Player Review 17/18
After what has been a season to forget, the last 7 days have been quite memorable. With late drama in our final home game against Northampton ensuring George Dobson’s name will go down in Saddlers folklore, the Saddlers needed just one point from the remaining 2 games to ensure survival. A Tuesday night in Bradford, normally something that would be dreaded was actually the perfect fixture. With the Bantams having nothing to play for, they were the ideal team for a Saddlers side who needed to scrap for survival to face off against. An impressive opening 45 by the saddlers (tainted by a late equaliser), coupled with a scrappy second half was the perfect ‘grind it out’ performance that saw us over the line.
That was my last chance to watch the saddlers unfortunately, unable to attend today it is the ideal time to push my season review out before the blog gets drowned out amongst the usual end of season quality content from the likes of NoNobhead Policy, Vital Walsall, One Pod Beyond and Wednesbury road.
With the season being basically a shit-show, no one has really been given a favourable rating, though that doesn’t mean I dont think they will come good. Many have shown in fits and starts that they can do well at this level but in general it has been a poor performance across the pitch this season.
As always this is just my opinion, always happy to engage in debate with other fans, but try to refrain from calling me a nonce too much… trying to enjoy my bank holiday yeah?!
1 Mark Gillespie
After a penalty save on opening day I was expecting a lot more from Gillespie, as it transpired I was calling for him to be dropped by early September. It’s not that he didn’t make some decent saves during his time between the posts, it’s more that he didn’t make some of the simpler ones. The ball seemed to fly past him with consummate ease for about 6/7 games, often going straight through the man right down the centre of the goal. It was infuriating to witness and the chances of him seeing first-team football next season will likely be limited to the check-a-bollox trophy and maybe the league cup…or a move away from the Bescot.
2 Joe Edwards
Edwards followed up his impressive first season with the Saddlers with possibly an even better one. Solid in the centre of the park and chipping in with a few important goals Edwards is deservedly a fan favourite and contender for future captain should he commit his future to the Saddlers. He battles for everything, is solid with the ball at his feet and shows the type of passion and commitment that only Jon Whitney could dream of…
3 Luke Leahy
A tough season for Leahy, some might think this rating harsh, others very favourable. He started off the season like an absolute rocket going forward. Goals and assists in the opening stages of the season he looked like someone who could really add to the team if he could just adapt quick enough. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite progress the way fans wanted and his defensive frailties at this level cost the saddlers dearly on many occasions. He has become an easy target, and some of the criticism he is getting now does seem quite extreme, but unless he steps it up under Deano, or is given a role further forward, his future as LB for the Saddlers is surely under question.
4 George Dobson
St.George probably deserves a 10 for that goal against Northampton alone. When he returned to the Saddlers there was mixed reaction from fans. I felt he was a great addition. Similar to Edwards, Dobson plays a game that is full of heart and desire. He has great vision going forward and is not afraid to do the dirty work either. He seems to have impressed Dean Keates and I think he will be one of the first names on the team sheet next season.
5 Jon Guthrie
A mixed bag for Guthrie. Here and there he has put in a good shift and looked sturdy. Other times he has looked a completely lost. I have seen improvement in him as the season has progressed, the addition of Fitzwater seems to have given him some more assertion and I think he has just about done enough in this season to warrant a starting place next year, depending on how ruthless Deano is when it comes to who stays and goes next season.
6 Nicky Devlin
RB, RWB, RM – he’s been everywhere this season and he is happy to do it. Devlin is a grafter and shows real intent in every challenge and run forward he goes on. Defensively he (like the rest of them) have room for improvement but for me, he looks like the exact player Deano will be key to keep hold of. That being said, depending on signings made in the summer (Ismail & Milan rumoured to be arriving) paired with Keates comments about seeing Kory Roberts future at RB, Devlin may struggle to find space in the team next season.
7 Adam Chambers
The skipper was difficult for me to rate this year. At some points in the season I have been convinced he has passed his best. During the early stages of the season it seemed he couldn’t quite keep pace with the play anymore. But as the season has worn on he has found himself in the right place to break up the play and make the challenges he so frequently does. The type of player you don’t notice until they do something wrong, it will be interesting to see if Chambers decides to play out his final year or call it a day. I spoke with him briefly in the suits after Northampton about exactly that and he just said ‘we’ll have to wait and see’…not long till we find out.
