These last 12 months have been a bastard, there’s no point denying it. But despite everything that has gone on during the off-season, the boring Saturdays are finally over and competitive football is finally back, ideally I’d like to start the season without the crippling weight of despair that we have grown accustomed to in the last 3 months.
Bury away to start the season is just a few days away and I’m sure even the least optimistic fans will step into Gigg Lane on Saturday with a smile that only football can provide.
With the echo chamber of negativity that is the Saddlers fans on social media, I’ve decided to turn myself into the angelic Malcom Tucker (sensitive ears don’t click) to try and spin our despair into a tirade of positivity to convince you (and myself) it is not all doom and gloom for the Saddlers in 17/18.
1. Predictions are Pointless
We’ve not kicked a ball yet, but for some reason we are already planning our league 2 away days for 18/19. Whilst I understand the scepticism of fans and bookies when you look at our set up, we rarely finish where we think we will in the table. That may sound odd seeing as we always finish smack bang in the middle of the table, but in recent years I don’t think anyone has really got a grasp on our squad.
Possibly due to the ever-changing performances on the pitch, but I seem to recall after 10 games last season everyone was convinced we faced the drop. We’ve gone one better this season with the latest hyperbole being ‘we’ll be down by Christmas’. Similarly, 2 years ago I don’t remember anyone predicting us to miss out on automatic promotion by one point on the final day. My only point being that anything can happen in football, if Leicester can win the Premier League then this squad can definitely survive League 1…
(My pointless prediction – Saddlers to finish 17/18th)
2. Building from the back
Yes I am aware we need a new striker and some more attacking threat, but recruitment has been focussed solely on the back line this season and I don’t think we have done too bad a job. Individually the new signings have looked decent in my opinion and collectively I think they make a pretty decent league one back line and goalkeeper.
We’ve a tricky start to the season but if we can come away with a few clean sheets I think confidence will build in the squad and hopefully the fan base. We may struggle to score goals this season, but if we can protect the goal and frustrate teams with a solid defensive system we could become one of those fixtures that we are so used to being on the other side of as we walk away from the Bescot following a home draw saying ”we should have beat them”.
For now, we have kept hold of the Turkish Messi. I’d be very surprised if the board allow him to leave, especially after hearing we turned down 6 figure sums for Etheridge as he was deemed too vital to the squad, the chances of the club risking all out riot and letting Ozzy go seems ludicrous to me.
I’m not singling him out to put the weight of our season on his shoulders, all I am suggesting is that he is capable of winning games almost single-handedly. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this season, similar to last we’re talking at 5 O’clock about how he won us that game or salvaged us a point. A few strokes of brilliance from him across the season could be the difference for us.
4. Make or Break Players
Morris & Bakayoko: Two players I think have huge potential but have yet to grasp the opportunities they have been given. Both have gone beyond the point of age or experience being an excuse anymore. Between them they have more than enough game time to have hit their stride at this level.
If it all comes together this year we could finally see the emergence of two quality young players who could be a part of the club for the long-term. They should be scoring more goals. Morris’ needs to start hitting the bloody target and Baka needs to hit that level of consistency he seemed to find in the Cheka-Bollocks Trophy last season and bring it into the games that actually matter and we could see a fair few goals between them. If they both put in another mediocre campaign I think we can wave goodbye to them without heavy hearts.
5. Negativity is Exhausting
The Trust Tweeted out the other day that it is time to back the badge. Let us try to leave some of the offseason negativity in the off-season. I’m only 25 and I find some of the comments and posts exhausting to read because they’re so down haha.
I may be imagining this change, but I seem to remember ”back in the day” when we conceded at home a rallying cry of ‘Saddlers’ erupting from the Floors-2-Go to let the boys know we were behind them and backing them to get back into the match or steal the winner. Last season it seemed everyone was too busy whipping their phones to pile the latest bit of blame on someone via Twitter to even notice that the players also hate conceding….
The players aren’t stupid, they are aware of what the world thinks about our chances this year and I am sure they see what the fans are saying and what our frustrations are. If the Bescot is a toxic place to play from day 1 then we truly do have no chance.
I may sound like some lefty-flower-power-bellend right now but I honestly think a bit more positivity and a rocking atmosphere will give the players much more belief in themselves and our chances for the season ahead…COYR