Archive for April, 2010

Carlisle United vs Walsall – Preview

Neil @ 12:11 pm Friday 30 April 2010

In last week’s match preview, I did say that end of season games can be boring, with nothing left to play for, for the mid table teams. It seems, however, that the Saddlers are not falling into that particular trap.

I’ve had plenty of issues with Chris Hutchings’ management this season, which have revolved around his seeming inability to change tactics and sometimes bewildering use (and lack of use) of substitutions, but what has never been in question is his ability to motivate the team. He has set a target of finishing as high as possible in this Division this season and, accordingly, we have ended up on an excellent run at the end, which makes the poor one which preceded it even more of a disappointment. With two games left, the first of which is to a Carlisle side which is four points behind us and has absolutely nothing to play for, we are within striking distance of former play off hopefuls Bristol Rovers and our opponents on the last day of the season, the Franchise.

A win tomorrow and one a week tomorrow would round the season off well and would also, surely, when coupled with the unrest on the terraces, persuade the powers that be at the club that a little investment next season might pay enormous dividends? Trouble is, I can’t see it myself.

What of the team selection, then?

Well, Gilmartin will be first choice next season, so he’ll be in goal (perhaps Ince’s chance will come next week, so we can say goodbye properly to a man who has done a great job for us?). Weston will not be here next season, especially following his trial at Motherwell, and, even if he were available, I wouldn’t replace Smith or MacDonald with Hughes, so the defence looks like:

Gilmartin, Westlake, Smith, MacDonald, Vincent.

The only thing that might be different would be if Westlake hasn’t recovered from a minor knock, in which case Weston will play.

In midfield, Mattis is still injured, so it picks itself:

Jones, Taundry, Richards, Gray.

Byfield may be fit again, but Deeney and Nicholls are likely to start.

As for Carlisle, they will be missing centre back Danny Livesey and also have a problem with goal scoring full back Ian Harte.
Of Livesey, physio Neil Dalton said: “He is definitely out of this weekend’s game. Beyond that we have to wait for the scan results. I would imagine it will probably show it is a tendon problem but there are so many tendons around that area it is best to scan it to see which one is involved. I don’t think it is a long-term, significant thing but we will know more when the results come back.”
David Raven will be Livesey’s likely replacement on Saturday.
Manager Abbott said he expected Harte to shake off a groin problem to appear against the Saddlers, while midfielder Tom Taiwo was also set to return to training yesterday after suffering an ankle knock at Southampton.
Striker Jason Price, on loan from Millwall, stepped off the substitutes’ bench last week after missing the previous two games with a hamstring strain and is pushing for a return to the starting line-up. Kevan Hurst (knee), Joe Anyinsah (double hernia), Matt Robson and Andy Cook (both foot) and Peter Murphy (knee) all remain sidelined.

Predictions?

The Saddlers have had a reverse of fortune from earlier in the season, when our away record was better than our home record. While going on this unbeaten run at home, we haven’t managed an away win since Leeds in February! That is a little deceptive, however, as there are two excellent away performances in there which resulted in only one point – the draw at Swindon and the heroic defeat at Huddersfield.

Carlisle, however, haven’t won at home since the 2nd April, and, while a home defeat to Leeds may be excusable, the other, to Oldham, certainly wasn’t. With any luck, they’ll be in their deckchairs and we’ll get three points.

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Walsall vs Hartlepool United Preview

Neil @ 12:56 pm Friday 23 April 2010

End of the season games can be more than a little strange. Granted, our old friends from Hartlepool are still not mathematically safe, especially as they could get a three point deduction for fielding an inellegible player, so they will be desperate for the three points that will ensure their survival in this Division, but the Saddlers, of course, have nothing to play for in theory. That usually leads to a flat atmosphere and a doze in the sun.

This season, however, there may be a little more to pep things up than usual. One is the protests in the crowd. This is hardly the place to bring up the rights and wrongs of the arguments going on, but, it has to be said, the chanting of the last couple of games has also had the by product of producing some more vocal backing of the team, so that may well have a positive effect, as the atmosphere at the Banks’s has been dreadful most of this season.

The other factor is, of course, the fact that so many of the team are playing for their livelihoods. A good few of this squad are out of contract in the Summer and will be desperate for a chance to impress someone, even if Chris Hutchings doesn’t fancy them, and a few of the younger players will also be worried about their futures, having been tested out this season (Sansara and O’Keefe, for example). All that may well mean a better performance than you might at first think.

