Archive for February, 2008

Luton Town vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 3:04 pm Friday 29 February 2008

Walsall will be continuing their late winter tour of the car manufacturing plants of Britain tomorrow, following last week’s sojourn at Swindon, as they head down the M1 to Luton.

Luton. What can I say that’s nice about Luton? Not a lot, really. If you type “Luton attractions” into Google, the first thing you notice is that virtually all of them are outside of the town! At least we’ve got the new Art Gallery and the Arboretum. Still, the airport is OK.

Of course, I’ve already made myself unpopular with the locals a few years ago when I accused them of playing a long ball game, when they had Howard and Vine up front. The fact that the seemed to think they played some fast, attractive passing game suggests that the town would have been better off making spectacles, rather than Vauxhall cars and Bedford trucks. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, however.

Luton are one of the clubs in real financial difficulties. Their short time in the Championship and the small amount of success they had there seems to have been built on paying excessive wages and signing on fees, rather than any sound financial footing, and they have been placed into administration with the ten point deduction. While a consortium led by TV newsreader Nick Owen (a long term supporter) has had a provisional bid accepted to take over, there are still problems and there is a threat of a further fifteen point deduction if the situation isn’t resolved, in the same way as Leeds. It’s not making that much difference however, as, even if they were given their 10 points back, they’d still be in the relegation zone, just one place above the bottom four, with the same number of points.

Walsall’s team news is likely to surround two issues. The first is the fitness (or otherwise) of Mark Bradley, following the assault on him at Swindon last week, and the other is whether new signing Stefan Moore will play.

Bradley’s injury wasn’t as bad as first thought, ending up as a badly bruised ankle, but he is still doubtful. If he is absent, that may well give a chance for Alassane N’Dour to make his first start, but there are other options. Moore is at the heart of one of those, as he could start up front with Mooney, Betsy move back to the wing and Sonko to central midfield.

Michael Dobson may well be back on the bench, as cover for the centre halves, after an impressive outing for the reserves there in the week.

As for Luton, Steve Robinson is suspended and he was replaced in the last game by Stephen O’Leary, who made his first League start of the season. They had the ancient Paul Furlong also playing in midweek, as he replaced Sam Parkin who was ill.

Dean Morgan, just back from a groin problem, picked up a slight knock in that game as did Drew Talbot. Both will be have to have fitness tests.

Darren Currie (knee), Don Hutchison (leg), Richard Langley (broken leg) and Paul Underwood remain long-term absentees while Paul Peschisolido has been ruled out for the season with an ankle injury (good job we didn’t sign him as many wanted, then).


I’m still getting these wrong with monotonous regularity, but here goes. Luton go into this one 22nd in the table, thanks to that 10 point deduction, with a mere 25 points. That belies the fact that they aren’t bad at home, however, with 8 wins and 4 draws from 17 games. That, co-incidentally, is exactly the same record as last week’s opponents, Swindon, from one less game (and shows that at home, they are a far better team than their League position suggests). I’ll take us to win tomorrow and make the two records identical!


Ex Villa Man Signs

Neil @ 12:02 pm Friday 29 February 2008

Walsall have signed ex Villa youngster Stefan Moore on a short term contract until the end of the season.

The 24 year old, whose brother Luke has also recently moved, in his case to the Albion, was very highly rated as a youngster at Villa Park. He decided to leave, however, thinking that his first team opportunities would be limited, only for his career to go downhill from there. His time at QPR has been particularly unhappy.

Whether Richard Money can get the best out the player remains to be seen, but he did mange to do so with Michael Ricketts, another player whose career was on a downward spiral. If he can work his magic and get the player, who he worked with at Villa when he was a youngster, to fulfill his potential, then we will have made a very good aquisition indeed.

Ex Aston Villa Youngster May Flourish

Neil @ 10:18 am Monday 25 February 2008

One of the more intriguing things about this season has been the apparent ability of Richard Money to bring out the best in various waifs and strays. He plucked Lee Holmes out of a trough at Derby, where he was failing to make any real impression on the first team squad, despite their appalling season, and, notably, seems to have got Michael Ricketts playing to something like his potential.

The news, therefore, at the weekend that former Villa youngster Stefan Moore has joined the club on trial is, hopefully, another such signing.

Moore has had a disastrous time since leaving the Villa. He broke into the side some five years ago, as a youngster, with this kind of talk about him, from Ian Taylor:-

Stefan is “the most naturally gifted finisher I’ve seen come through the ranks at Villa.”

