Walsall Web Fans look back at a game at Griffin Park on February 4th, 2006 which turned out to be the last match in charge for Saddlers boss Paul Merson.
Brentford soon set about Walsall and took the lead in the 7th minute when Isiah Rankin held off a challenge from Anthony Gerrard to fire home past Andy Oakes. Just four minutes later Brentford doubled their lead through Ricky Newman and the early signs were it was going to be a thumping defeat for the sorry Saddlers.
A ‘Merson Out’ banner was unfurled in the away section by fed up fans who had previously seen their team lose 0-5 at Colchester and Walsall could have been four goals down by half time had it not been for two brilliant saves from Oakes from Paul Brooker and Jay Tabb. However the Saddlers keeper had to go off with an injury and his place was taken by 17 year-old Luke Tilt and with Chris Westwood also having to depart Danny Fox was drafted into emergency action at centre half.
The second half turned out to be a disaster for Walsall with further Bees goals for Paul Brooker on 65 mins, a Sam Sodje header on 77 minutes and a Kevin O’Connor penalty four minutes before the end thanks to Andrew Barrowman who needlessly handled in the box. One player to emerge with credit was midfielder Dean Keates who was making his debut for the Saddlers in his second spell with the club following his move from Lincoln City. Merson said of his new signing afterwards, “For me, I thought Dean Keates was the best player because he worked his socks off and won headers when he’s the smallest player on the pitch by about six inches.”
On his own future, Merson also said to the press, “Forget about ‘Merson Out’ because unless I get sacked it’s not happening. I had a meeting with the chairman after the game and he said I will be manager next Saturday.If we lose I’ll go, its as simple as that.”
As it happened owner Jeff Bonser had a rethink and Merson was sacked before the home game with Scunthorpe. So Merse’s spell in charge of Walsall ended as it started- with a 0-5 defeat. This particular game at Griffin Park was Walsall’s 11th there without a win and it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground since.
The starting line ups for this game were…
Nelson, O’Connor, Tillen, Newman, Sodje, Turner, Pratley, Brooker, Owusa, Rankin, Tabb.
Oakes, Pead, Fox, Leary, Westwood, Gerrard, Atieno, Smith, Barrowman, James, Keates.