Ye Mariners of England
Well, here we go again - the start of another Football League season, which has the uncertainties surrounding the CO-VID 19 presence to add to all the usual roller-coaster of emotions we all feel at this time of year. Ever optimistic, looking to the prospect of automatic promotion (or to the play-offs at the very least) but with that niggling little doubt that we are seldom a million miles away from the relegation zone … and in either scenario we look to take comfort in the wisdom of the Fishy Calculator … which brings us nicely to its source, Grimsby Town, who are our first League 2 guests.
The Mariners share our history, being founder members of Division 2 in 1892; but thereafter our paths diverged somewhat, with Grimsby promoted to Division 1 (1901) while we were not re-elected (same season). The major link between the two clubs is on the Managerial side - Walsall legend Alan Buckley was manager of The Mariners on 3 separate occasions between 1988 and 2008, and Stuart Watkiss had 3 stints as Caretaker Manager between 2006 and 2016.
There’s a bit of managerial turmoil at Grimsby at the moment - Assistant Manager Anthony Limbrick has left the club (last Friday) after being placed back on furlough, after indicating he was not happy with having to accept a 25% reduction in salary. Manager Ian Holloway doesn’t expect him to return, and will try to repair the damage after their exit from the Carabao Cup following their penalty shoot-out defeat at home to Morecambe (3-4) having finished 90 minutes on 1-1.
What Darrell Clarke will do, of course, is anyone’s guess … our defence is probably settled after the pre-season friendlies and the dour 0-0 encounter with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday but the strike force seems more fluid, evidenced by Clarke’s substitution choices on Saturday - as always we shall just have to wait and see!
Prediction? Of course it would be encouraging to start the season with a win - this would at least lift Walsall from the bottom of the table (where we are, alphabetically, at present) and inject confidence into the players for what lies ahead. On the strength of the tight defence displayed so far I’ll go for a standard 2-1 home win, with Gordon and McDonald chipping in with a goal apiece.