THE SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: Saddlers rise should give Town hope

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Walsall boss Dean Smith Walsall boss Dean Smith

THIS WEEK I had the pleasure of watching the best footballing team in League One in action and it’s given me an extra helping of hope for the future.

No, I’m not talking about Swindon Town – though all the signs are there that in time Mark Cooper’s team can reach such lofty status – I’m referring to Walsall.

On a tight budget, in front of a modest average crowd of around 5,000 fans, Dean Smith has assembled a squad at the Bescot Stadium which oozes quality, confidence, pace and power. It’s a formidable achievement for a relatively small club, competing in a region where Aston Villa, West Brom, Birmingham City, Wolves and Coventry (sort of) are more than noisy neighbours.

What Smith has managed to concoct at the Saddlers should give everyone associated with Swindon an exciting preview of what life could be like in the not-so-distant future at the County Ground. A squad assembled with due diligence and due process, carefully selected not necessarily for who they have been in the past but what they are likely to become over the coming seasons.

Smith was promoted to the top job at Walsall back in 2011 and steered them to safety when at one point it seemed inevitable that they would make the drop into the bottom tier. He has been given time by a patient and evidently knowledgeable board to mould a squad that plays attractive and effective football.

He’s been given the opportunity to nurture young talent – Sam Mantom, Romaine Sawyers, Malvind Bennings, supplement his side with experienced professionals – Adam and James Chambers, Craig Westcarr, and draft in the stars of tomorrow on loan – Milan Lalkovic, for example, and three years later, as a result, his winning potion is simmering away nicely.

Sound familiar?

There’s a trend in League One of patience paying off. Gary Johnson turned a £1million budget into play-off success with Yeovil last season, 18 months after returning to Huish Park, and Russell Slade has spent four years turning relegation candidates Leyton Orient into serious title contenders.

Their successes are relevant when taking into consideration the blueprint now in place at Swindon.

No longer is SN1 quick fix central. It’s not in chairman Lee Power’s mandate to recruit expensive short-term solutions for problems which, with a little extra love and attention, can be easily remedied in-house.

Paolo Di Canio spoiled Swindon Town with a rash abandon in the transfer market. Sure, in the end his spending produced some of the most exciting times we’ve had at the County Ground for many a year but there was no end game. Players were signed with minimal resale value and abandoned when most in need of a bit of TLC. It’s one way to run a football club but not ideal for a club the size of Swindon, in the division Swindon is in.

The examples provided by Walsall and Orient – the two best sides I have seen in League One this year – should encourage supporters rather than upset them. They are 36 months-plus down the same road Town have just merged onto and it’s not been a smooth ride for either club until this season.

So when the Saddlers and the O’s outplayed Town, as has been the case in each of the three matches involving those sides this term, perhaps we got an insight into how things might be a little further down the line.

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world,” the American political author Helen Keller once said. She’d be right at home at SN1 in 2014.

Comments (18)

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7:55am Sat 1 Feb 14

smirg kcab says...

Go and support Walsall then
Go and support Walsall then smirg kcab
  • Score: -17

8:20am Sat 1 Feb 14

The Jockster says...

Sam why are you talking about a postcode area? SN1 covers a huge area of the tow and if you mean the County Ground why not call it that? Or if you must abbreviate surely CG would suffice?
Sam why are you talking about a postcode area? SN1 covers a huge area of the tow and if you mean the County Ground why not call it that? Or if you must abbreviate surely CG would suffice? The Jockster
  • Score: 0

8:45am Sat 1 Feb 14

old town robin says...

One of Sams better columns, surprised he didn't mention the 6 nations today. Lol

With regards to the rising from the dead of the 2 teams he has highlighted that have been built over time, you can add Brentford to that, who despite poor crowds do seem to have some spare cash to splash. Having seen the 2 games Sam thinks were outplayed I wouldn't say Orient out played us, until the lapse from Nat Thompson, we were the better team and could have gone on and got something. That's not too say they didn't deserve the win, they set out with a game plan and were more clinical in their finishing than we were on the day. so probably deserved to edge the result, but they did not out play us as Walsall did on their visit to the CG.

