Smith must make do and mend
Another season of struggle is anticipated at Walsall as Dean Smith offloads his makeweights and starts from scratch once again...
Bournemouth ｜ Brentford ｜ Bury ｜ Carlisle
Colchester ｜ Coventry ｜ Crawley ｜ Crewe
Doncaster ｜ Hartlepool ｜ Leyton Orient ｜ MK Dons
Notts County ｜ Oldham ｜ Portsmouth ｜ Preston
Scunthorpe ｜ Sheff Utd ｜ Shrewsbury ｜ Stevenage
Swindon ｜ Tranmere ｜ Walsall ｜ Yeovil
Jeff Bonser has controlled Walsall for the past 22 years, providing the club with much-needed security at the expense of any real ambition. Having saved the Saddlers from a dire fate in his early years, Bonser now owns the club and the stadium as seperate entities, both of which are up for sale, but no offers have been forthcoming. In recent years, investment on the playing side has been virtually non-existent and attendances have dwindled. Nearly 4,000 fans have disappeared over the past eight years.
Dean Smith struggled to live up to raised expectations last season but those expectations had only risen because of his own success in guiding Walsall to safety when picking up the pieces from Chris Hutchings in early 2011. Quick calculations pointed towards a mid-table finish if Smith could uphold those initial standards, but the end-result was almost identical - the Saddlers finished two points and one place better off. It's hardly surprising, Smith is forced to shop in the bargain bucket and player turnover is exceptionally high.
Walsall fans have been overcome by a sense of helplessness in recent years. They support a club that is merely existing without any real hope of recreating past achievements, and their efforts to express disapproval have driven Bonser away on matchdays. The stadium, located next to the M6, is a successful enterprise in its own right, which in turn feeds concerns about future stability if Bonser finds a buyer. It's a state of emotional limbo that leaves the club lacking any real identity.
Nine first-team regulars have moved on in the summer and Smith is bracing himself for the usual hurried business throughout August as he attempts to cobble another team together from scratch. It's no coincidence that Walsall have started slowly in recent years, the Saddlers lost nine of their first 18 games last term and 11 of the first 16 the season before that. Their survival at this level for a sixth successive season will largely depend on Smith's week-to-week training ground expertise.
Ashley Hemmings (Wolves), Dean Holden (Rochdale), Florent Cuvelier (Stoke), Febian Brandy (Panetolikos).
Emmanuel Ledesma (Middlesbrough), Darryl Westlake (Sheff Utd), Manny Smith (Notts County), Kevan Hurst (Southend), Jon Macken (released), Mat Sadler (Crawley), Alex Nicholls (Northampton), Ryan Jarvis (Torquay), Oliver Lancashire (Aldershot), Lee Beevers (Mansfield), Anton Peterlin (released), Liam Maher (released), Connor Deards (released).
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