Hutchings does have some problems, however. Darren Byfield and Dwayne Mattis are both set to miss game. The Manager confirmed the two were sidelined for last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Swindon with knee and Achilles injuries, which are likely to rule them out of the weekend game.

He said: “Byfield has bruising on his knee and we’re waiting on him and Dwayne’s lower calf is still sore, so we’ll probably be without him. We are waiting on Darren but we’re not too hopeful. It’s day by day and how it reacts.”

Mark Bradley picked up a knee injury in the reserves’ 4-0 win over Shrewsbury on Tuesday but has been passed fit.

As for the opposition, Chris Turner must decide whether to stick with the same side that defeated high flying Colchester United 3-1.

Denis Behan played almost forty minutes for the Reserves on Wednesday after overcoming an ankle injury which has kept him sidelined for the best part of two months, but Turner will not rush the front man back in to First Team action and the best he can hope for will be a place on the bench at the Banks’s

Dangerman?

Their recent run of good form has coincided with the arrival of loanee striker Roy O’Donovan from Sunderland. Watch out for him.

Predictions?

Like I said in the opening, this will all depend on what the Saddlers’ players attitude is likely to be and will be another test of the spirit that Chris Hutchings has engendered in the side (my problem with him has always been his tactics). Hartlepool’s away record is, frankly, dismal, being won 4, drawn 4, lost 13. They have, however, been doing better of late and a draw looks likely if we aren’t on the top of our form.

Club Meet With Supporters Trust

Neil @ 12:49 pm Thursday 22 April 2010

In recognition that there is unrest amongst the fanbase, the club have taken the step of introducing regular meetings with the Supporters’ Trust. The club have released their own statement regarding this on the official website, but the Trust release is here:

“We have been concerned by the events of the last two weeks and both the Club and the Supporters’ Trust are keen to do what they can in order to try to build relationships and to improve communications in future.

To that end, following a meeting with representatives of the Trust, the Club has agreed to regular meetings with Supporters’ bodies, something which we both hope can help improve the match day experience for everyone.

The club will be releasing its own press statement to that effect.

We would now ask fans to get behind the team at the last two home games and also to participate with the following:

May 8th. 2010 Walsall v MK Dons

“Back to the Saddlers” Day

The aim: To demonstrate that the fans still care and that a fantastic atmosphere can still be created at the ground.

The Idea: Everyone is encouraged to try and persuade a ‘stayaway’ fan to attend on the day (Season Ticket holders who’ve still got a ‘Friend for a Fiver’ voucher can use it before it disappears).

To add to the occasion, and to link in with the going back idea, everyone should wear an old replica shirt, – the older and rarer, the better.

Let’s create an atmosphere at the Banks’s Stadium, again”.

Swindon Town vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 12:57 pm Friday 16 April 2010

It’s good to talk about football for a change!

After the heroic, but, in the end, fruitless exertions in the week at Huddersfield and the off the pitch distractions of the Tranmere game, we’re off to visit one of the promotion chasers tomorrow, in the shape of Swindon Town.

For the Saddlers, Captain Mark Hughes will be starting his second suspension in the space of just over three weeks. The good news, I suppose, is that he will only get a two match ban, rather than the four I was expecting, but I think the likely pairing of Smith and MacDonald is, potentially at least, our best option anyway.

Otherwise, Chris Hutchings should have a fully-fit squad to select from.

Darren Byfield came off at half-time at the Galpharm Stadium with a knee complaint but is expected to be OK. Dwayne Mattis also had a re-occurrence of his troublesome Achilles problem and was forced off in the 81st minute, but is expected to return to training today. Rhys Weston, meanwhile, returns to the squad after a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury and will compete with Darryl Westlake for a starting place.

Expect, then, the usual line up of:

Gilmartin, Westlake or Weston, MacDonald, Smith, Vincent, Jones, Taundry, Mattis, Gray, Deeney, Byfield.

Swindon also will boast an almost fully-fit squad as they look to close the gap between themselves and second-placed Leeds.

Town slipped to fifth in midweek having drawn 1-1 at home to Exeter, meaning Leeds now hold a three-point advantage in the race for automatic promotion with four games remaining.