Of the England Under-19 international, he said: “If Stefan had scored at Old Trafford he would now be the talk of the town the way Rooney is at the moment.

He is a confident, sensible lad. Every one is talking about Rooney at the moment. But last season he didn’t get a sniff in the FA Youth Cup which Villa won and Stefan scored twice”.

Taylor continued: “Of all the young strikers who have come through the ranks over the years I think that Stefan is the most naturally gifted finisher. Once you get him in the area he can be devastating.

He is a great finisher, he is very calm in the area and he is a nice lad, very sensible, very intelligent.

Stefan has a long way to go still and it is always unwise to build up a player too much. But at this moment in time he is showing a great deal of potential.”

He failed to break into the Villa team and, after some not very distinguished loan spells in terms of goals scored, went to QPR in 2005, where he managed only 19 League starts, plus 20 as sub and three goals.

Moore reminds me a lot of another Villa youngster who left the club and looked as if he had lost his way until he turned up here – Darren Byfield. Let’s hope he’s as successful.

Swindon 0 Walsall 3

roger6 @ 4:06 pm Sunday 24 February 2008

A few Saddlers reflecting today on when we last won by three goals away from home (answer is here) – a performance summarised as follows by BathSaddler on the message board:

Excellent performance, as convincing an away win as you will ever see. A good first 20 minutes, including a first minute ‘goal’ by Mooney and a superb Holmes free kick, was followed by a very mediocre second quarter where neither side created anything.

I really expected Swindon to come out at us, but it never materialised. Holmes and Betsy in particular tormented them, and it was no surprise when both of them, along with Bradley, was instrumental in the second. After that, it was a case of keeping our heads. The referee ‘bottled it’ on a number of occasions, with challenges by a couple of home players in particular resulting only in bookings. How the player that decked Bradley stayed on the pitch I will never know. What disturbed me most was the attitude of the home fans when Bradley was stretchered off – it is customary at such instances for there to be a smattering of respectful applause. From what I could see, there was none. Pretty graceless, if you ask me.

The third was a only a matter of time, Nicholls expertly tapping in when Betsy’s shot was smothered.

Interesting to talk to a few Swindon fans on the way back to the station and on the train back to Bath. None of them thought that there was anything wrong with Mooney’s header [from where we were it was impossible to know one way or the other, but these were fans who were far better positioned than us to make a judgement]. They are not happy with Malpas, but thought that we were ‘solid’, played well as a unit and could have won by considerably more. We overheard a few Swindon ‘old timers’ mutter amongst themselves that “the referee favoured them”. Just goes to show how one-eyed all us supporters can be. The truth was he was incompetent for both sides IMO.

Ince – only one real save to make and that was in injury time. Commanded his box well.
Weston – solid
Boertien – Solid
Gerrard – solid, distributed well
Roper – solid, distributed not so well, but did the simple things well
Sonko – had his moments
Wrack – okay, but some of his freekicks left a lot to be desired
Bradley – Got better as the game wore on until fouled out of the game
Holmes – sheer class, will be in Derby’s first team in the Championship next season
Betsy – started well and ended well, tends to ‘swan about the place’ a bit tho, superb first minute cross for Mooney’s ‘goal’
Mooney – enjoyed winding up the home crowd and inspired his team-mates when necessary, unlucky with the disallowed goal

N’dour – a couple of good touches
Nicholls – excellent, a confident finish
Deeney – solid

Swindon Town vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 9:59 am Friday 22 February 2008

Swindon. Now, what does that remind me of?

They make cars there, of course, but it’s only boring old Honda. Let’s face it, when Triumph/BL stopped making the 1500/Dolomite, the old blokes in pork pie hats had to pick something else top drive and they chose Honda, so it’s not the companys’ fault, but that doesn’t make them any the less boring.

There’s Mark Lamarr, who was born there as well. Trouble is, he’s funny at first, then you get a bit bored with the style and realise he’s just an annoying, supercilious git.

There’s also Billie Piper, who was also born in the town. Now, Billie is an attractive enough thought, but then you get into trouble wondering how her eyebrows can be such a different colour from her hair and that leads you down avenues it’s best not to explore on here.

Ah, now I’ve got it! It’s where we clinched the Second Division Championship. There’s a happy thought. Tomorrow it should see the last game of us “managing” until the loan window opens, hopefully without the period since the loss of Fox and Dann damaging our promotion chances too much.

The Saddlers should have a clean bill of health for this game. Mark Bradley was missing from the last outing, but the weekend off hopefully means that he’ll be fit to resume in midfield. Certainly Richard Money had said that he doesn’t feel Alessane N’Dour is up to speed yet and would rather not have played him for so long at Swansea.

