Our regular blogger, Adam Guest, reviews an emotional week for the Saddlers.
It`s been an emotional week hasn`t it?
I was, and still am, annoyed by Dean Smiths decision to leave. In the 5 years he`s been in charge of the Saddlers we`ve seen a number of players leave for greener grass and bigger pay packets, with Smith always warning against it. They`d all, according to Dean, have been better off staying at the Saddlers for slightly longer as it would have been better for their careers in the long term, and blamed bad advice from agents as a catalyst in their decisions to move on. Weirdly he was right most of the time, with none of the likes of Febian Brandy, Will Grigg, Andy Butler or Richard O`Donnell going on to better their careers by playing at a higher level since leaving the club. Which makes his decision to jump ship at the first available opportunity all the more frustrating and makes his comments look slightly hypocritical. However, Dean Smith saying stupid things to the press that make him look like an idiot has been running theme of his tenure here; the fact he`s continuing the trend by telling the Brentford press how the decision was a ‘No-brainer` whilst telling the Walsall press how difficult it was to decide to leave is yet another example of it, so I guess none of us should really be surprised by what comes out of his mouth.
What really irritates though isn`t the fact that I think we`ve lost some indispensable, irreplaceable tactical genius; I don`t, and I`ll be staggered if anyone does. He`s had three years to sort out our home form against sides below us in the league and has failed to do so as I covered in last weeks` edition of the blog. He`s also been quite a streaky manager over his time here, one of the reasons I believe we`re still so high up in the league is because we`re not far enough through the season yet to have gone on our dozen game winless run which we were bound to do at some point.
No, what really irks is the fact that despite all those long winless runs the club have stuck by him all the way through, and allowed him to build the club up to the point we`re now challenging for promotion without once threatening to pull the rug from under his feet. And it`s the fact that all the hard work that`s gone into that may now be jeopardised as a resulting of him bailing out at the first opportunity is what really upsets people, not the fact that he`s a brilliant manager.
However, despite all that, I do understand his decision and I`d have probably done the same thing had I been in his place.
He is a good manager, but he`s not a great one and he`s not irreplaceable. I know that, you know that, and deep down Dean himself probably realises that. Another long winless run that sees us fall away from the higher echelons of the league would see clubs far less interested in taking a punt on him, so this may well have been his best opportunity to get a chance at a ‘bigger` club. Had he turned it down, he might not have been offered another chance. If our promotion bid stutters than he runs the risk of missing out on managing in the Championship entirely, so you can understand why he took the opportunity that presented itself. The fact he`s undoubtedly got a massive pay rise and a longer contract than the rolling 12 months he`d recently signed here then it is easier to see why the decision to leave made sense for Dean personally. So on that basis, while as a Saddler I`m a bit peeved by the whole situation, I`m not bitter about it. I don`t want him to fail and I won`t revel in it when he does; I wish him the best of luck in his new role. I genuinely think he`s going to need it.
Moving back to the team itself and, with everything that has gone on in recent days, the result at Shrewsbury on Tuesday night was even more impressive than it would have normally been given the circumstances. Having suffered the last minute defeat at Swindon last Tuesday night, and that coming straight after the disappointing home draw against Sheffield United, then to respond with back to back wins having lost our manager in between speaks volumes about the quality and spirit within the squad. Whoever comes in as a new manager has to continue the existing ideas and build on that, not come on in, rip everything up and start again. Personally I`m hoping it`s Sean O`Driscoll as I think he`d be a perfect fit.
I wonder if he`d bring Richard O`Kelly back as his number two?