Danny Wilson has kept the same starting XI for the past three games and will do so again versus the Saddlers, although he does have options on the bench in the shape of the dangerous Vincent Pericard, Craig Easton, Michael Timlin and the large unit that is Frank Nouble to freshen things up. The match is the last of Nouble`s current loan agreement from West Ham although his stay could well be extended. This, remember, is a player the Albion considered good enough to take on loan earlier this season.

The returning Callum Kennedy (pelvis) got more minutes under his belt for Town`s reserves on Wednesday, but Kurt Hammonds (knee) and Alan O`Brien (hamstring) remain on the sidelines.

The game should be an occasion for Jamie Vincent, who played 89 League and Cup games for Swindon and he, along with the rest of the defence, are likely to have their hands full dealing with the dangerous Paynter (22 League goals) and Austin (18 League goals).

Predictions?

Swindon are safe in the play off positions (9 points clear with 4 games to go), but will be eager to get the three points, both to ensure that position as soon as possible, but also to give themselves a chance at the automatic spot. They trail Leeds by only three points and will want to be able to pounce should the Yorkshiremen slip up again.

Their home record is won 12, drawn 7 and lost 2, so we would normally be doing well to get anything from this one. However, they have faltered in their last two games – a 3-0 defeat at Colchester and a home draw with Exeter. Is the pressure telling?

Supporters’ Trust Statement

Neil @ 7:06 am Friday 16 April 2010

The Supporters’ Trust has issued the following statement with regard to the current troubles:-

The Trust exists to represent all Walsall fans, whether regular attenders or non attenders, and whether they are part of the current protests or not.

In the light of recent, fast moving events, the Trust is keen actively to build bridges with the club.

It is clear that the football club is in danger of stagnating, as gates decline and available resources are reduced.

If nothing else, the protests of the last week have proven that there is still a passion and energy for Walsall Football Club. This is something which should be harnessed for the good of the club and we urge all parties to grasp this opportunity now.

Walsall Football Supporters’ Trust is willing to play its part in repairing and developing the relationship between the club and supporters. We would, therefore, welcome an approach from the club and the protesting fans, in order to act as an intermediary and so facilitate meaningful dialogue.

Hudderfield Match: Passion, Commitment

Exile @ 9:25 pm Wednesday 14 April 2010

Losing 4-3 would ordinarily seem to be a downer, especially when you lead 3-2 away from home with only a minute or two left on the clock. Not this time, according to the fans who were there.

From the messageboard, Belgian Saddler sums up:

Gutted with the result in the end. Thought sending off was a bit harsh, although Hughes got skinned for pace and once their bloke was in the area and Hughes was wrong side the pen and sending off was always likely. After that they absolutely murdered us for the rest of the first half and could have gone on to get a cricket score. 2nd half what a transformation. Every single one of those 10 men played out of their skin. We were pouring forward and once Deeney got the first we were all over them for a while and deserved the next two goals. At that point there was only going to be one winner. Even the Walsall old bill were jumping when the third went in . When the third went in I was on the phone and after seeing the goal go in the phone flew about 15 rows infront of me, luckily after retrieving it it’s still working

We tired towards the end and they suddenly started playing again. Where the ref got 5 extra minutes from is beyond me. Ref gave us nowt all night. Gutted when they equalised and even more gutted when they got the winner. Very amusing that several hundred of their fans stormed out when we went 3-2 up and missed the finale

Certainly can’t grumble about the 2nd half performance. At half time it looked as though it was a matter of how many they were going to score. How wrong we were. We deserved something from the game and 2nd half was one of the most gutsy performances I have seen from us for quite a while. All of the Huddersfield fans I spoke to after the game want to sign Deeney. A good night, exciting game (2nd half anyway), a nice ground, lots of banter and a good laugh. Still gutted. Anyone being critical of us for losing the lead should of been there and they would not of been so critical.

When travelling fans stay behind to applaud the team, and universally praise them despite a loss, you know the team has done something right. Well done the lads and the management, for providing the few things that Walsall fans expect from their team, win or lose – commitment, passion, excitement. Most Saddler fans would be content to finish near the bottom of League One, if that’s our “natural level”, as long as the players we have on the pitch look like they’re part of a Walsall team and bust a gut every time they play.

It’s games like this one that make fans feel part of the club, it’s why supporters travel miles for their team, and it makes supporting Walsall worthwhile. If only we could do this more often!

