Archive for April, 2009

Final week news round-up

roger6 @ 2:13 pm Wednesday 29 April 2009

The Saddlers end their eventful 2009-10 campaign at home to Oldham this weekend. It will Joe Royle’s last match in charge so let’s hope the Walsall board do the great man justice by opening something special after the game. Here’s a round-up of other Walsall news this week:

The club unveiled a 2 year shirt sponsorship deal with NHS Walsall which will see the club have Walsall Hospice on the front of the shirts. Each shirt sold will result in a donation from club to hospice. Board member Richard Tisdale is promoting his company Sign Specialists on the back of the shirt.

The club have also agreed a deal with shirt manufacturers Admiral who will supply the kit until 2012 and have returned to a red home strip, with a green and black away jersey, after two campaigns in white.

In other news a man from Bolton has said pies at Bescot are amongst the worst of any ground in the country.


The Franchise vs Walsall – Preview

Neil @ 12:59 pm Friday 24 April 2009

Live blog coverage available from 2.45pm Saturday – click here for full screen or follow below:

t’s always difficult to do a match preview about a game with the Franchise without the bitterness of the whole story of the club’s formation coming through. Suffice it to say that the success of AFC Wimbledon recently has gone a long way to restoring my faith in football after the way the game had been so shabbily treated by the Authorities over the whole Milton Keynes debacle.

The season for the Saddlers has now petered out and it must surely be time for Hutchings to start his planning for next season. It will be indicative to see if Ince and any of the other out of contract players (Boertien, for example) get any chance of a run out tomorrow, or whether he start using some of his other options in order to make up his mind about them. Some of the youngsters have been sitting on the bench, but the time has surely come to test their mettle, even if it is against one of the high flyers away from home.

Chris Hutchings has an almost fully-fit squad. Sicknote Stephen Roberts, who has been sidelined for three months, remains the only absentee with his back spasm problems. He is due to undergo an operation next week following an MRI scan he had on Thursday, hopefully meaning he could be ready in time for the start of next season, but he’ll stay Sicknote for me until he gets a good run of games in the team, if that should ever happen – and his playing history doesn’t suggest it will.

Roberto Di Matteo could be boosted by the return of two key players.

Top scorer Aaron Wilbraham has sat out the last four games with a back problem but the former Stockport man has returned to training this week and could come straight back into the starting XI against the Saddlers.

Midfielder Peter Leven has been out since the 2-0 win over Brighton at the start of April with an ankle injury but is also back in training and has put himself in contention.

Striker Sam Baldock returned from a hip complaint as a second-half substitute during the 1-0 win at Scunthorpe last weekend and is ok to start if required while Ali Gerba and Luke Chadwick should be fine to continue despite missing training on Thursday.
Defender Danny Swailes remains a long-term absentee as he struggles to recover from his serious Achilles injury.


It’s surely got to be Mark Wright, hasn’t it? I mean to say, he was never one of my favourite players, but he does seem to have blossomed since his move to Milton Keynes City and it’s likely that he’ll be marked tomorrow by Chris Palmer, so he won’t have to worry about any crunching tackles!


I think we have to hope that nerves have set in for the Franchise as they go for another promotion. They are in third place, just four points behind Peterborough, with a game in hand. Granted it’s their home record (they have lost 6 and drawn 4 there) which is keeping them out of the automatic slots, but I’d still fancy them to have too much for us tomorrow.

Help: Site Sponsor Needed!

Exile @ 10:47 am Wednesday 22 April 2009

Upthesaddlers is looking for a site sponsor for the coming 12 months starting from June 2009. As a site run by and for Walsall fans on a voluntary basis our popularity has far outstripped the resources of the few users who donate on a voluntary basis (thanks!), let alone the benevolence of our host and site owner (more thanks!).

