Archive for November, 2010

Torquay 1-0 Walsall: More bad luck

Exile @ 7:54 pm Sunday 28 November 2010

There’s a saying, often attributed to Samuel Goldwyn: “The harder you work, the luckier you get”. If that’s the case Chris Hutchings must be one of life’s biggest layabouts, a workshy bludger, as his Walsall teams are inevitably unlucky. The latest side to give Walsall the bum’s rush were Torquay, dumping us out of the FA Cup unceremoniously as Walsall slipped to yet another defeat.


Out of the cup at Torquay - what next?
  • Sack Hutchings now for goodness sake (54%, 261 Votes)
  • I don't care, I've given up (40%, 195 Votes)
  • Let's concentrate on the league! (6%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 484

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Torbay Saddler was at the game and had this to say:
“I only had to travel 3 miles and spend £12 to watch that load of tripe. My heart went out to the 200 or so brave souls who travelled down here and had to suffer that.
Nothing changes then.

Someone asked how Grigg played, to me he seemed the only one with any idea what to do with the football, felt sorry for the lad he got no service and eventually faded out of the game like the rest of them.

As for Dickensen, I’ve seen some No.9′s playing for Walsall over the years…. eg Tony Richards, George Kirby , but I wouldn’t pick Dickensen to play for Walsall Phoenix.
Torquay weren’t much better than us but without Jimmy Walker, I’m afraid it would have been 4 or 5….. and it definitely wasn’t a penalty. I think the referee was bored and thought the game might liven up if someone scored.

No passion, no idea and no motivation….. but wait a minute isn’t that the responsability of the manager.

Exeter and Plymouth next year ….. do I really need to waste time and money ( I may become a stayaway)”

That’s that for cup interest this season, so we can now concentrate on the league, and boy does that need concentrating on. Relegation in front of ever-dwindling crowds would appear to be a certainty, as long as Chris “Jonah” Hutchings remains manager.

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Torquay United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 2:27 pm Friday 26 November 2010

Anybody remember what the third round of a cup competition looks like?

Of course, this is the point where fans normally get excited by the prospect of a second round win and a third round tie with one of the “big boys”, bringing in some welcome resources for the Manager. This year, though, I have some very mixed feelings about that. Let’s face it, despite all of the moans about resources and the playing budget, Hutchings has been backed by the club this season. You don’t bring in Premiership loan players, such as McGivern, Reid, Davis and Davies on peanuts and Devaney and Dickinson’s wages, as Championship players can’t come cheap. He’s even added to the squad with Macken and Butler as well. No, Hutchings has been given resources this season, it’s just that he’s managed to completely waste them so far. Blame where blame is due, please.

That brings us to what sort of team he can put together this week.

At the moment, we are waiting for news about the fitness of Macken and Reid, both of whom limped off during the defeat at Hillsborough in the week. With skipper Darren Byfield also still sidelined, that means a paucity of striking resources for the trip to the seaside. We do, hopefully have Devaney back from injury, however, so, if he’s fit and Macken and Reid don’t make it,, the most likely line up in midfield is Devaney, Taundry, Marshall and Richards with Nicholls, Jones, Dickinson and the youngsters fighting it out for the strikers’ positions.

As for the opposition, Torquay boss Paul Buckle has no fresh injury worries for the tie. Top scorer Elliot Benyon is suspended however, after collecting his fifth booking of the season following his goal against Wycombe, in an impressive 1 – 3 away win in the week.

The Opposition.

Torquay have struggled for consistency at home this season, having won only once in the last six attempts on their own patch. They are, however, sixth in the 2nd Division, co-incidentally, the position Fleetwood were in the Conference when we played them in the last round. It is their away record that has got them there, however, as they have only lost one game away, winning four and drawing five. Their home record is very modest for a team in their position, being Won 3, Drawn 2, Lost 3.

Predictions?

It won’t be 4 – 8.

Poll: Can we avoid relegation?

Exile @ 10:30 pm Thursday 25 November 2010

Just a short piece to mark time before the weekend FA Cup action. Tuesday’s loss has left us rooted to the bottom of the league. What do you think of the squad though?

Is the team itself good enough to avoid relegation? Do you believe that with the right management we could avoid relegation, or is it virtually guaranteed that we’ll be in League Two next season?