The other problem area will be up front, where Tommy Mooney should be refreshed and ready to go against his former employers and there is still a chance, if rumour is to be believed, that reinforcements may arrive today in the shape of a certain ex-England striker. The only problem with Ricketts signing if it is true, is how fit he’ll be after a lengthy lay off.

There is no team news as yet from the Swindon camp, where new manager Maurice Malpas went with the following line up in their last game, a 0 – 1 reverse at Forest:

Brezovan, Comminges, Ifil, Aljofree, Vincent, McGovern, Easton, Pook, McNamee, Paynter, Sturrock. Subs: Phil Smith, Kanyuka, Zaaboub, Ashikodi, Roberts

The interesting thing here is that Christian Roberts, who has always looked a threat in the past, can only get a place on the bench. Former Saddler Jamie Vincent and old enemy Jon Paul McGovern are also likely to be lined up against us.


Since beating Forest on the 19th January (courtesy of two own goals!), Swindon’s record has been a little inconsistent, winning two, losing two and drawing three. One of the wins was also against crisis club Luton. They have only lost three games at home this season, however, and this is going to be a tough proposition. Personally, I’d be happy with a repeat of last season’s 1 – 1.

Coventry Threat Receding

Neil @ 12:04 pm Monday 18 February 2008

It seems that the threat to Walsall of losing their Manager, Richard Money, is receding rapidly

The BBC are reporting that Chris Coleman is set to be unveiled as the new manager of Coventry City in “the next 24 hours”

Coventry sacked former manager Iain Dowie on 11 February after chairman Ray Ranson said there was a “difference of opinion over the future direction of the club”, rather than over the results, despite the fact that Dowie, won only 20 of his 49 games in charge. Richard Money, who had a successful period as Academy Director at the club was one of the front runners with the bookies.

Ex Fulham manager Coleman has been out of work since leaving Real Sociedad last month.

The Sky Blues are 20th in the Championship and were thrashed 5-0 by West Brom in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Nothing Doing Weekend – Preview

Neil @ 5:55 pm Thursday 14 February 2008

In the absence of any football this weekend, thanks to Bristol Rovers managing to get through to the next round of the FA Cup, it’s time to preview – nothing much at all.

Personally, having just finished decorating the daughter’s bedroom, it’s moving onto the “spare room” next. The big problem here is going to be choosing the colour scheme, so it is suitable for the Grand Daughter when she visits (what does a 16 month old girl like?) and for any visitors we might have staying over. Big choices to be made there, of course. The only problem with that is it will also interfere, probably, with me getting to the West Walsall CC indoor nets on Saturday morning to see how the offspring is getting on and whether his feet are moving properly when he’s batting.

The other big job will doubtless be trying to sort out the daughter’s trip to Africa. Although the two months in Namibia are fine, it look like they will have to cancel the month in Kenya with the political troubles and the chances of getting the air fares back are negligible.

There might be a little football related thought, as visits to mean definite speculation as to the possible identities of new signings and the “will he, won’t he” soap opera of trying to outguess Ray Ranson, Dicky Dosh and Jeff Bonser. Both exercises are likely to be futile, as the signings will be a complete surprise and I doubt if the Coventry management situation and Ranson massaging his ego with the appointment of Sam Allardyce is going to be sorted out that quickly.

I believe that there is some football on the tele, of course, with it being FA Cup weekend, so there is the prospect of some entertainment listening to John Motson’s increasingly senile ramblings, not to mention Alan Shearer demonstrating his lack of tactical knowledge and why he shouldn’t be Newcastle United manager. As to who actually gets through, that doesn’t really hold that much interest for me, as it is virtually inevitable that the damn thing will be won by one of the so-called “big four”, as it has been every year since 1996. At least Mottie might be an improvement on the big film, which is Timothy Dalton as a rather wooden James Bond in “Licence to Kill”. There’s nobody else in the film I’ve ever heard of.

On the rest of the sporting front, fortunately, England’s impending ritual humiliation at the hands of France in the Six Nations is happening the weekend after this, so I’ll be safe from that particular threat.

There’s always the rest of the TV, I suppose, but Saturday night is likely to be full of the usual inane offerings (the daughter will be watching the final of “The One And Only”, for example), so the best bet there will be a phone call to our friends and a visit to the “Blue Ball” in Wednesbury for some real beer.


Overall, I think it’s likely to be a weekend much like any other with no match. For God’s sake, bring back the footie!