Anyone wishing to take advantage of our exclusive sponsorship rights package is encouraged to get in touch with Steve, our owner, to discuss this once a year opportunity. Advantages include a prominent full-width front page banner link to your site, an unmissable ‘click box’ link in the banner headline on every page on the site and the rights to the exclusive messageboard user ranking “site sponsor”, as well as the endless gratitude of our regular users. We’re open to negotiation as to the actual package!

The 2008/09 site sponsor is the most excellent freight forwarding company, IC Shipping Ltd, to whom a big round of applause is in order for the current sponsorship deal. Our thanks to them, and Asps, who currently enjoys the ‘site sponsor’ accolade on the messageboard.

Upthesaddlers counts itself amongst the giants of independent sites in the football league, and is certainly the busiest independent Walsall site. Last week, stats show some 24,000 visits by more than 6,000 unique visitors who spend on average over 8 minutes on site making over 200,000 separate page views. There’s a healthy mix of 55% direct traffic and 45% referral/search engine traffic, and we had visitors from 67 countries. Traffic increases substantially in the transfer windows and during preseason, as well as on larger matchdays.

Further information can be retrieved by contacting Steve at This opportunity is ideal for any local or internet-based business seeking to capitalise on the repeated views of an educated and inquisitive captive audience.

Please – we need your help, and it’s worth it!

Walsall 2 Huddersfield 3

roger6 @ 1:53 pm Sunday 19 April 2009

Two goals up early on Saturday afternoon and the Bescot faithful were enjoying the end of season game against Huddersfield. Three goals without reply followed as the Saddlers slipped to defeat.

Four Oaks Saddler offers this assessment via the message board:

There was only one team in it until the 43rd minute, and we were playing some great football. Had we scored half of the other chances we had, it’d would’ve been all over. But we didn’t and then it all fell apart.

Gilmartin had a ‘mare for their first goal but I thought he was generally sound. He gets criticised (rightly so, to an extent) but i don’t think his defence help him out at times – some of the pass backs he receives are iffy to say the least.

Too many of the other players seemed to be going through the motions – Palmer, Bradley and Ricketts being the worst offenders.

Live blog Huddersfield game

roger6 @ 6:17 pm Friday 17 April 2009

Join Exile and ADJ below for live blog coverage from 2.45 Saturday or view in full screen

Walsall vs Huddersfield Town Preview

Neil @ 12:24 pm Friday 17 April 2009

With the Saddlers now mathematically safe from either relegation or the play offs, the main point of interest in the remaining games may well be any indications of Hutchings’ plans for next season. The temptation will be there to have a look at some of the youngsters. Josh Craddock, Richard Davies and Hassan Bacchus are all in contention for a place in the squad and the Manager said this week that;

“We’ve got to be fair to other teams and put out our best team but if people aren’t performing, I won’t be frightened to put the young boys on. They are good enough. I’ve got high hopes for one or two, but it’s a gradual process of not throwing them in too early and them being a fish out of water. It’s a softly, softly approach that you’ve got to take with the young ones”.

So, what is the team likely to be against Huddersfield?

Ince has returned, following his tragic family loss, so should return. However, with his contract situation still unresolved, there may be a case to pick Gilmartin, in case he should be the number one next season.

At the back, Weston, Gerrard and Smith pick themselves, especially as Sicknote is now predicted to miss the start of next season with his back problem, but Boertien is out of contract, so will he start? If he doesn’t, will Sansara be fit, as he has now returned to training? (Don’t forget Palmer is out of contract as well).

In midfield, Zaaboub has been the biggest bright spot this season and should play, despite a broken finger, but this is where Hutchings has the biggest choice, with Bradley, Mattis, the disappointing Hughes, Taundry, Nicholls and Richard Davies all vying for a place.

Up front, it’s a choice between Ricketts, Deeney and Ibehre, but, with Jabo out of contract, any absence from him may be indicative.

As for the opposition, they will be without Anthony Pilkington for the clash. The 20-year-old winger sustained a groin injury during Monday’s home win over Carlisle and will play no further part this season.

Veteran striker Andy Booth replaced Pilkington and later headed the winner against Carlisle, so he will be hoping to make a rare start under manager Lee Clark.