Mark Cooper said before Xmas we would need 14 wins if we were to contend the play off's. After 6 games since then we have won 50%, 3 from 6, with 18 still to play. At that rate we would only win another 9, which will not be enough, which makes the disappointing performances at Stevenage and Gills even more frustrating as we would have been well on target and already in the top 6. With 10 at home and 8 away still to play, to win 11 is a big ask, but if we can stay clear of injuries and with the new signings and return of 3 of the injured players it's still possible if we can continue to do the business at home and turn around our shocking record on the road., At home, on paper probably Wolves, Brentford and Preston look to be the most difficult, but we can't afford to take any team coming here lightly, stating with Oldham today.

COYR
One of Sams better columns, surprised he didn't mention the 6 nations today. Lol With regards to the rising from the dead of the 2 teams he has highlighted that have been built over time, you can add Brentford to that, who despite poor crowds do seem to have some spare cash to splash. Having seen the 2 games Sam thinks were outplayed I wouldn't say Orient out played us, until the lapse from Nat Thompson, we were the better team and could have gone on and got something. That's not too say they didn't deserve the win, they set out with a game plan and were more clinical in their finishing than we were on the day. so probably deserved to edge the result, but they did not out play us as Walsall did on their visit to the CG. Mark Cooper said before Xmas we would need 14 wins if we were to contend the play off's. After 6 games since then we have won 50%, 3 from 6, with 18 still to play. At that rate we would only win another 9, which will not be enough, which makes the disappointing performances at Stevenage and Gills even more frustrating as we would have been well on target and already in the top 6. With 10 at home and 8 away still to play, to win 11 is a big ask, but if we can stay clear of injuries and with the new signings and return of 3 of the injured players it's still possible if we can continue to do the business at home and turn around our shocking record on the road., At home, on paper probably Wolves, Brentford and Preston look to be the most difficult, but we can't afford to take any team coming here lightly, stating with Oldham today. COYR old town robin
  • Score: 5

8:46am Sat 1 Feb 14

TheDukeOfBanbury says...

Sure but will be for a very limited time where best players are sold to survive and clubs find their "normal" level.
Yeovil will be relegated and Walsall and Orient in 2 seasons will be average Div 1 sides.
Clubs with big gates and investment equally find their level in time.

We are and history tells us an average Div 1 side.
40 years of watching this and clocking up 1600 games becomes stale and I would love a sustainable flirt with the Championship.
With Di Canio / Black we had our best chance in years but history also tells us we are Swindon and a kick in the teeth is just around the corner.
Sure but will be for a very limited time where best players are sold to survive and clubs find their "normal" level. Yeovil will be relegated and Walsall and Orient in 2 seasons will be average Div 1 sides. Clubs with big gates and investment equally find their level in time. We are and history tells us an average Div 1 side. 40 years of watching this and clocking up 1600 games becomes stale and I would love a sustainable flirt with the Championship. With Di Canio / Black we had our best chance in years but history also tells us we are Swindon and a kick in the teeth is just around the corner. TheDukeOfBanbury
  • Score: 11

9:01am Sat 1 Feb 14

smirg kcab says...

Game on
Game on smirg kcab
  • Score: 1

9:08am Sat 1 Feb 14

TheDukeOfBanbury says...

smirg kcab wrote:
Game on
Great news just heard.
Are Walsall and Orient on .? :)
[quote][p][bold]smirg kcab[/bold] wrote: Game on[/p][/quote]Great news just heard. Are Walsall and Orient on .? :) TheDukeOfBanbury
  • Score: 1

9:20am Sat 1 Feb 14

old town robin says...

TheDukeOfBanbury wrote:
Sure but will be for a very limited time where best players are sold to survive and clubs find their "normal" level.
Yeovil will be relegated and Walsall and Orient in 2 seasons will be average Div 1 sides.
Clubs with big gates and investment equally find their level in time.

We are and history tells us an average Div 1 side.
40 years of watching this and clocking up 1600 games becomes stale and I would love a sustainable flirt with the Championship.
With Di Canio / Black we had our best chance in years but history also tells us we are Swindon and a kick in the teeth is just around the corner.
Some good points, totally agree small clubs are always in with a chance of making the Championship as was proved last year with B'muff and Yeovil, whether they can sustain their success and stay there is another matter. i would think Yeovil will be straight back down, but B'muff should stay up for at least 1 more season if the Russian continues to bank roll them.

On another note, as we seem to be limited as to where we can comment, just read the article on McDermotts sacking where an Italian consortium is about to take over, woder of PDC will put his name forward.

