Since the January transfer window, 28 players have left the club with just 16 players arriving to replace them but we now have a side packed with quality.
It started with the sudden announcement of Jermaine Beckford and it continued throughout the summer. Will all due respect to those who are no longer with the club the players arriving at the club were of a better calibre, a better quality, packed with experience and packed with quality. Some old faces re-appeared but they arrived into a completely different club than the one they had previously experienced.
The club, in three short months, has moved to another level. The expectations, over the summer, have risen to another level. The mood and feel around the Shakers Carrington training base has moved to another level.
Lee Clark spoke of his intentions early in the summer. He’d been planning his words since arriving, but he first had to ensure League One survival at the end of the last campaign. Even with a defeat at Southend, the Shakers secured safety barely by the skin of their teeth. A truly horrible season had finished and plans were put into place almost immediately, probably even on the team bus on the way home from Southend.
The retained list was a thin one whilst the released list showed many departures and more were to follow. Then, all of a sudden, they started arriving. #Confirmed became the watch word of the summer on social media, and you never know, there may still be a time for another before kick off on Saturday.
“Let’s have a right good go” said Lee Clark and now as we sit waiting for the new season to start. One old boy collecting his season ticket this week said; “I’ve been watching this lot for 60 years, and I’ve never been this excited for a new season, I can’t wait”.
That excitement is powerful, it’s contagious, it runs throughout the club from the Chairman at Carrington down to Carina the cleaner. The lads are chomping at the bit to get started and, from the mood on social media, so are the fans. We all want it to start – NOW!
Lee Clark could hand out 11 debuts although, technically, Joe Murphy has already made his, it was as a loan player and not as a fully-fledged Shaker. The hardest part of the gaffer’s job is telling those lads who are not going to be involved in the game. That’s where man management comes in, but these lads are a grounded lot. It’s all about the team and the season. It’s not about one game, or two games. Nobody gets promoted from winning the first game of the season, to use an old cliché, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Eoghan O’Connell, Phil Edwards and Danny Mayor will miss the game through injury. The rest of the squad are fit, ready and absolutely raring to go if called upon.
All that matters now is 3pm on Saturday and the season will begin to unfold before our very eyes. Nobody is daft enough to expect a trouble free and stress-free season. There will be hurdles along the way, we know what to expect. But, before anyone scoffs, this football club has moved to a whole new level, and is approaching the next level beyond that. Don’t stop or it may pass you by. Come along and join in with the ride because it promises to be one hell of a season.
Walsall’s View (Courtesy of the Official Walsall Website): Jon Whitney has challenged his Saddlers team to “push on” from last season and be competitive in every game.
After finishing 14th last term, Walsall begin the new 2017-18 League One campaign away to Lee Clark’s big-spending Bury tomorrow afternoon, kick-off 3.00pm. And Whitney wants his side to be a test for whoever they come up against.
“We expect to compete in every game,” said the 46-year-old. “We want to push on from where we finished last year and I’m sure we can with this group.
“We can really be competitive this year and make sure we give everyone a game.
“Everyone has got to fight to get something from us and that’s what we’ve drilled into the players. We have to be ruthless, quite resilient and have a bit of quality as well.”
Our first opponents Bury have brought in no fewer than 16 new player this summer and while Whitney admits the Shakers may be something of an unknown quantity, he says the Saddlers will be ready for the task in hand
“You’ve got to concentrate on yourself and make sure your shop’s in order the first few games,” he added.
“I went up to Salford to watch a few of their players play and I understand the players they’ve brought in.
“You look at the way Lee does things over his time previously, he played a three towards the end at Bury, a four at Kilmarnock.
“He’s played different formations but what you do is concentrate on the players he’s brought in.
“We can watch them so we know about their players. We’ll be concentrating on what we do and see if they can handle us.
“We’ll respect them and have an idea individually of what their players can do and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
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Last time out: Bury 3 Walsall 3 – 28th January 2017
Walsall fought back from 2-0 down only to concede a stoppage-time equaliser as they drew a thrilling League One encounter 3-3 at Bury.
In-form striker James Vaughan gave the hosts a 22nd-minute lead before Reece Brown scored a 45th-minute free-kick from around 40 yards.
Bury were stunned by three goals in eight minutes through Erhun Oztumer and a Jason McCarthy brace, but Tom Soares pounced at the death to deny Walsall a third straight win.
Tom Pope and Amadou Bakayoko had gone close at each end before Pope crossed for Vaughan to slide in his 17th goal of the season - and seventh in three games.
Neil Etheridge then saved a Pope header and blocked the striker's follow-up, while Bury's Rob Lainton saved a Bakayoko shot.
But Bury doubled their lead as Brown's free-kick caught Etheridge off his line and flew into the top corner.
The Shakers eased off in the second half, though, and Walsall made them pay. Matt Preston had a shot blocked on the line and Lainton denied Isaiah Osbourne from the rebound.
But Oztumer hit a 20-yard free-kick into the bottom corner on 71 minutes to spark the Saddlers' fightback.
Five minutes later, McCarthy fired home from Bakayoko's cut-back before the Southampton loanee headed home from Osbourne's cross.
Soares then glanced in Brown's cross to rescue a point but Bury remain in the relegation zone
Match day Links: All the essential info needed ahead of the game
- Match Coverage – Click here
- Interview: Stephen Dawson – Click here
- Ticket Arrangements – Click here
- Safety Announcement: Car Park – Click here
- Interview: Chris Maguire – Click here
- iFollow – Lee Clark – Click here
- iFollow – Stephen Dawson – Click here
- iFollow – Chris Maguire – Click here
- Ticket news – Click here
- Gigg Lane – First Time Visitor Guide – Click here