Clark has no other injury or suspension problems, but could be tempted to try out different variations before he starts rebuilding in the summer.
Michael Flynn, James Berrett and Andy Holdsworth all started on the substitutes’ bench on Monday and are pushing for recalls.


Naturally enough, with our luck, Huddersfield are on a run of form at the moment, with 4 wins and a draw in the last six games, one of which was an away win at Bristol Rovers. They are five points ahead of us, on the same number of games, with the same goal difference, so this game may well depend on how much each Manager experiments and how successful those experiments are. Too tough to call, for me!

Stockport County vs Walsall – Report

Neil @ 7:22 am Tuesday 14 April 2009

Welsh Saddler doesn’t make that many games, due no doubt to his advancing years (he’s on a par with Old Man Whiting and Pedagogue), so it seems fitting to use his contribution today, as the Saddlers managed another good away win:-

I really meant to take a pen and notebook with me, but forgot (typical) – so it’s a “bits and pieces” report…

Facts as already stated – we opened up well and took command for most of the first half, largely because we had one heck of a wake-up call after about five minutes when our defence was carved open and their shot (travelling at Mach 2) smacked against Rene’s post and back into play. About five minutes later we had a corner and I noticed Antnee coming up for some of the action – next thing I knew he had scored!! I was in the “Family Stand” near the half-way line and when that goal went in I swear I was able to hear 5,000 people breathing, couldn’t hear the “faithful”, sorry to say, largely because they had no roof to project any sound outwards.

The second half both teams had about equal shares of the play, County had obviously had a bit of an ear-bashing during the interval, and after consistent pressure it was no real surprise when they were awarded a penalty. I actually had confidence in Gilmartin to pull off a save – for a lad of his height he’s good at getting across and down to the ball, but in the event he wasn’t called upon. The ball sailed well over the bar and was still rising when it met the Upper Stalls. That seemed to spur County on to further effort however, and when they got a free kick about five yards outside the area the equalising goal came direct from it, no deflection that I saw, and Rene nowhere near it. Questions have to be asked about the organisation of the defence in such a situation.

“OK” I thought, “I’ll be reasonably happy with a draw” – and to be honest County applied more and more effort as the last ten minutes approached, and we were beginning to hang on. One or two defenders had “mad moments” of hoofing clear (and not so clear). At that stage when County had a corner we actuall had all eleven men back defending, which doesn’t do much good when you do clear the lines, it just guarantees that the ball will come back towards your goal… However, we did have break-aways, and from one (a few minutes before the 90) Deeney put a very inviting cross over, unfortunately Jabo (I think) was shaping to do a Roger Boli bicycle kick at it at the same moment that a Stockport defender tried to head it clear, and the resultant head-meets-foot collision left their man flat out – a shame really, because the ball fell loose to another Walsall player who promptly smacked it into the net, but the whistle had already gone.

90 minutes up, and the announcement of 4 minutes added time was made. Anoher cross comes over (from the left), and Stockport keeper and defender go up for it, and a lovely own goal was the result. I definitely heard the cheering from that one, and the subsequent “gewin’ dahn the Wensbry road ter see the Worsle aces” was very clear!!!

Individual summaries, for what they’re worth:

Gilmartin: I was impressed by the lad. I don’t think his kicking was woeful or anywhere near woeful. He did seem to prefer rolling the ball out a little way and playing it off the turf, which they tumbled after a while, and made sure he kicked from his hands. He did put a couple straight into touch, but it was only a couple. Oh, and shortly after their equaliser he was put under pressure by a not-very-good backpass, and hacked it almost at right-angles into touch. His more urgent problem seems to be positioning though – when they smacked a shot against the post from outside the area he did fling himself at it full-length (and he’s tall) but he was nowhere near it. Similarly one or two optimistic shots they had in the second half from acute angles he was miles away from. I’ve already covered their equaliser from the free kick, he didn’t move at all and presumably he was happy with the wall’s ability to cover that side.

