2 years ago today, George Dobson scored a late winner against Northampton to ensure survival. However it turned out to be a case of delaying the inevitable, as relegation to League 2 was confirmed 12 months later. A lot more has changed in 2 years than we all thought. Is it for the better? Or is it for the worse? Let’s have a look at some of the positives, and negatives.
Of course, the major negative is the fact we are now in a lower division. It was a season that we all want to forget, fights on the pitch, arguments between fans and players, and the fall from grace for a hero in Dean Keates that had steered us to safety. Relegation was a bitter pill to swallow, and dropping to League Two this time felt more historic than when we dropped down previously. It hurt a lot of fans, a broken club, a stadium that felt as though it was falling apart, and seemingly an owner who only was looking out for himself. It was a painful time to be a Saddler. But the part of that sentence that means the most, is the word ‘was’.
Times have changed. Yes we are still a league down, but we have our club back. It was very hard to say goodbye to Dean Keates, we all wanted it work, so badly. In my eyes, he will still be a club legend. Probably the biggest change has been the new ownership. In Leigh Pomlett, we have the perfect mix of an astute businessman, and Walsall fan. He has the clubs best interest at heart. We also have a manager that takes a loss far worse than any fan. Failure is not an option. Darrell Clarke will not stop until he sees continued success at Walsall. The players work for the club, both off and on it. We feel as though the club is a community club again, where everyone is pulling in the same direction. The changeover of staff has been a breathe of fresh air, with coaches who we have seen actually develop players, and under Pomlett, we have seen the staff at the club grow in the freedom that he has given them, like the ticket staff who worked tirelessly to help fans renew season tickets, the guys who work on the social media, who have continued to keep us entertained during a lock-down, and Stefan Gamble and Dan Mole, who’s efforts cannot go unnoticed. Both showed just how good they can be in the fans forums since Bonser’s departure (wonder why that is).
Ok, it hasn’t been the bounce back we experienced in 06/07, but I personally don’t think we could have expected it. We wanted signs of improvement, avoiding the double relegation, and something to get us excited again. This second half of the season has been just that. We can look forward, knowing that next season we will be strong. Yes, there is still lots that need to be done off the field too, and with stadium works being done, or about to be started, we can see that these issues will be addressed as and when the club are able too.
2 years is a long time in football, just look at the players, only 3 of those who started the match are at Walsall, Liam and Kory Roberts (and Shay Facey who lined up for the visitors, sorry Shay). At the moment, I feel the relegation was what we needed. Just get us back to the Bescot, I miss football.