I’ll be doing my best to give it the remainder of this season, and next summer, to see how the land lies. There was never going to be any overnight revolution, and Pomlett deserves that at least, to demonstrate his intent, as I’m sure he didn’t anticipate drastic action being required in the very short term. But this is getting hard. Very, very hard.
It isn’t the fault of Darrell Clarke, his staff, or this group of players, that all the time since after Christmas in the year of the Oztumer-Jackson-Moussa team so closely resembled their first three months on the job, but they are in the position where they’ll get the brunt of it, because this is simply exhausting.
It isn’t just the moderately-perpetual downward spiral since Money resigned- it’s that the moments where it’s good don’t ultimately buck the trend. There have been probably 100,000 words written on these boards about Wembley, but Preston home and away were fantastic, but then there was that wet fart. There was a brilliant season (and it was a brilliant season), bookended by that abject surrender at Oakwell. Then there was a bolt from the blue on a Tuesday afternoon, and Pomlett standing, arms-folded, in front of the Homeserve, then Northampton, then the bouncing lower Homeserve and a thoroughly encouraging overall performance against FGR, and as I stood there basking in a welcome breath of fresh air… here we are less than three months later, and it’s Bescot-as-flat-as-a-pancake, winless runs, stupid penalties conceded every other week, players getting called out by the manager in the press, and January-can’t-come-quickly-enough, all over again. Different cast of characters, but the same old played-out tropes and dialogue from the scriptwriters. I’m so very, very weary from it all. I suspect I’m far from being alone in this sentiment.
That the stadium is showing its age, that the high roof/smaller lower than upper design of the Homeserve has proven detrimental, that the facilities and extra-curriculars are bare-minimum meets amateur hour, that the bitter is chilled within an inch of its life, and the Saddlers Club is standing desolate have all been covered on here at great length. The location of the ground and the haphazard parking situation don’t help. As such, the football on offer is a bigger difference maker at Walsall than it many, maybe even most, other grounds in the country. That the football has been various shades of awful for four years straight makes matchdays such a gargantuan chore.
I’m not a club insider, and I don’t know the budget. I don’t profess to know better than Darrell Clarke, Leigh Pomlett, Stefan Gamble, or Dan Mole. I have no idea if another manager would make a better fist of the here and now than the incumbent- that no-one, bar Dean Smith, since Richard Money has, makes me think “probably not”. However, my very amateur opinion is that we are dealing in ultimately limited footballers, and for those footballers to be constantly unsure of what role in what system they’re going to be thrust into from one 45-minutes of football to the next, let alone who 6 or 7 of the blokes around them in any one of half a dozen formations are likely to be this time next week, week after week, can only be a hindrance.
What I do know is that I have a hard job where I’ve recently been re-deployed. I have a young family. I have investments that I’ve struggled to keep viable for over a decade, since the economic downturn. I’ve re-entered academia, which is a huge drain on my time and cognitive capacity. I have no control over the fortunes of Walsall Football Club, but I ultimately do control how much of my overall resource I give it. The cumulative effect of the years means that, at the moment, it’s an absolute albatross, and that has a knock-on, negative effect on things that really do matter. It’s so draining having the same conversations, over and over every week, and week after week, with fans of other clubs at all levels, who naturally lack the contextual knowledge of Bonser, budgets etc.- “what happened to your lot on Saturday, mate?” “I noticed the tables at the weekend, and didn’t realise you were in so much trouble,” “I really expected your lot to be up there this (current) season,” “Well, you don’t really get the crowds, do you?” It’s even a burden in itself to feel this way, knowing that if you try and brush it off, the reaction will be “But it’s your club, you stick with them through the bad times, that’s what it’s all about.”
I want to see what Leigh Pomlett can do- he hasn’t had anything resembling chance yet. But it’s been death by a thousand paper cuts waiting for the next substitution, the next game, the next “top secret” signing, the next transfer window, the next season, the next manager. I hate feeling like this…. and I’m starting to think that I can’t let it be this important anymore, because it’s already been like this for too long.