Weston: Didn’t see much of him in the first half, but in the second half he became his own worst enemy – after one particularly bad “hoof” the crowd started making braying donkey noises at him, and he responded very unprofessionally by making Churchillian gestures (out of sight of the officials) back at the crowd. This got them more on his back and it seemed to get to him. A shame, because he did show neat touches from time to time.

Gerrard: Massive, clearing the lines with skill, he only missed one “bounce” that I saw, and still recovered quickly. Scored as well.

Smith: A bit anonymous first half – Gerrard was doing most of the defending, Smith picking up the loose ball and distributing. Came into it much more later on – next season looks promising if he and Antnee can maintain the form and understanding.

Palmer: In a way I was dreading seeing Palmer after all the flak that’s been posted on him, and I was pleasantly surprised. All right, he’s not the most accomplished player in the world, but he did try and find his own players with his passes. Tackling is admittedly weak though!

Mattis: Very strong, and when he does win the ball (which is most of the time) he looks to attack – not afraid to venture upfield, and quick to track back, unlike Weston.

Ricketts: I was disappointed in him, he looked slow, clumsy at times (possibly overweight??) and this led directly to two or three free kicks for County, because he just didn’t have the speed or skill to dispossess a player without resorting to a foul, usually right under the referee’s nose. Second half he dropped back to almost a midfield role, and the free kicks he gave away were that much nearer to our penalty area as a result. I wasn’t surprised when he was substituted.

Ibehre: Did very well leading the line, held up the ball effectively and always looked to distribute positively. Ran his socks off, the complete opposite to Ricketts.

Zaboub: Another trier, always wanting to be in the thick of it, and played a left-wing role as honest as you’ll see. Often skinned the County right-back for pace, and if the quality of the cross wasn’t always perfect it wasn’t through lack of effort.

Deeney: Obviously a young man still learning his trade, but linked up well with Jabo and Zab. With a bit of luck he could have had a couple.

Hughes: Not as much of an impact as Mattis, and I wondered whether he’d come back on when he was taken off with a “blood” wound in the second half. Back he did come though, with a distinctive bandanna round his head. In and out of the game, certainly not as noticeable as Gerrard and Smith.

Of the substitutes (who didn’t have much time to impress) I’d have to say that Bradley certainly made his mark, closing down County players at every opportunity and (I think) having a hand in the build-up to our extra-time winner.

There were no bookings, the nearest was when a Stockport player kicked the ball away having conceded a free kick, all he got was a summons and a talking-to. Nothing really at stake for either team, so the game was played fairly gently. Where the ref got three minutes added time at the end of the first half I don’t know!!!

Walsall 0 Tranmere 1

roger6 @ 10:21 pm Saturday 11 April 2009

The Saddlers went down to a single goal defeat at home to play-off chasing Tranmere today. After missing a number of chances it was Savage who got the visitors’ winner with not many minutes to go.

Lots of thoughts coming in to the message board – always erudite it is WFC Rob who offered these conclusions:

Well, there you have it – that’s the difference between genuinely contending for a playoff place and seeing a season fizzle out into nothing.

Yes, Tranmere probably (understandably) wanted it more than us, but they weren’t much better than us. For them, Goodison always looked comfortable at centre half, and Sonko’s quality cross for the goal was the difference. Were they made to work really hard for those three points? Probably not.

In terms of our side, nobody had a game worth writing home about and that’s exactly why we are where we are in the table. I thought Gerrard and Smith generally looked solid, which is at least something to offer promise going into next season. Weston looked alright, despite Nicholls rarely offering him an outlet. Then we move on to Chris Palmer. Well, well, well – if he never wears a Walsall shirt again, I’ll be delighted. He can’t head, he can’t tackle and on more than one occasion, he couldn’t even manage to make a routine clearance. How he kept Boertein out of the side today, I’ll never know.
Gilmartin still divides my opinion. He made 2 decent saves from one-on-ones and one great block from a volley, but his kicking and general command of his area seems to make us very shaky at the back. I’m not sure we can afford to give him long enough between the sticks to attempt to change that to be honest.