Swansea 1 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 9:05 am Wednesday 13 February 2008

The Saddlers slipped to an not-unexpected defeat at high-flying Swansea last night but as last weekend, results elsewhere went in our favour so Walsall remain in the play-off places, as Leeds poor fun continued, Orient surprisingly lost at home, and Southend went down at Millwall.

Reaction on the message board has been slow to come in from those at the game, probably due to the late finish, but attention is also turning to squad strengthening, with some fans claiming Walsall are waiting for the 93 day rule to come into force so any signings are able to play in the play-offs. If this is true, new signings can be expected before our next game, which isn’t for another 10 days away at Swindon.

As to what we need to bring in, DinkydotSaddler offers these thoughts:

Tonights result is not the end of the world. We played a good team who are 8 points clear at the top for a reason. However, I have been concerned about our lack of strike power for ages. Even with Ricketts I felt we needed someone else and now we don’t have him the situation is far from good. We don’t have anybody that looks like scoring week-in-week-out. Deeney may well just not be ready yet and if we force it it could spoil what he may still have to come.

We aren’t necessairily scoring fewer goals, but we have to accept that our defence has been weakened. What we need is to bring in a couple of players, take a deep breath, and build on what we have already achieved this season. It would be a crying shame if all that has been done turns out to be for nothing. Hopefully within the next few days the management issues will be sorted and we can concentrate on bringing in a few decent loans to give us a good run-in. It is only one game after all – let’s face it not even the most optimistic amongst you would have said that this is a game we would expect to win.

Swansea City vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 12:27 pm Monday 11 February 2008

Apparently, we’re playing some outfit from somewhere in Wales called Abertawe tomorrow night. At least that sounds a little less daunting than saying that we face a trip to the runaway league leaders, Swansea City. Let’s face it, their achievements this season have not got the recognition they deserve in the light of the media’s obsession with all things Leeds United. It seems to have slipped the attention of most of the papers that, if Leeds were to get their fifteen points back, they would not be top and they have been losing ground since Poyet left.

As ever on a Monday before a Tuesday night game, team news is as scarce as rocking horse droppings at the moment, but the Saddlers do have some injury worries. Welsh under 21 International Mark Bradley was missing on Saturday and may not be available, while Darren Wrack went off with an injury in that game. That seemed to be an injury to his face, so it might not be too serious, which is a good job, as we may need his skills elsewhere. Welsh International full back Rhys Weston finished the Yeovil game limping and may face a fitness test. If he’s missing, Wrack or Taundry are the obvious replacements.

Richard Money’s other decision will be whether to play a 4 4 2, or a 4 5 1. The arrival of Senegalese International Alassane N’Dour means that he does have enough options in the middle of the park to play the 4 5 1. I half expect (depending on fitness):

Ince, Weston or Taundry, Roper, Gerrard, Boertien, Betsy, Wrack, N’Dour, Sonko, Holmes, Mooney.

As for Swansea, they will certainly be without defender Dennis Lawrence, (an ex Trinidad and Tobago International colleague of our own Clayton Ince), who is likely to miss the rest of the season with the injury he picked up in the draw at Gresty Road at the weekend.

Jason Scotland, scourge of the Saddlers in our home defeat, scored from the spot in that game, but ex Saddler Roberto Martinez will feel disappointed that his team squandered a two goal lead in that game to come away with just a point.


A daunting prospect indeed, this game. Swansea are, of course, top of the pile, with 61 points from their 29 games (they’ve even had the cheek to have played two less than us). At home, however, their record of won 10, drawn 3, lost 2 isn’t as good as that of Carlisle. It’s their exceptional away record, the best in the Division, that’s got them where they are.

Having said all of that, if we come away from the Liberty Stadium with a draw, I’ll be ecstatic.

Coventry Sacking – A Threat To The Saddlers?

Neil @ 11:30 am Monday 11 February 2008

The worst possible news for Saddlers fans has become a possibility this morning, as Ian Dowie has been sacked as Coventry Manager.

While Coventry’s struggles of late (they have lost five of the last six games in the League) have left them a mere four points above the relegation zone, the fact that the club have let him spend £1.5 million in the January window on Dan Fox and Scott Dann make this seem a somewhat strange decision.

What this does mean, of course, is that Richard Money, former Academy Director at Coventry, will become one of the favourites to succeed Dowie. The only bright spot on the horizon is that, with the club about to be taken over by Ray Ranson’s consortium, the investors might want a bigger, high profile name.

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