With the current squad, can we avoid relegation?
  • Yes, but only if we change the manager (57%, 196 Votes)
  • No, whatever we do, we're doomed (30%, 103 Votes)
  • Yes, I'm positive (13%, 42 Votes)

Total Voters: 341

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Sheffield Wednesday vs Walsall Reaction

Neil @ 10:41 am Wednesday 24 November 2010

As expected, the Saddlers’ mini revival came to an abrupt end at Hillsborough last night, although the performance was, at least, much better than some this season. As has been said, the main difference was that, in attack, with their ability to make and take chances, they were probably at least a Disvision better than us (Tudgay and Morrison on the bench!!!!!!!).

Begiansaddler speaks for most who were there:

“As others have said we actually played pretty well for about 70 minutes. There first goal was really soft, Wacka should have had it comfortably. We got back into it and played some neat stuff but despite having a few chances we created far too little danger for the amount of possession we had. Defence played ok and couldn’t really be blamed for the first 2 goals (except Wacka for the first). Neat passing moves with no end product, apart from either eventually giving the ball away or hoofing it upfield.

Their second goal was totally against the run of play and that was curtains, the third followed not long after. Nicholls was absolutely useless tonight, had loads of the ball in decent positions but managed to do absolutely nothing useful with it every time. If we had had an inform Jones or Devaney on the pitch it might have been different. Dickinson has got the close control of a JCB. There were a couple of Barnsley fans in our end and they said they would pay us to have Dickinson off them! Says it all really. Grigg looked lively when he came on and could have got a goal with a decent long range shot. Not sure if it was me but every fifty fifty ball or loose ball seemed to end up with them having possession.

One of our better performance this season in patches and the scoreline certainly flattered Wendy, but they took their chances. Even though we were unlucky in a way tonight, how many times can you blame bad luck?

We need a change of direction and leadership or we’re doomed. Losing has become a habit. Hutchings out”.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 1:24 pm Tuesday 23 November 2010

A good win on Saturday – and, despite any criticism, it was deserved, against a team on the fringe of the play off spots, ought to be the catalyst for an improvement in fortunes. Just the Saddlers’ luck, then, that their next game is away to a team that ought to be one of the favourites from promotion on their gates (pity they manage to just waste money and fail to play their bills, then), in the shape of Sheffield Wednesday.

Of course, what happens on the pitch to Wednesday might not matter at all, in view of their current self inflicted financial woes, and a ten point deduction is still a distinct possibility. If you are really interested in the somewhat weird machinations at Hillsborough (or want an antidote to the feeling that we are suffering at the hands of our Chariman), read on here:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/mattslater/2010/11/wednesdays_woes_on_hold_for_no.html.

That, of course, brings us on to the matter of team selection.

The “book” says don’t change a winning side, but Hutchings will have McGivern back after suspension. The most likely move will be for him to drop Westlake, put Lescott across at right back and bring back McGivern. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing. Lescott may be having a poor season, but he did alright on Saturday and, personally, I think McGivern has yet to show that he’s much, if any, better.

Meanwhile, Devaney and Clayton McDonald will both face late fitness tests on their hamstring injuries having failed to make their return against Carlisle. Jon Macken made his comeback from a calf problem at the weekend and has suffered no ill-effects

If it were me, I’d just bring Devaney back for Nicholls, if he’s fit, with no other changes.

As for Wednesday, goalkeeper Nicky Weaver is hoping to return. Weaver missed his first league game of the season due to a knee injury in the (4 – 1) win at MK Dons on Saturday when Arron Jameson made his first-team debut.

Weaver could be made to wait for his return as Jameson, 21, turned in a fine display and may be rewarded with an extended run by manager Alan Irvine.

Midfielder Giles Coke is also back in contention after sitting out a one-game ban, but defender Jon Otsemobor is still struggling with a calf injury.

Irvine has no other new injury or suspension problems and is not expected to make any other changes after the Owls secured a fourth straight win in all competitions at the weekend.

Dangermen?

Goes without saying that the front pairing of Neil Mellor and Clinton Morrison is, in theory, too good for this Division.

Predictions?

I don’t even feel like trying with this one. It ought to be a lost cause for the Saddlers, but anyone care to remember our last trip to Elland Road?

Walsall vs Carlisle United – Reaction

Neil @ 10:35 am Sunday 21 November 2010

Well, the main reaction, having missed the last four Saturdays on holidays, was where the hell did that come from?

Don’t get me wrong, this was far from being a performance worthy of the top half of the Division, but we were competent in all departments (even Lescott had a reasonable game – albeit due to Carlisle not exploliting the weakness and I don’t know what all the moaning about Dickinson has been, as he did a good job when he came on).

