We caught up with Simon Ward from Walsall Fan TV this week for the lowdown on the Saddlers before Hartlepool visits the Banks’s on Saturday.
How has the season gone for Walsall so far?
The experienced Premier League midfielder Matt Taylor left the Spurs academy to take up his first first team role. He began with a handsome smile and a convincing air that he was going to bring a new brand of football to Walsall. After a poor start, Walsall seemed to gather some steam, but a seven-game suspension to Manny Monthe (our key centre half) came at the wrong time. The diminutive Otis Khan also chose not to accept an extension to his short-term contract, and Walsall came to a shuddering halt.
After a credible 3-0 win over Colchester, Walsall then lost the next seven, culminating in Taylor’s sacking after a defeat to the 10 men of Scunthorpe. His assistant oversaw an impressive turnaround as Walsall beat 2nd place Tranmere 1-0 as the team ditched the 4231 formation, which had failed to work for a traditional 442.
Walsall then appointed former Newport Manager Mike Flynn for the toughest game of the season. Walsall, however, achieved back-to-back wins for the first time since April 2021 by beating Forest Green Rovers 0-1 on their own lawn as they were attempting a record-breaking 20th game without defeat.
Walsall’s confidence was obviously sky high after two massive results, but Swindon away proved to be a step too far. After an impressive 35 mins probing the Swindon goal, they scored on the counter and didn’t look back. Swindon comfortably picked apart every error and pummelled Walsall 5-0.
The Swindon defeat summed up Walsall. Matt Taylor before Mike Flynn had pleaded for a level of consistency which didn’t arrive. Conor Wilkinson, arguably Walsall’s most talented player, had been immense against both Tranmere and Forest Green, but along with Emmanuelle Osadebe, their heroic performances were back to inept and disappointing.
The standout player for Walsall as far as consistency has to be Liam Kinsella, a CDM of incredible energy and tenacity, but even he disappointed against Swindon.
The new manager Flynn has a much harder appearance than the smiling Taylor before him, but it’s very early days for him to install the grit Walsall need. He has moved quickly to appoint his former Newport assistant and has also added to the ranks with 33-year-old attacking midfielder, Lee Tomlin, joining till the end of the season.
Walsall are a much better team than their league position shows, but last-minute goals and inconsistent performances (such as the August fixture against you guys) have kept us from realising our potential. Hopefully Mike Flynn will give the Saddlers a lift to take us to mid table before planning a charge for the playoffs next season.
Win, lose or draw, it will be an interesting game.
Look out for Walsall Fan TV’s instant match reaction and match day vlog as he reports on the game and shares the joy and the pain of following the Saddlers.