Walsall fansites Bescot Banter and Vital Walsall give us the lowdown on Saturday’s visitors, as the Saddlers look to improve on a disappointing season last term.
How will you do this season following a tough season last time around?
BB: We’re hoping the Saddlers will be able to avoid a repeat of last season’s battle with relegation, however the defensive weakness which plagued the side for much of last season is yet to be truly dealt with.
The recent loan signing of West Brom duo Jack Fitzwater and Kane Wilson is a good start but we believe that more is needed if we are to sustain a move towards the upper echelons of the table. With a few more shrewd additions, and hopefully fewer injuries, we could have the makings of a competitive side, especially if or strikers can get among the goals on a regular basis.
VW: I can’t see a reason why we can’t do better than last season (we can’t do much worse!). Last season saw a lot of discontent from supporters as to what direction the club was going in. We managed to survive in the penultimate league game. You get the feeling that both the club and fans are starting to pick ourselves up from last season so hopefully push on into midtable.
It seems as though the fans are getting frustrated at the club’s transfer dealings, however you made three signings ahead of the opening win over Plymouth. How would you rate your summer transfer dealings so far?
BB: Overall we’re happy with the manager’s summer signings, there just haven’t been enough of them. Strikers Andy Cook and Morgan Ferrier, along with wingers Josh Ginnelly, and Zeli Ismail provide some much-needed firepower in attack, but, as mentioned earlier, despite the loan arrivals of Fitzwater and Wilson were still far too short of options at the back.
A lengthy injury to Joe Edwards also leaves us fairly thin in midfield, George Dobson and Adam Chambers work well together, but there is no doubt that Edwards is missed. Hopefully he can continue on his road to recovery and get back into the side shortly after we reach 2019.
VW: Slow. It was obvious that last season’s poorly assembled squad needed reinforcements. Until Friday we had just one centre back at the club. Thankfully this was rectified and we turned out a decent performance against Plymouth. Zeli Ismail was the pick of the summer signings, he was one of the few bright sparks from last season. Cook and Ferrier will be a nuisance for any League 1 side this season.
What else do you need before the window shuts this week?
BB: No doubt you’re sensing something of a theme here, but we still need to add more defenders to the squad. Following Kory Roberts’ season-ending injury we’re woefully short of central defenders. The manager has spent the last few months looking for additions but has had his hands tied by the club’s less-than-competitive wage budget.
With numbers still a little short, the manager is also keen to add to the midfield and also land another striker, but given his recent struggle to land players on permanent deals, he may be forced to seek more temporary solutions via the loan market, which thankfully runs until the end of the month.
VW: Our first XI isn’t too bad now. When we start to get injuries and suspensions we will start to feel the pain of having a squad with very little quality/experience. We still need a centre back, a central midfielder and a striker.
You managed to record a 2-1 win over Plymouth over the weekend – how did you play and what sort of team can we expect to come up against at the weekend?
BB: We played well. There was plenty of fight on display, especially after getting off to a slow start and ultimately falling behind. The team grew into the game and in the end were deserved winners, despite what Pilgrims boss Derek Adams may have to say. Obviously, it’d be a little silly to take too much from the opening game of the season, but there are certainly plenty of positives for the manager to build upon heading into this weekend’s game at Glanford Park.
VW: I genuinely thought we played well. Plymouth were on the backfoot for the opening half hour but somehow last seasons defending came back to haunt us as we gave away a silly goal. On the flip side we didn’t come from behind much last season so it seems we have a bit of fight in this squad! Ferrier and Cook bullied Plymouth’s back four all afternoon and I’d expect the same on Saturday.
Who should we keep an eye out for?
BB: Summer signing Andy Cook is, without a doubt, the one to watch. A prolific goal-scorer, Andy has already grabbed his first goals in a Saddlers shirt and is likely to be a threat this weekend. He and striker partner Morgan Ferrier could be a deadly duo should they get the right service from their teammates.
VW: George Dobson. Away from the attacking threat we have, George Dobson is starting to become (in our opinion) one of the best central midfielders in League 1. He doesn’t stop running. He can carve open your defence with a pass and he can mop up on defence if he needs to. He will be invaluable to us this season.
Who is your most underrated player?
BB: We’re big fans of Luke Leahy. Sadly many of the Saddlers faithful don’t appear to feel the same way. The left-back, who reached double figures in assists last season, has already shown his eye for goal as his superb free-kick secured victory over Plymouth last weekend. Hopefully, he can continue to work on a few of his defensive shortcomings and begin to win the trust of some of the naysayers amongst us.
VW: That’s a difficult one with the new boys coming in but from last season heading into this I’d say Liam Kinsella. He showed under Dean Smith that he is capable of playing and on Saturday he was superb in the second half replacing Adam Chambers. I just wish our managers would give him a longer run in the side.
Which Scunthorpe player would you sign if you were given the opportunity?
BB: Given our penchant for players who can play in multiple positions, Josh Morris would be someone we’d be happy to take off your hands. Strong down the left side of the pitch, with ability to settle into centre midfield, he’d be a worthy addition to our squad.
VW: Duane Holmes. We lack someone with creativity and goals in our midfield and Holmes would give us that. Although I’d struggle to see how he could fit into our current side.
BB: We never get these right so avoid putting any sort of bet on the following score! With five of the last six games ending either 0-0 or 1-0 it’ll likely be a close run affair. 1-1.
VW: 1-1 Draw. Good luck for the rest of the season!