Expecting Sam to confirm pitch is OK to play, lovely sunny day in SN1 at the moment with a slight wind and little to no rain forecast.
[quote][p][bold]TheDukeOfBanbury[/bold] wrote: Sure but will be for a very limited time where best players are sold to survive and clubs find their "normal" level. Yeovil will be relegated and Walsall and Orient in 2 seasons will be average Div 1 sides. Clubs with big gates and investment equally find their level in time. We are and history tells us an average Div 1 side. 40 years of watching this and clocking up 1600 games becomes stale and I would love a sustainable flirt with the Championship. With Di Canio / Black we had our best chance in years but history also tells us we are Swindon and a kick in the teeth is just around the corner.[/p][/quote]Some good points, totally agree small clubs are always in with a chance of making the Championship as was proved last year with B'muff and Yeovil, whether they can sustain their success and stay there is another matter. i would think Yeovil will be straight back down, but B'muff should stay up for at least 1 more season if the Russian continues to bank roll them. On another note, as we seem to be limited as to where we can comment, just read the article on McDermotts sacking where an Italian consortium is about to take over, woder of PDC will put his name forward. Expecting Sam to confirm pitch is OK to play, lovely sunny day in SN1 at the moment with a slight wind and little to no rain forecast. old town robin
  • Score: -1

9:21am Sat 1 Feb 14

smirg kcab says...

TheDukeOfBanbury wrote:
smirg kcab wrote:
Game on
Great news just heard.
Are Walsall and Orient on .? :)
No more pitch inspections required.
Only mk to hold inspection
Coymr
[quote][p][bold]TheDukeOfBanbury[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]smirg kcab[/bold] wrote: Game on[/p][/quote]Great news just heard. Are Walsall and Orient on .? :)[/p][/quote]No more pitch inspections required. Only mk to hold inspection Coymr smirg kcab
  • Score: 0

9:23am Sat 1 Feb 14

smirg kcab says...

old town robin wrote:
TheDukeOfBanbury wrote:
Sure but will be for a very limited time where best players are sold to survive and clubs find their "normal" level.
Yeovil will be relegated and Walsall and Orient in 2 seasons will be average Div 1 sides.
Clubs with big gates and investment equally find their level in time.

We are and history tells us an average Div 1 side.
40 years of watching this and clocking up 1600 games becomes stale and I would love a sustainable flirt with the Championship.
With Di Canio / Black we had our best chance in years but history also tells us we are Swindon and a kick in the teeth is just around the corner.
Some good points, totally agree small clubs are always in with a chance of making the Championship as was proved last year with B'muff and Yeovil, whether they can sustain their success and stay there is another matter. i would think Yeovil will be straight back down, but B'muff should stay up for at least 1 more season if the Russian continues to bank roll them.

On another note, as we seem to be limited as to where we can comment, just read the article on McDermotts sacking where an Italian consortium is about to take over, woder of PDC will put his name forward.

Expecting Sam to confirm pitch is OK to play, lovely sunny day in SN1 at the moment with a slight wind and little to no rain forecast.
Forget him it's on stfc site it's on, told you the club won't tell him anything anymore
He will do a page at 1.30 to tell you it's on
[quote][p][bold]old town robin[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]TheDukeOfBanbury[/bold] wrote: Sure but will be for a very limited time where best players are sold to survive and clubs find their "normal" level. Yeovil will be relegated and Walsall and Orient in 2 seasons will be average Div 1 sides. Clubs with big gates and investment equally find their level in time. We are and history tells us an average Div 1 side. 40 years of watching this and clocking up 1600 games becomes stale and I would love a sustainable flirt with the Championship. With Di Canio / Black we had our best chance in years but history also tells us we are Swindon and a kick in the teeth is just around the corner.[/p][/quote]Some good points, totally agree small clubs are always in with a chance of making the Championship as was proved last year with B'muff and Yeovil, whether they can sustain their success and stay there is another matter. i would think Yeovil will be straight back down, but B'muff should stay up for at least 1 more season if the Russian continues to bank roll them. On another note, as we seem to be limited as to where we can comment, just read the article on McDermotts sacking where an Italian consortium is about to take over, woder of PDC will put his name forward. Expecting Sam to confirm pitch is OK to play, lovely sunny day in SN1 at the moment with a slight wind and little to no rain forecast.[/p][/quote]Forget him it's on stfc site it's on, told you the club won't tell him anything anymore He will do a page at 1.30 to tell you it's on smirg kcab
  • Score: -1

9:43am Sat 1 Feb 14

LydiardRED67 says...

taking aside posters own thoughts on Sam, and I do have mine, what he is saying makes sense. The only thing wrong with this model is that you have to get it right when it is your time, such as Walsall and Orient this Season.

