no surprise they’ve picked Ant-nee, one of our rising stars, to join them on their way to Europe. It’s only a shame they can’t afford more.

No strong confirmations, so this is just a rumour, and so is the estimated fee – four hundred big ones. Best make sure that’s an up-front payment, Jeff, as 8p in the pound is no good for any add-ons later.

Right, that headline and opener should see site traffic up nicely!

Walsall vs Millwall Preview

Neil @ 10:09 am Friday 21 December 2007

Back to reality tomorrow. Richard Money’s main job this week will probably have been keeping the players’ feet on the ground following the excellent performance against the “Mighty Whites” last week (mind you, it’s a pity their supporters don’t seem to have noticed which Division they are now in). What we don’t need is the good work of last Saturday to be undone against the old enemy from “Sarf of the River”, as Millwall have been struggling this season so far. Another three points in that quest to get to 50 as quickly as possible, so we can then concentrate on developing this young team even further, is certainly what’s called for.

Money’s problems all revolve around the absence of the suspended Danny Fox, who has been playing out of his skin so far this season. Paul Boertien did play all 90 minutes of the reserve game in the week, so he may well be risked. If not, it means Richard Taundry coming in, or even Ishmel playing at full back.

In midfield, Michael Dobson is still out and the major selection headache is the right side, so I would expect the following line up:

Ince, Weston, Gerrard, Dann, Boertien, Deeney or Sonko or Hall, Wrack, Bradley, Sweeney, Ricketts, Mooney.

Sweeney will, of course, be appearing against the club where he started his career and for whom he played in the Cup Final as a youngster.

As for Millwall, they had Dave Brammer back from injury last week in their defeat by Oldham, and the now ancient Richard Shaw has also recovered from a spell out. The dangerous Ahmet Brkovic, on loan from Luton, missed the last game, so, hopefully, he’ll still be out, as will the on loan Arsenal youngster Jay Simpson, sent off last week. They may well also have the wonderfully named Adebayo Akinfenwa back from injury.

Their dangerman, in the absence of some others, is probably Neil Harris, an old “friend” now back with the club where he made his reputation.

Predictions?

Millwall go into the game with 19 points from 19 games (unfortunately, they are 20th, rather than symmetrically 19th ). Co-incidentally, they have also scored 19 goals in those games, so they are hardly free scoring!

Away from home it’s one win and three draws in 9 games, scoring a mere 5 goals in the process.

Assuming that Dicky Dosh has done his job with the players, it’s difficult to see this as anything other than a home win, but, let’s face it, this is Walsall and we’ve always had the capacity to disappoint!

Walsall vs Leeds United – We Deserved All Three

neilr @ 11:44 am Sunday 16 December 2007

If the win t’other week at home to Forst was a measure of how far Richard Money has taken this team, then yesterday showed that the play offs are far from being an unrealistic goal – even with a thin squad.

Let’s face it, without the fifteen point deduction, Leeds are a team that would be miles clear at the top of the table, but they were more than matched by the Saddlers yesterday.

While the Yorkshiremen had slightly the better of the first half in terms of possession, Walsall still had the better chances and Clayton Ince didn’t have a save to make. The second half belonged conclusively to the Saddlers, both in terms of possession and in chances made, especially as Leeds resorted more and more to somewhat desperate long ball tactics. Even at the end of a pulsating game that was a magnificent advertisement for the Division, Ince had only made one save, from a badly scuffed shot and had been beaten once by an outrageous deflection from a free kick going well wide.

The sponsors gave the Man of the Match to Tommy Mooney, but it could have gone anywhere on the day. Dann and Gerrard were outstanding at the back, as were the fullbacks, Weston and Fox. Darren Wrack had his finest game in a Walsall shirt for many a long year and Bradley, as he got into the game, started to dominate. Sweeney showed more than a few glimpses of his class, while Mooney and Ricketts were a real handful (I’d love to have seen some of those offside decisions again, as a couple looked very dubious).

All in all, it can be summed up by the fact that, before the game, I wanted it over, with no suspensions, no injuries and a point would have been wonderful. At full time, I was deeply disappointed that we didn’t have the three points our play deserved (and, before he posts his comment, yes, I do realise you get what you deserve in football – but you know what I mean!).

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