The high spots, for me, were the refusal of the team’s heads to go down when they went behind, against the run of play it has to be said, the organisation of the defence by Walker and the impressive Butler (a man who cannot be anything like match fit – and Lancashire really benefitted from playing alongside him), two wonderful goals from Richards (the second beautifully worked), another progression in the education of Westlake and the selfless running of the two men up front (despite Macken getting a right battering from their centre backs – the ref’s only real mistake was not booking both for persistent misconduct).

No, the change of Richards to the left in place of the ever disappointing Gray has given the midfield a far better balance and it showed. We won this game because we deserved to. We were the better side for much of it and the never realy broke us down despite all of the late pressure (although I was glad they left moving Grella inside so late).

The question for Hutchings now is can he build on this with more difficult fixtures to come? Will he have the strength of mind to keep this line up, which seems to be his best, other than Devaney for Nicholls, when everyine is fit? The next few weeks should be interesting.

Walsall vs Carlisle preview: Play well and lose?

Exile @ 1:56 am Saturday 20 November 2010

With regular Neil being missing more than Byfield, it’s another Metfanwy preview this weekend. Thanks, Bangor!

Tuesday nights performance against non-league outfit Fleetwood Town left a lot to be desired, with many Walsall supporters still unhappy with the way the team is playing. An unconvincing 2-0 win was played out in front of a small crowd, with two moments of class from Reuben Reid the difference.

So we head into tomorrow’s Coca Cola League One game against a confident Carlisle United side, who are currently on a 5 game unbeaten run in all competitions. Last weekend saw the Cumbrians run out 3-2 winners over early season promotion favourites Southampton: no mean feat.

Carlisle come into the game with a close to full strength outfit. Highly rated striker Gary Madine went off in the victory over Southampton with a slight knock, but makes the squad for Saturday’s game. The only real selection issue for Carlisle will be whether James Chester will continue in the left back role.

The impressive part about Carlisle’s recent form is that the extremely experienced midfield duo of Graham Kavanagh (our old friend) and Paul Thriwell have been missing due to injury. Quality left-back Sean McDaid (former Doncaster Rovers) is out, as well as striker Richard Offiong. Players to look out for include deadly striker Francois Zoko and creative midfielder Matty Robson, who will cause problems.

What about us? Darren Byfield has been set back in his comeback from injury, and will be out for a further month. Clayton MacDonald, Jon Macken and Martin Devaney have been struggling with injuries, and may make the game. One player absent from the midweek win over Fleetwood was Ryan McGivern due to first team duty for North Ireland and he will still be unavailable due to suspension. William Grigg also returns from International duty, but he never plays. Andy Butler should make his Bescot bow, after missing the FA cup tie due to his ineligibility.

Carlisle should therefore line up: Collin, Simek, Murphy, Michalik, Chester, Taiwo, Berrett, Marshall, Zoko, Madine, Grella. It’s a bit trickier to predict how we might play, it is very much dependent who is available after injury. The return of Martin Devaney may push us back into a 442 formation, after the midweek 433.

Hutching’s bemusing quote of the week comes from the E and S. According to Oliver Lancashire: ‘The manager has been saying that we had been playing well and losing’. We haven’t been playing well..and we have been losing. Also, Oliver may have been tired after training for he also came out with this intriguing quote: ‘Carlisle are a similar team to us, with a similar budget I expect, and it’s good to see a team like that doing well. Similar budget? Really?

The money spent on Kevan Hurst and the signing of very good league one players such as Sean McDaid, Paul Thirlwell, Graham Kavanagh and Franky Simek show the Carlisle board have invested in their side with good results. Carlisle are currently 2 points from the automatic promotion places and the their owners should be congratulated. Let’s hope our owner and board of directors can show similar investment and deliver decent football to a public that has been humiliated by performances this season.

Prediction? We have the lowest scoring record in the division – just 15 goals – against the 3rd best defence in the league. The stats suggest we should lose again, but I am going for a draw. My reasons? It surely can’t get any worse.

Calling all UTS footballers!

Exile @ 3:00 am Friday 19 November 2010

UTS has been asked if we can raise a team to play a friendly match in London on Sunday 12 December (kick-off time TBA).

The proposed game is against the Wanderers Football Club – a revival of the 19th century public school team that famously won the FA Cup five times back in eighteen hundred and something. Obviously it’s not the original players, but the team has been revived as a charity club supporting UNICEF.

If we can get 11 players for a team (preferably a couple more!) then it’s game on, but time is of the essence! Register your interest on the messageboard where there’s a thread here!