8 Florent Cuvelier
Probably an unpopular opinion but for me, Flo hasn’t really added anything to our team this season. There has been the odd game where you can see the talents he has, but when he is on and off the ball everything just looks very laboured. Injuries have not been kind to the likable midfielder but unfortunately, we cannot hold onto the past any longer and for me it is time to say goodbye to Flo.
10 Erhun Oztumer
He might be leaving, we may not like it and he may not have played amazing recently. But without him, we might find ourselves a league 2 club. 18 goals this season the Turkish Messi has been by far the most prolific player in a Walsall shirt this campaign. With Deano reportedly experimenting with the team this afternoon it seems only fitting he would sign off his time with the Saddlers with a goal. Strangely it was off his head from 6 yards rather than his left boot from 25!
11 Kieron Morris
Such a frustration to watch, Kieron has had a very similar season to his previous one. Pace, skill and the occasional taste for goals, he seems to have so much more to offer than he has shown this season, but I am not sure how many more times I can say that before questioning if he actually has it in him. Earlier this season I wrote that it was a make or break year for him-he certainly didn’t ‘make it’. Though I do think Deans see’s him as a valuable member of the squad, for me he failed to really impress once more.
13 Liam Roberts
Player of the season for me. Liam has surely had the best season of his career. Coming into a back line that was leaking goals and replacing a much more experienced keeper he must have felt the pressure when he took the starting place. I don’t think he has shown it once. From cat-like reflexes to his full-time celebrations, Roberts has become the complete keeper this season. With youth on his side, he has the chance to solidify his place as a long-term Saddler.
20 Amadou Bakayoko
Its been a tough season for Baka. He has been isolated on so many occasions and it’s not an easy job to do. But when he has had the opportunities, he’s bottled it. Similar to Morris I seem to see something in him that maybe isn’t there. He’s tall, has decent pace and some of his finishes in his time at Walsall have been fantastic. Yet all too often I find myself with my head in my hands when watching him play, ruing another missed opportunity. I think a new striker will be top of Deano’s shopping list this summer.
23 Jack Fitzwater
This lad was a fantastic and much-needed loan signing. Despite his age, he added what I could only describe as ‘experience’ to the back line. His positioning is great, he shows conviction in all his challenges and has great physical presence. He seems to have dragged the standard up of the back 4 and together he and Guthrie seem to have developed some chemistry. Add in the fact he has scored a few of goals he is arguably one of the most important additions we made all season.
24 Kory Roberts
For such a young lad to play in such a horrible season I think he deserves the slightly inflated rating in comparison to other defenders. This lad has been constantly improving since he burst onto the scene last year and I can see him being a huge part of this team in years to come. I personally see him as more a CB than an RB like Keates seems to want. Depending on which he goes for I think his only need to improve could be to maybe bulk up a bit to ensure he can compete with the biggest and toughest strikers in this division. All in all a very solid year for Kory, I’m excited to see what the future holds for him.
He really drove the saddlers forward this season when he was here. Very pleased to hear on the rumour-mill he will be making a return. Let’s hope that does have some substance because he certainly entertained us and the fans all seemed to enjoy watching him.
15 Liam Kinsella
Seems to be improving with age, interested to see what happens with him next season. A loan out for some more first-team football could be a good move for him.
17 Reece Flanagan
One fanstastic performance from the bench for us midway through the season that won us the match. Otherwise not really enough game time to see him truly push on. It will be interesting to see if he gets the nod this afternoon.
25 Qamaruddin Maziar Kouhyar
Nice for him to get an injury time equaliser earlier this season. A few decent balls whipped in this season when he made appearances but not seen enough of him consistently to judge.
16 Justin Shaibu
He has a game style that is way too similar to Ngoy and Baka. I don’t think he offers anything we don’t have already. Won’t be missed.
18 Julien Ngoy
He has a game style that is way too similar to Shaibu and Baka. I don’t think he offers anything we don’t have already. Won’t be missed.
9 Simeon Jackson
14 Krystian Bielik