UTS joins the Football Supporters Federation

roger6 @ 3:08 pm Tuesday 13 April 2010

UptheSaddlers has today become affiliated to the Football Supporters Federation which, amongst other things, offers help and support to any fan who has had unfair treatment dished out to them by their club. Several Walsall fans have been in contact with both this site and the FSF over recent days in the light of statements and actions by Walsall FC chief executive Roy Whalley, acting on behalf of chairman Jeff Bonser.

The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) is the national supporters’ organisation for all football fans comprising over 142,000 individual fans and members of local supporters’ organisations from every club in the professional structure and many from the pyramid.

The Federation regularly takes up specific complaints and cases which are raised with it by individual members or affiliated organisations and the participation of all supporters in this process is encouraged.

Any fan needing legal advice or other help should consult the FSF’s fan in trouble section at:
http://www.fsf.org.uk/fan-in-trouble.php

Membership of the Football Supporters Federation, supported by the FA, The Premier League, and the Professional Footballers Association, is free – visit the following page for details:
http://www.fsf.org.uk/join.php

Walsall 2 Tranmere 1

roger6 @ 11:48 pm Saturday 10 April 2010

Victory today at Bescot and full credit to the manager and the lads as the three points look to have secured another season in League One.

Football - Walsall v Tranmere Rovers Coca

Events off the pitch though have dominated this week as the club have sought to clamp down on any sort of protest or expressions of views that are odds with the owners of Walsall FC.

For those unaware, long-standing UpTheSaddlers contributor Neil Ravenscroft has been banned from the Bescot and today Bangor Cymru Saddler’s reward for a 4-hour train journey to see the Saddlers was to be informed he wasn’t permitted to walk through the turnstiles.

Such actions, sanctioned and commissioned by Jeff Bonser, and carried out on the orders of minion Roy Whalley, shame football, and are another fruitless attempt by people totally at odds with 21st century communications who seek to silence any legitimate voice of protest.

Give your view on the game via the message board – but be warned – Roy Whalley chief executive of Walsall FC will be reading your comments – and if they are at odds with his paymaster Jeff Bonser – you may well find yourself the recipient of a letter banning you from Bescot for simply daring to express your own opinion. Because in 2010 Roy Whalley believes – even if 10,000 wear green and gold at Old Trafford, he has the power to silence any critics of the Bescot regime via CCTV and a stiffly worded letter typed on his word processor.

POSTSCRIPT: If you haven’t read it, Mark Jones over at the Express and Star has answered Whalley in the most comprehensive way you could imagine. Read it here

Walsall vs Tranmere Rovers preview

Neil @ 3:29 pm Friday 09 April 2010

Well, unfortuately, there won’t be one this week, just as there won’t be a match report, because Roy Whalley has taken it upon himself to ban me from the ground.

This is, apparantly, because I have been on UTS “inciting spectator unrest” – this is despite the fact I’m not part of the protest and the Trust’s attitude that, although we can understand the frustrations of Supporters, we feel that we should be acting as a medium of communication between supporters and the club.

Still, never mind, eh?

The Customer Is Not Always Right

Exile @ 8:30 pm Thursday 08 April 2010

The title of this piece is a rehash of an old maxim. I’ve always thought it wrong – Successful businesses know that the customer is NOT always right, contrary to popular belief.

Take Walsall FC for example. With over 3000 regular, repeat customers, just over half whom have already signed up to be repeat customers for another 12 months, there’ll be 3,000 opinions. The customer can’t always be right. Bonser in or out? Bonser saved the club or killed the club? Each fan has a different take on this, so they’re not right.

So, if you know your customer is not always right, what’s to be done?

You don’t alienate your most passionate, loyal and long-suffering regulars by suddenly announcing in the local press that if they complain they’ll be ejected from the premises. It’s a natural reaction to try to marginalise any dissenting opinion but crushing protest with threats of banning is not a way forward if you want to succeed.

A business should be asking itself how this protest came about, why it evolved into what it did, what might be done to make it go away and whether it might be constructively good for business if harnessed effectively. Yes, many of the customers might not be protesting vocally, but there’s many whose silent protest bears witness every match in the form of empty seats.

Customers that speak up and show discontent, while still turning up to consume the product, thereby providing revenue, are surely more valuable than those who have already walked away? Silencing them is forcing them down the same path. Result: Less customers. Less revenue.

The customer is not always right, but the customer should always, ALWAYS, be listened to.

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