My own view is that Orient will just see the job done, as Doncaster did last year and then come straight back down the year after. Walsall, in my opinion will not make and the squad will be picked apart next season.

Making a successful team is about many things and sometimes money is not the answer, but unfortunately in the modern game it is most of the time.

Lets not forget that STFC are not operating on a shoestring this year , our projected wage bill being in the region of £2,5m. Not bad for the the third tier of football.

I do agree though that the Adver, and Sam in particular are getting fed only that what is necessary for them to know and interesting Power went elsewhere to conduct an interview earlier in the week.
taking aside posters own thoughts on Sam, and I do have mine, what he is saying makes sense. The only thing wrong with this model is that you have to get it right when it is your time, such as Walsall and Orient this Season. My own view is that Orient will just see the job done, as Doncaster did last year and then come straight back down the year after. Walsall, in my opinion will not make and the squad will be picked apart next season. Making a successful team is about many things and sometimes money is not the answer, but unfortunately in the modern game it is most of the time. Lets not forget that STFC are not operating on a shoestring this year , our projected wage bill being in the region of £2,5m. Not bad for the the third tier of football. I do agree though that the Adver, and Sam in particular are getting fed only that what is necessary for them to know and interesting Power went elsewhere to conduct an interview earlier in the week. LydiardRED67
  • Score: 0

9:48am Sat 1 Feb 14

smirg kcab says...

smirg kcab wrote:
TheDukeOfBanbury wrote:
smirg kcab wrote:
Game on
Great news just heard.
Are Walsall and Orient on .? :)
No more pitch inspections required.
Only mk to hold inspection
Coymr
Cov Walsall off
[quote][p][bold]smirg kcab[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]TheDukeOfBanbury[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]smirg kcab[/bold] wrote: Game on[/p][/quote]Great news just heard. Are Walsall and Orient on .? :)[/p][/quote]No more pitch inspections required. Only mk to hold inspection Coymr[/p][/quote]Cov Walsall off smirg kcab
  • Score: -1

10:34am Sat 1 Feb 14

red white says...

Never seem to beat Walsall ever unless i am proved wrong.

Remember a rowdy 0-2 win at their old place many moons ago,Town fans all over the place. (or did we lose!?)
Never seem to beat Walsall ever unless i am proved wrong. Remember a rowdy 0-2 win at their old place many moons ago,Town fans all over the place. (or did we lose!?) red white
  • Score: 1

10:45am Sat 1 Feb 14

smirg kcab says...

red white wrote:
Never seem to beat Walsall ever unless i am proved wrong.

Remember a rowdy 0-2 win at their old place many moons ago,Town fans all over the place. (or did we lose!?)
We won at the bescot for the last 2 season 2-0 and won 2-0 when jukowitz scored twice on his debut when they were un beaten ( if my memory serves me right)
[quote][p][bold]red white[/bold] wrote: Never seem to beat Walsall ever unless i am proved wrong. Remember a rowdy 0-2 win at their old place many moons ago,Town fans all over the place. (or did we lose!?)[/p][/quote]We won at the bescot for the last 2 season 2-0 and won 2-0 when jukowitz scored twice on his debut when they were un beaten ( if my memory serves me right) smirg kcab
  • Score: -1

11:26am Sat 1 Feb 14

Psychedelic Syd says...

Going back a year or two, I remember going to see us beat Walsall 2-0 at Fellows Park, I think in 1969 (!) - Rogers got both goals if my memory serves me well. Walsall had a very young Phil Parkes in goal who went on to play in Division 1 (when it really was Division 1!).
Going back a year or two, I remember going to see us beat Walsall 2-0 at Fellows Park, I think in 1969 (!) - Rogers got both goals if my memory serves me well. Walsall had a very young Phil Parkes in goal who went on to play in Division 1 (when it really was Division 1!). Psychedelic Syd
  • Score: 1

1:05pm Sat 1 Feb 14

Wilesy says...

Walsall and Orient both good teams but rare that good low paid players and managers stay for long in League 1 so they have had a bit of luck as well.
Walsall and Orient both good teams but rare that good low paid players and managers stay for long in League 1 so they have had a bit of luck as well. Wilesy
  • Score: -1

1:15pm Sat 1 Feb 14

mancrobin says...