The midfield were ineffective. Simple as. Nicholls hides far too often, but at least managed to win a couple of free kicks from their dodgy left back. On the other side, I thought Zaaboub gave Shotton a nightmare, but all too often we left him isolated, and decent crosses into the box were too few and far between. As for the middle of the park, it was a game to forget. Hughes gave away far too many silly free kicks, and Bradley might as well have been sitting in the stands.

Jabo worked really hard and his shooting ability is the only reason why he’s playing for us and not a team in a higher league. That says it all though. For all his good runs, decent hold-up play, hustle and bustle, he lacked conviction. Ricketts’ sluggish performance offered him little help either.

What annoyed me today was the manner of our performance after we conceded. There was no urgency and no fight. Whilst we know we have nothing to play for in terms of playoff credentials or a relegation scrap, professional footballers with contracts to earn should offer more in my view. You could argue that their financial security for the coming years isn’t my problem, but it becomes so when their attitudes affect the best interests of the fans who pay their wages.

Walsall v Tranmere live blog

roger6 @ 10:42 am Saturday 11 April 2009

Join ADJ Saddler from 2.45 below or via full screen for live blog coverage of today’s game at home to Tranmere.

Walsall vs Tranmere Rovers Preview

Neil @ 9:53 am Friday 10 April 2009

With the season drifting disappointingly to a close, the main point of interest would seem to be which of our opponents look like either getting in the promotion mix, or escaping the relegation mire, according to their particular circumstances – witness Millwall last week, who beat us without actually playing well, and Cheltenham the week before, who looked capable of escaping relegation but have almost certainly left it all much too late.

Which brings us to this weekend and the visit of the plastic Scousers. Tranmere have been on a run since the turn of the year of won 8, drawn 5 and lost 5, including wins at home against Leicester and away at Oldham, something which has dragged them up to seventh place, one outside the play off slots and just a point behind Scunthorpe. It’s the sort of position we ourselves might have been able to get ourselves into if we’d have dispensed with the services of Jimmy Muddle earlier and if he hadn’t wasted the playing budget on some expensive flops.

Team news is sparse at this early stage, of course, but the Saddlers will be without (inevitably) Stephen Roberts and Michael Ricketts is likely to start in place of Jabo Iberhe, despite his goal last week, as the former England International’s greater creativity should be needed at home.

In defence, the big questions are whether Boertien and Smith will be fit. Boertien has trained all week, so he will more than likely replace Palmer at left back. The news is that Smith has fully recovered from his head injury, so that gives us a back four of:

Weston, Smith, Gerrard, Boertien. (looks good, but wasn’t the last time that happened Bristol Rovers?).

The other player missing at the New Den, Zaaboub, is over his dead leg and should also feature. Personally, I’d go for Nicholls, Bradley, Mattis and Zaaboub in the middle of the park.

Tranmere will almost certainly be without old acquaintance (remember his disastrous spell at Joke City) Chris Greenacre, who has a knee problem. Our former loanee, Chris Shuker is also out with a broken arm. Defender Ryan Shotton, on loan from the aforementioned Joke City, returns from suspension.

Former Saddler Eddie “Mr Sunshine” Sonko makes his first return to the Banks’s Stadium since leaving the club at the end of last season. I, for one, would rather have hung onto him, as foreign players often improves in their second season.


Ex Barnsley defender, Antony Kay is joint top scorer with manager’s son, Ian Moore on 11 goals apiece, but they also have the handful that is former Brighton and Millwall striker Bas Savage, who is something of a Jabo Iberhe clone.


I’ve already mentioned that Rovers are on a run of form that has taken them to the edge of the play offs and they have lost just once in their last seven games, winning 2-0 victories against Leicester, Oldham (a) and Bristol Rovers in their last game. I’d be happy with a point from this one.

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