Earlier this week, I asked fans for any questions that they would like to pose. One in particular got me thinking, and evaluating. @BradWorrallo96 asked the question – Would you class this season as a success or a failure in your opinion? So let’s dig in.
Where to start. I think we have to begin by comparing the mood and feel of the club now, to the end of last season. On that final day against Shrewsbury, we were at rock bottom. It felt like such a huge task to reshape the team and the club, and I honestly feared a poor finish again this season if there weren’t big changes made. So much needed to change, not just the players, but the staff at the club. It had become a toxic place. Compare that to today, and despite a world that has been hit by Covid-19, we feel optimistic for the season ahead. So in that respect this season has been a success.
Now onto the playing side of things. With Clarke and Pomlett coming in, I was very optimistic for this season, and maybe too ambitiously so. This first half was poor, very poor, and it brought back a lot of the negativity that had started to move with Leigh Pomlett replacing Uncle Jeff. However, since the turn of the year, I felt we looked like a very good side. Clarke managed to settle the side, which improved results, and we saw players getting better. The season as a whole was O.K. and after the PPG finish we ended up in 12th, 12 points outside of the play-off’s. The result of the final table shows that it was a distinctly average season, but with signs of improvement towards the latter end, there is the structure of a team I’m confident can aim higher than a 12th place finish in the next campaign. Finishing 12 points outside of the play-offs was a frustrating figure, given how many points were dropped so early on in the campaign, especially in that October. I would say that overall, the season, in terms of on the pitch was neither a success or a failure. We stabilised a core of the team that will (hopefully) improve next season, but there were times that the teething process wasn’t smooth.
The academy has grown and shone, which cannot be undervalued. Going forward, it is going to be so important that clubs have good young players coming through. Rewind 12 months, and I don’t think many would have expected to see Alfie Bates develop the way he has, and then there are 3 or 4 others that will be knocking on the first team door come the new season. Miguel Llera has really kickstarted the way the academy has been working, and long may it continue. This element has been a success.
I also feel that we have seen stadium and matchday improvements starting to improve. Yes there is still some way to go, and I do not think the club would disagree with me on it. The Bescot Bar being improved will be brilliant for those who use it, the pop-up bars have also started to help with reducing queues however many will argue it took longer for this initiative than they would have liked. The main thing for me, is that the club appear to be listening to the feedback that they are been given, and although it will take time, they will try their best to address it, where possible. This is a success for me, as measures that are being taken, are measures that the previous owner would not have put in place.
The final thing I would judge whether it has been a success of failure on, is the bond between club and fans. Rewind a year (ish) and it was broken, negative, and quite frankly felt as though we weren’t cared about as fans. Fast forward to now, and I as a fan, feel appreciated, I feel as though I could go to the club with anything, and be heard out and treated with respect. We have a chairman and staff that communicate with fans, and that are doing the best to improve the club for everyone. This is what will also help the playing side, happier fans equals more fans going to games, more fans at games gives the club more money, and under present ownership, more money means more improvements both on and off the pitch.
I have mentioned a lot of ‘The Club’. There are a lot of people who work hard, and I personally do not know everyones name. But since Leigh Pomlett has come in, staff at the club have flourished. Stefan Gamble and Dan Mole, have seemed like new employees, and in my opinion, both have shown what they can do, when given the freedom to do so. At the fans forum, they were actually allowed to answer, and not just give stock, pre-rehearsed answers, and fans actually got an idea of what they are about. On-top of this, the guys who work in the media team have been brilliant, especially with content during lockdown, the community team have worked hard all season, and the players have gotten on board with the ethos they create. There are many more people too who have worked really hard all season to make Walsall FC a club that fans can be proud of again.
So in a long round about way, I feel massive steps have been taken in the right direction. So despite us not pushing the play-off’s, I do think we can class this season as a success. That being said, fans will only look at this season as successful if we can follow it up next year, something we all know the club are keen to do.