Sam's spot on and I disagree with those who say PdC/Black was our best chance. Disinterested Chairman and prima Donna manager is never a good combination to take a club forward.

Power and Cooper have yet to prove if they can emulate Orient and Walsall but I think they have made a good start. It will be difficult to maintain because fans will always get on their back if there isn't instant success and money splashed out on a regular basis. Yet, if we could get to the Orient/Walsall stage ( maybe this time next season) we have the fan base to go much further than either of them.
Sam's spot on and I disagree with those who say PdC/Black was our best chance. Disinterested Chairman and prima Donna manager is never a good combination to take a club forward. Power and Cooper have yet to prove if they can emulate Orient and Walsall but I think they have made a good start. It will be difficult to maintain because fans will always get on their back if there isn't instant success and money splashed out on a regular basis. Yet, if we could get to the Orient/Walsall stage ( maybe this time next season) we have the fan base to go much further than either of them. mancrobin
  • Score: 2

1:17pm Sat 1 Feb 14

Oi Den! says...

smirg kcab wrote:
red white wrote:
Never seem to beat Walsall ever unless i am proved wrong.

Remember a rowdy 0-2 win at their old place many moons ago,Town fans all over the place. (or did we lose!?)
We won at the bescot for the last 2 season 2-0 and won 2-0 when jukowitz scored twice on his debut when they were un beaten ( if my memory serves me right)
Grim, I think Jutkiewicz only got one of the goals that day. The other was a Christian Roberts penalty?
[quote][p][bold]smirg kcab[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]red white[/bold] wrote: Never seem to beat Walsall ever unless i am proved wrong. Remember a rowdy 0-2 win at their old place many moons ago,Town fans all over the place. (or did we lose!?)[/p][/quote]We won at the bescot for the last 2 season 2-0 and won 2-0 when jukowitz scored twice on his debut when they were un beaten ( if my memory serves me right)[/p][/quote]Grim, I think Jutkiewicz only got one of the goals that day. The other was a Christian Roberts penalty? Oi Den!
  • Score: 0

2:50pm Sun 2 Feb 14

Oi Den! says...

mancrobin wrote:
Sam's spot on and I disagree with those who say PdC/Black was our best chance. Disinterested Chairman and prima Donna manager is never a good combination to take a club forward.

Power and Cooper have yet to prove if they can emulate Orient and Walsall but I think they have made a good start. It will be difficult to maintain because fans will always get on their back if there isn't instant success and money splashed out on a regular basis. Yet, if we could get to the Orient/Walsall stage ( maybe this time next season) we have the fan base to go much further than either of them.
manc, Black was never chairman. He appointed Fitton, Wray and Patey to do that job. I really can't see why anyone should object to the club being owned by someone who doesn't want an active role in it. You don't keep a dog and bark yourself. Black put his trust in others to mind the shop and they let him down. Di Canio is a good coach but a pi55 poor manager of men - upwards and downwads. It is that latter characteristic that ruined our chance - yes, our best chance in decades - to make real progress.

At the moment I can see no reason to think we'll be any better placed this time next season than we are now. What evidence is there that we might be moving towards that?
[quote][p][bold]mancrobin[/bold] wrote: Sam's spot on and I disagree with those who say PdC/Black was our best chance. Disinterested Chairman and prima Donna manager is never a good combination to take a club forward. Power and Cooper have yet to prove if they can emulate Orient and Walsall but I think they have made a good start. It will be difficult to maintain because fans will always get on their back if there isn't instant success and money splashed out on a regular basis. Yet, if we could get to the Orient/Walsall stage ( maybe this time next season) we have the fan base to go much further than either of them.[/p][/quote]manc, Black was never chairman. He appointed Fitton, Wray and Patey to do that job. I really can't see why anyone should object to the club being owned by someone who doesn't want an active role in it. You don't keep a dog and bark yourself. Black put his trust in others to mind the shop and they let him down. Di Canio is a good coach but a pi55 poor manager of men - upwards and downwads. It is that latter characteristic that ruined our chance - yes, our best chance in decades - to make real progress. At the moment I can see no reason to think we'll be any better placed this time next season than we are now. What evidence is there that we might be moving towards that? Oi Den!
  • Score: 0

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