Last week saw some of the best football I have seen from a Walsall team in many a long year. It wasn’t just the victory against Preston, but the manner of it that was so pleasing, with a team seemingly committed to a passing game and keeping the ball on the ground. That great team performance, coupled with a lot of individual flair, is what will bring the crowds flocking back to the Banks’s. Of course, we now need to carry it on.
Tomorrow, therefore, sees an away trip to another of the teams making major changes in the close season in our Division, Bournemouth. In their case, however, it isn’t working so well, with no wins at home, having drawn all for there so far.
As you know, I do like to do a little research on the opponent’s home town, but there isn’t much to go on with Bournemouth. It was once voted the happiest town in Britain, which suggests that not many of them are football fans considering the club’s troubles over recent years! As for famous sons and daughters, there is boxer Freddie Mills and “Jerusalem” composer Hubert Parry, but most of the rest were born elsewhere and moved there later, such as the late, great Tony Hancock (a Brummie), J R R Tolkien (born in South Africa and an adopted Brummie), Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson and actor Stewart Grainger.
Dean Smith’s major decision will be whether to go with a 4 4 2, which proved so successful last week, or the 4 5 1 that he has used away until now. If the latter, Hemmings is likely to replace Grigg as the only change. He does have a fully fit squad to choose from, other than the Chambers twins, following Brandy’s early return to the squad for the PNE game.
As for the Cherries, Lorenzo Davids and Frank Demouge should return to action to ease their injury problems. Already under pressure Manager Paul Groves is contending with a plethora of injuries, but midfielder Davids, cousin of Champions League winner Edgar, has recovered from an ankle injury while striker Demouge is back after his knee ailment.
After losing goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan for six months to a shoulder tear, Groves has scoured the market for an experienced stopper to complement Shwan Jalal and youngster Benjamin Buchel. The answer could be former England keeper David James, who was training with the club on Thursday morning. Must have more money than sense!
Defender Simon Francis is definitely out after injuring his knee, but the club revealed he will not need surgery, as first feared, which means he is likely to be out for six weeks. Francis joins a list of absentees which includes Charlie Sheringham (foot), Stephen Purches (broken leg), Lee Barnard (knee) and Richard Hughes (foot).
Keep the football flowing and I think we have enough to come away from the South coast with a draw as a minimum.