Has Jon Whitney finally turned a corner?
According to a stat today, the Saddlers have the most wins in League One in 2017 after Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Plymouth Argyle. However, whilst the majority of the victories in the early part of the year seemed to arrive via more luck than judgement, the results this season seem to be arriving with an increasing confidence from both the players and from the terraces.
One of the most striking aspects of the performances at home this season – it’s important to stress that we’re still winless away from home in 2017 – is the direct, uncompromising and fast-paced style of play. Whitney has three centre backs in Donnellan, Guthrie and Wilson who all tower over 6ft, two wing-backs in Guthrie and Leahy who bomb forward with genuine quality and the strike force of Bakayoko and Ageyi are a handful for any defence. All of that, including Leahy’s long-throw, means that the bustling, all-action displays are here to stay and judging by the atmosphere in the stadium this season, the supporters are getting on board with this new ‘Walsall Way’.
I myself have expressed concern about our style of play heading into the season, and was unconvinced about moving away from the possession based game we saw under Dean Smith, but I’ve got to admit that the last three home games have seen some of the most exciting – if not quality laden – periods of play for quite a while. There’s something unique about a wing-back overlapping and crossing the ball into the six-yard box for onrushing players and I genuinely think it’s something we’ve missed over the past few seasons. The Tile Choice stand also seem to finally making a difference to our play and it can’t be ignored that the majority of our goals this season have been scored when attacking the home end.
Again, I’m not saying that we’ve got at the moment is better than what we what we had in 15/16, quality wise it’s nowhere near, but maybe, just maybe Whitney has finally found a team that reflects everything that he is about. And whilst we’ve all had a bit of a laugh with the Whitney bingoisms, it’s hard to deny that it’s actually quite nice to see the infamous ‘effort, passion and desire’ actually replicated on the pitch.
This isn’t me saying Whitney is the saviour, I have been highly critical especially towards the end of last season, but I think looking at this team and the way they’ve given everything for the shirt so far means that we probably owe him the opportunity to see if he can make this new, more robust version of WFC actually work.
Here’s to more of the same, Jon.
(Cue 3-0 defeat to Bristol Rovers on Saturday…)