Bescot Sunday Market
By Matt Rowson
You know you're going to have a bad evening when you log on with the intention of collecting info off the Net with which to put together a match preview, only to find that your opponents' Website upon which you were depending ceased being useful in October. Add to this the most useless official Website imaginable and you've got the makings of a very duff Sunday night (anyone interested in attending the Bescot Sunday Market (????) check out www.saddlers.co.uk. If you're interested in the football, forget it).
So a big thankyou first of all to Wrexham's extremely prompt match reports, and to someone called Steve Roy, who runs a Walsall Website worthy of the name and has just saved my evening.
Walsall have got one of these fancy foreign manager-types, Dane Jan Sorensen having taken over from Chris Nicholl in the close season. Without wishing to cast aspersion on Mr.Sorensen's ability, this might be a good point to get something off my chest that's been bugging me for a while...
Now, I've lived abroad. I've watched football in Austria, and Germany. Many of you reading this will have similarly watched football abroad, and all will I'm sure at least have indulged in World Cup fever in 1994 and before. A wonderful world full of diverse approaches, and dazzling skills awaits us in the summer.... Romario, Batistuta, Mijatovic, Raul, Ikpeba....
But consider also the names Ben Massing, Zlatko Kalac, Peo Ljung, Jozsef Mlynarczyk, Josef Venglos.
Yes, foreigners can be rubbish as well. A strange accent, even coupled with an air of mystique, is no guarantee of success, as Walsall (and others) are finding out. Maybe I'm being unfair to Sorensen... Walsall were hardly hot favourites for promotion this season in any case, and have had horrible injury problems. I've not seen his Walsall side play, and certainly the signing of Boli has to go down as a success. However, having sat decisively on the fence for most of the season, the Saddlers finally seem to have committed themselves to the "relegation struggle" option as opposed to the play-off challenge being spoken of as little as a month ago.
Since then, nominally "easy" fixtures against relegation-threatened Carlisle, Plymouth and Brentford have all been drawn, followed by defeat at Wrexham on Saturday, leaving Walsall without a victory in their last six. Coupled with poor form going into Tuesday's game are injury problems which outstrip even our own. Notable absentees include converted attacker Andy Watson, goalscoring midfielder John Hodge, and 1984 cup-final centre back Derek Mountfield. French midfielder Jeff Peron was taken off with a hamstring problem on Saturday (which looks like an interestingly common complaint at the Bescot...), and ex-Hornet Gary Porter will also be missing with a tendon injury.
According to a Message Board contributor on Walsall's unofficial Website, the Saddler's current problems can be summarised as being "in Defence, Midfield and Attack". The man who avoids condemnation in this is keeper Jim Walker, a great shotstopper who allegedly prevented a cricket score at the Racecourse Ground. Interestingly, the Wrexham reviewer also suggested that many of Walker's saves were necessitated by his inability to organise his defence, something which the Hornets are well equipped to exploit with the havoc-invoking potential of Ronnie, Gifton and Slates not to mention the Moonster. (Take a moment, if you will, to relive 4:43 on Saturday. Happier now ?)
The centre of defence has been described as "ponderous".... the powerful Adrian Viveash has nonetheless received good reviews elsewhere. He was sent off against Brentford last week ( "following a tussle with Jamie Bates" must be the most used phrase in Division Two match reports over the last five years), but his suspension doesn't begin until next weekend.
The midfield is variously described as poor on distribution, not contributing goals, and lacking in teeth (so what, exactly, is it doing ?). The last of these, at least, is contradicted by the Wrexham complaint of high-flying Saddler's studs at the Racecourse Ground, John Keister being a particular culprit. 10 bookings in the last two HOME games is also a bit of a giveaway, although one joker on the aforementioned message board assures us that "most of these were down to referee error".
Even Roger Boli, still the Division's leading scorer (did anyone notice that Thorpe was subbed by Flam on Saturday ? Hee hee), is accused of having lost his appetite and is continually linked with moves away from the Bescot.
So a home win on the cards then ? Well yes, no excuses really. Watford won't need an awful lot of points to clinch automatic promotion, but home games against the likes of Southend and an injury-plagued Walsall, despite the threat of spasmodic brilliance from Boli, should be bankers for potential champions. Shouldn't they ?