You could make a weekend in the capital, watching us choke (against) Charlton one day, having an evening out on the town, then playing a friendly on the Sunday before coming back to reality. If you don’t fancy watching Walsall, then you could come down for the day by train, or maybe organise a minibus posse.

As an extra carrot, there’s probably going to be a TV crew there doing a piece on the club. Wanderers are internationally famous and the Japanese have picked up on this – they do enjoy their idiosyncracies – so you can show your footballing skills off to an international audience*. Find out more about The Original Wanderers by visiting their official website, linked here.

All ways round, it’s not something UTS does often, so there’s no obligation for any long term commitment, just an opportunity to be part of a big day out and maybe a slice of history. Over to you.

*TV crew may not be there

The Saddlers – A Warning From History

bangsection @ 11:28 am Wednesday 17 November 2010

A poor team languishing at the foot of the table after a dreadful start; twenty-two players used by the start of November; an apparently unsackable manager…yes, Walsall FC were in a pretty poor state by the Winter of 1953. I came across this interesting parallel with our current situation while trying to discover whether 2010/11 has been the worst start to a season in the third tier in Walsall’s history.

The good news is that it isn’t (yet). The bad news is that you have to go back to the year of the Coronation and the death of Stalin to find something comparable. Of course, back then there were only three tiers (we were in Division Three (South) at the time) but the 1950s were a grim time to be a Saddler. Until Bill Moore took over in 1958 the club could finish no higher than 15th and were forced to apply for re-election no fewer than four times. In 1953 Walsall appointed the legendary Major Frank Buckley as manager. Buckley’s reputation was made at Wolves between the wars, where success was built on physicality and the kind of military discipline one would expect of a veteran of both the Boer War and the trenches of the Somme. But by the time he arrived at Fellows Park he was already 70 and his Walsall side lost 13 of their first 20 games – a record that exactly matches the class of 2010.

So, was the gallant Major thanked for his efforts and gently shuffled out of the door? He was not. He wasn’t sacked after Walsall failed to win any of their first nine games, nor after they went on to win just nine games in the league all season. In fact, he was backed by the board to the extent that by the end of the campaign Buckley had used a staggering 41 players (including four different goalkeepers) in an era before substitutes! Walsall finished rock bottom for the third year in a row. Yet, remarkably, Buckley was employed for a further season. Presumably, the board felt that the only way was up – and, to be fair, they were right. The next season Walsall finished bottom-but-one. With a reputation as a fearsome individual (many of the Saddlers’ younger professionals were said to be genuinely terrified of him) there’s a chance that the board were simply too scared to sack Buckley. But surely the fans voiced their displeasure at the club’s form? There is no record of dissent on the terraces and, furthermore, attendance figures for this period are rather remarkable. At the start of Buckley’s second season (and bearing in mind that we had just finished bottom of the league for the third season in a row) Walsall attracted a crowd of 15,484 against Gillingham. Gillingham! Even more impressive is the fact that 17,508 turned up for our last home game of the season – a 4-1 hammering by Leyton Orient.

There are many sociological factors that may help explain this extraordinary loyalty. This was the height of the post-war boom, with full employment and relative economic prosperity. Tickets were cheap and leisure pursuits for working class men were still restricted largely to the pub and the match. Furthermore, one imagines that there was little impetus for the directors to change things with crowds averaging well above 10,000. Besides, if the club finished bottom they could simply apply for re-election, safe in the knowledge that they would almost certainly be successful. And even if the supporters had protested about the dire performances on the pitch it’s doubtful whether those in charge would have taken any notice of the hoi polloi.

Which leads us neatly on to the state of Walsall Football Club today. The similarities on the pitch are obvious, but perhaps the most disturbing parallel is the patrician attitude of our current owner and landlord. To remain utterly silent as the club makes its worst start to a season for 55 years is, frankly, inexcusable. It’s a sorry state of affairs when you start to pine for the days when Jeff Bonser or Roy Whalley would make their regular forays into the local media to berate Walsall fans, but at least it showed they cared. With rumours circulating that Mr Bonser no longer even attends matches, the club’s supporters deserve to know whether he has become the most worrying “stayaway” of all and, perhaps more pertinently, why.

