What a week for this football club. A day that I certainly didn’t think I would see in the near future, or even the distant future. Mr. Bonser is no longer the majority shareholder of Walsall Football Club. Director Leigh Pomlett becoming the club’s majority shareholder and chairman. The news has brought a tear to the eye of many, and has reinvigorated a fan base that has suffered for a number of years.
The news has been received extraordinarily positively: For me, it has still not quite sunk in and it is hard to put into words coherently my thoughts right now. Perhaps that is because the season has not started, or the fact I have yet to walk into the Bescot since last season, or maybe it’s because I am extremely rusty when it comes to the blog having not updated it since April!
So to help kick of my 2019/20 ‘’The Walsall FC Blog’’, I have drafted in some help. This week, I caught up with a number of Walsall Fans and popular Fan Accounts to get their views on the latest news, the new manager and a look ahead to what is a really important season for Walsall Football Club.
A huge thanks to Kev Paddock, Vital Walsall (VW), Rob Harvey Manager of the Walsall STFC (RH STFC), Saddlers Stats (SS) Bescot Banter (BB), and My View from The Bescot (MVB) for chatting to us this week and making this bumper blog an absolutely fascinating read. If you don’t already, make sure to follow them on Twitter by clicking on their names above. Welcome to A New Era [Part 1]….
So, let’s not beat around the bush: What’s your initial reaction to the news that Bonser is no longer in charge of Walsall Football Club?
VW: What a historic day for our club with Leigh Pomlett purchasing the club. Thirty years supporting Walsall and I never thought it would happen – I thought there was a clone of Jeff ready to step in when the time came!
Despite relegation this is an exciting new era for the club and it seems many are ready to come back home.
RH STFC: Better late than never eh? Don’t get me wrong, he’s done some good at the start, but he’s overstayed his welcome by 10 years at least. That said, his reign is over and let’s look forward to being reunited with our ground and getting that connection back between board, squad and supporters! I think Leigh Pomlett will be a great chairman for us. Let’s wait and see!
SS: It all seems positive. I’d like to hear more clarity surrounding the plans for the freehold but the takeover, a fresh and more modern perspective and something that unites the fans is something we’ve been waiting for an awful long time. It’s great to see the positive effect it’s had on the club and even if things aren’t fixed immediately, it’s nice to know the chairman is actually now open to discussion.
BB: Delighted and surprised. Especially given the recent assurances that JB wasn’t currently looking to sell. The club’s desire to keep things under wraps is often the correct strategy, especially in big-money situations, but can also add to the gap between supporter and club.
Hopefully, the new man at the helm can begin to bridge that gap as he begins life in the big chair. There is clearly much work to do, both on and off the pitch, but Leigh has a vast amount of experience in business and this, along with his love for the club, should hold us in good stead as we begin a new era at Banks’s Stadium.
Jeff’s departure has been a long time coming but it should also be noted just how much he did for the club. Hopefully, over the coming years, we as a supporter base will grow to hold him in good stead and not just as an ogre who made us play to play in our own stadium.
MVB: This could be the start of something fantastic. I think Bonser should be thanked despite all what has happened but we, the club, need this. And if we can knit the club and the freehold together, unite everything, then the future could be bright
The new manager: Darrell Clarke has come in, said all the right things and seems to be very no-nonsense and the type of thing the fans have been asking for: what are your first impressions of the new manager?
VW: He’s a breath of fresh air isn’t he? He sounds like he has plan, a vision and he’s a bit of a geezer. Seriously though nothing he has done this summer can be questioned or ridiculed. That may all change in a few weeks but let us hold on to the hope he’s something special!
RH STFC: Very positive. The way he carries himself and the way he talks shows he won’t take any nonsense from the players. He sounds like he knows what he likes and what he wants and is able to adapt his approach to best suit what he is facing at any given time. I’m sure he will be loved by the fans.
SS: All positive. He’s been a breath of fresh air and I still think he’s probably too good for us. I like his straight-talking, no-nonsense persona but you just know there’s a footballing brain behind the confident quips and sound bites. He’s handled the squad situation really well; releasing everyone is a big task but was definitely needed and his recruits are a good mix of youngsters who we can develop and improve and four or five experienced leaders, something we’ve lacked for a couple of seasons. He’s very well qualified, likeable and already has plenty of promotions under his belt – what’s not to like?
