Final Thoughts – Saddlers season ends

Bittersweet. That’s how I would describe the season coming to an end. Saturday afternoons at the Bescot are a place that brings my friends and family together. I attend games with people who have travelled from from Cambridge, Leeds, Wigan and Manchester, coppers and bar managers who decide to book holiday days to follow the Walsall FC. Ordinarily I would be gutted that there’ll be a few more months before we are all together again at the football. Yet when the final whistle blew yesterday afternoon it was more relief and a sense of ‘thank fuck for that’ which washed over me.

I’m not even going to talk about yesterdays game- you could just read the last few blog posts and copy the same sentiments onto MK Dons 4-1 thrashing of us. So, it’s time to review the 16/17 season and vent one last time about the on pitch antics before drawing a line in the sand and trying to get excited for next year…

Let me start by saying that 14th is about as much as any of us expected from this season. When the exodus of our best players left a ‘new’ manager in a position of having to build a squad it was always going to be an uphill battle to get anywhere close to achieveing a playoff berth. I’m not disappointed in the league position, but I am disappointed in the way we landed there.

I never thought we would break into the top 6 this season, but finishing 14th from the positions we have found ourselves in this season is inexcusable IMO. Too many draws from winning positions, too many inconsistent strategies and mismanagement of games, and too many times have team looked like they’ve forgotten that to score a goal you have to actually play the ball forward to a player in red.

The mood of the fan-base is not good, the Dean Smith project that was on the brink of paying off has crumbled into insignificance and mid-table mediocrity is back on the agenda. Unfortunately it seems that this will suffice for the club and board. Money has not been re-invested wisely, a non playing member of staffs reputation is diminishing by the day as he tries to navigate from physio to football manager and the hope that we could maybe keep the squad together for some continuity has been dashed by this mornings news that Osbourne is on his way. This final point may be moot, as I think the squad in its current state is not good enough to go up anyway, but it again highlights the consistency that we will now lack heading into next season and displays what the players really think of being coached by a physio.

Jon Whitney. Where to begin, first of all I would say the man should be applauded for his efforts. Clearly he has the passion, desire and willingness for this club to do well. No one is doubting the heart of the man, but at the end of the day as a football manager you need to have the head to go with it. Admittedly some responsibility needs to be placed at the hands of the board here. He was given a huge task and a massive shift in responsibility -undoubtedly the cheapest option and the man who would inevitably have blamed laid at his feet; an easy scapegoat for poor decision making higher up and it is sad to watch his reputation at this club take a beating.

Is he the man for the job? If we want to be serious about a promotion push, no. He has shown too many times that he doesn’t have the tactical ability to close out matches and he also seems incapable of firing up the team to play to win no matter the circumstance, the last 6 weeks performances being testament to that.

Should he be relieved of his duties as manager? 8/9 weeks ago I would have said no, that he had been dealt a rough hand and that a mid table finish with the tools at his disposal would have served as enough to warrant him one more season at the helm. Though I didn’t partake in any Whitney out chants yesterday I do now on reflection feel like I am in that camp. Despite his constant cliches about effort and commitment, absolutely none of it has seemed to filter through to the playing staff (ironically the most committed seem to be those on loan). We’ve looked lacklustre and clueless one too many times since Christmas and it has been very difficult watching as a fan.

I think the picture will become clearer over the next few weeks. I would be very surprised if the board took any action though; the only good the board can do now is decide to make some more money available to bolster the squad and give us a glimmer of hope. Something I seem to remember saying at the end of every season I have ever watched Walsall Football Club. COYR.

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