And what of the manager? Losing 4-1 at home to the only team below you in the league would have been enough to see 99% of managers lose their jobs – yet Chris Hutchings lurches from one game to the next with Walsall FC utterly silent on whether he has their backing or not. What has become clear is that he does not have the backing of the vast majority of fans. So why is he still Walsall manager? There is a school of thought that this faith in Hutchings is a tacit admission that his budget was not large enough at the start of the season – hence the raft of recent loan signings. If this is the case then someone senior at the club needs to come out and say this. Otherwise it looks like the manager is simply being allowed to throw good money after bad (hello Liam Dickinson). However, what this fails to take into account is what most supporters have been able to see all season – that we are poorly organised and motivated, and consistently out-thought by opposing teams. There is only one place this particular buck stops and to ignore this underestimates the role of the manager in Walsall’s own history, where previously poor groups of players have gone on to much greater things under men like Bill Moore, Ray Graydon and Richard Money.

Let’s be honest, if things stay as they are the situation is much more likely to get worse before it gets better. Fans are no longer willing to go to matches simply because there is nothing else to do on a Saturday. Neither is football as cheap as it once was – especially in a recession. But perhaps even more seriously, there is no glass ceiling beneath Division Three anymore, as there was in 1953. Neither is there one between League Two and the Blue Sq Premier. Walsall fans have no divine right to support a club in League One (our attendances suggest quite the opposite), but we do have a right to something other than the current wall of silence from the club and a stubborn inability to accept that changes need to be made.

Walsall 2-0 Fleetwood: False dawn

Exile @ 4:10 am Wednesday 17 November 2010

Poll first:


Walsall FC is...
  • lucky to be in the scond round of the FA Cup (93%, 190 Votes)
  • worthy of a second round place in the FA Cup (7%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 205

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If any Saddlers fan is under the illusion that this result means that the Saddlers are finally turning the corner after an abysmal run of poor performances with nothing to show for it, the following reports from people at the match might bring home the reality of our situation. These UTS regulars commented [square bracket comments are those of the editor]:

Griff:

Fleetwood could have been winning 7 – 0 at half time. JW [Jimmy Walker] aside the rest of the side were pathetic and that’s being generous.

kiansmom:

absolute dross! apart from JW

SaigonSaddler:

Fleetwood, falling foul of an inspirational keeper and guilty of missing clear chances, must fight back the bitter tears of FA cup injustice on their long, long, painful journey back

longdogs:

Horrible. Really horrible. Walker kept us in it, and Reid took his goals well.

deanonev69:

Absolute garbage: lucky/fortunate to still be in the cup. Walker/poor Fleetwood finishing is the reason we are off to Torquay. If that pillock [assumed Hutchings] talks of us being better side or having turned the corner, he is even more deluded that we already thought.

saddlerJP:

Rubbish

WFC_Rob:

I could talk all night about what I think is wrong

Lone Striker:

Very lucky still to be in the cup, the reason we are is solely down to Jimmy Walker who made at least 4 crucial saves in the first half when again we were outplayed and out passed by a team from the conference.

brummie saddler:

a crud tuesday night with dismal football

The above opinions are from a broad cross-section of Walsall fans who regularly report back. No user of this website could be found who’d gone on record to suggest that this was a good win. It was not.

If Chris Hutchings believes that this might be a turning point, or if Jeff Bonser reads that a 2-0 win has seen us land a second round tie and believes all is well, they need to read the above comments. The 2-0 scoreline flattered Walsall, and any attempt to spin this positively is simply papering over the cracks at the club.

At The Banks’s, against a team from two divisions below us, with a sub-2000 home crowd, we scraped home after being given a major scare and a lesson in football. Luckily Walker was in goal. In case you’d forgotten, he’s our luxury third keeper after Hutchings decided the two he signed in the Summer weren’t up to it. Luckily Reid scored two goals. In case you’d forgotten, he’s a (yet another) loan striker after Hutchings decided we needed six because the ones he signed weren’t up to it.

This win is important – and UTS heartily congratulates all the players who made it happen – but if it means Chris Hutchings keeps his job for more than the next 5 days it is futile. Saturday brings the visit of Carlisle, the first team in a run of five games against clubs who are in the top half of this division (Sheffield Wednesday if they still exist, Oldham, Charlton and Southampton follow).

If we were lucky against Fleetwood, we’ll need a miracle to occur to get points from any of these games. The reason for this is obvious to all except those making the decisions. The solution is obvious to all except those who refuse to make the decision.

Please, Walsall FC, we love the club, and we believe in the squad, but we don’t believe in the manager. Sack Chris Hutchings now. It may already be too late, but there is absolutely no reason to keep on the payroll a manager who patently cannot manage. Look at the results, look at the performances, look at the lack of development, look at the crowds, look at the press. How can you ignore all this?

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