BB: As the question states; He is a no-nonsense manager and is keen to make sure everyone knows who’s boss. Will hopefully be able to stand firm if and when our form dips. He is renowned for his tactical changes so should be able to react to situations a little better than previous managers.
Obviously, at the moment its all talk and no trousers. But hopefully, the team will be able to hit the ground running when we take on Northampton on the opening day of the campaign and give us a little glimpse of the Saddlers team he has spent the last few months building.
MVB: First impressions of DC are very encouraging. It’s what the club needed. An outsider with fresh eyes, fresh ideas who appears to be in charge of the football side and not a yes man. His transparency and honesty are refreshing. There’s no b*******.
There’s been a load of changes to the playing squad- what’s your overall thoughts on the players that have been added, and who are you most looking forward to watching this season? Any positions that you think we are lacking in still?
VW: I’m still a little worried we haven’t added more to our striking department or our creativity in midfield. Our wingers seem very hit and miss so I’d like to have a proven winger…saying that though no one had heard of a certain Darren Wrack all those years ago, but I trust Clarke to make those additions before the window shuts.
That’s the thing in all this trust. I would never have trusted Whitney or Keates to walk my dog let alone run our football club.
From pre-season I have been so impressed with James Clarke, Stuart Sinclair and Elijah Adebayo. From our youth Alfie Bates and Cockerill-Mollett will have a massive part to play this season.
RH STFC: None of them are really what people might call ‘stand out’ players, but I think he’s got the right mix of experience and unproven talent in. Sinclair looks to be a decent acquisition, and if Guthrie can get back to anywhere near his best he will be great.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Adebayo can do. He’s got a lot to prove in his career still, and seems as though he has the raw talent that could see him nurtured into as good a player as he will let himself be.
Personally I’d want a more experienced keeper in (which isn’t going to happen), another defensive player and maybe a striker depending on Ferrier.
SS: There hasn’t been a single signing that has had me dancing from the rooftops but he seems to be getting the right blend. As I said earlier, youngsters he can develop and experienced leaders is a good mix and he obviously knows what’s required to get out of this league. James Clarke is the immediate one to watch but I’ll be interested to see how the likes of Adebayo, Hardy, Kiersey and Jules develop under Clarke and his coaching staff. Long-term, they might prove to be very good signings.
It’s easy to say a striker but there’s a definite need for someone to create opportunities. At present, I think even if Andy Cook were still here, he’d struggle to get into double figures. In my opinion, we need an attacking midfielder and a striker.
BB: The squad is a little heavy in terms of defensive players, but, given our dismal displays last season, it’s not hard to see why the gaffer would look to boost both legs and experience at the back. League Two is a tough league to get out of, especially when you consider the budgets some manager’s have at their disposal, so having a near-watertight backline should afford us a few more welcome points along the way.
Of the recent signings, you’d have to say Elijah Adebayo is something of an unknown quantity. He hasn’t really shown what he is truly capable of so far, and is relishing the opportunity to prove himself at Banks’s Stadium.
New captain James Clarke should also have a major impact upon our season. The former Bristol Rovers defender could become a player similar to George Dobson, and will hopefully lead by example as he pushes the team forward from the back.
As the manager has stated, we could do with another striker. We have a good group of attacking players, but so far we have no consistent, proven goalscorer and, unless a player unexpectedly rises to the challenge, we could do with adding another frontman before Transfer Deadline Day.
MVB: I believe DC has not only had to recruit a first team squad which he wants to compete at the top end but also had to find players for the development squad/u23s too. Players like Hardy, Kiersay, Bates, McDonald, etc will now have a level of football where they can improve rather than stagnate. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Josh Gordon. I know he’s one of the few remainers but think he’s got a lot going for him and look forward to seeing him flourish.
Having said that I think the only position we’re short in is an experienced striker who can help Josh, Elijah Adebayo, Ferrier and Candlin to progress as well as help the team.
That’s all for Part 1! I know you’re itching to hear more but we’re already at 2000 words and this is the WFC Blog not the WFC dissertation!
I’ll be publishing part 2 before the weekend is out when you can ready what Vital Walsall, Rob, Saddlers Stats, Bescot Banter, and My View From The Bescot had to say about the players they think about the challenges we will face in League 2, the players we may miss from last season (…), and their prediction for our final league position come the end of the campaign.
Thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to the accounts above for getting involved. Stay tuned for Part two which will be published soon on all The Walsall FC Blog socials!