I wrote an article for this site about a week and a half ago but the site had to undergo some maintenance and it couldn’t go up. It was largely positive, written on when I was uncharacteristically optimistic: Florent Cuvelier had re-signed and that some players had eventually been arrived after the exodus of a few weeks before.
Today – even if I didn’t go to watch the Wolves friendly – I feel differently. The dust has settled.
Let’s look at the Walsall squad for that game:
David Grof: Appearances tell us that he’s indisputably Walsall’s number one now. But don’t be surprised if Dean Smith takes him out and replaces him with Jimmy Walker if he has a nightmare or the club has to play a few critical games, since that’s exactly what Smith did last season. Grof can’t suddenly have greatly improved and Walker slid into decline over a few months to warrant this adulation Grof’s suddenly receiving.
Ben Purkiss: Has never played in League One. Was relegated with Hereford last season.
Peter Gilbert: Has played in the Championship, but not for a while; he played all last season in League Two with Southend.
James Chambers: A decent signing if he were to be added to Walsall’s squad. He has regularly played at a higher level than his brother Adam, mostly in the Championship. But, still, his former club Doncaster was relegated last season and the club he spent the last few months of the season at, as another ex-Hereford loanee, were relegated too.
Nicky Featherstone: Relegated with Hereford. (Yes, really, another one.)
Adam Chambers: Poor last season. Walsall can’t rely on him to lead the midfield like they did last season or they’ll be in real trouble.
James Baxendale: Another one who finished the season on loan at Hereford and another relegation victim.
Will Grigg: An international, though you wouldn’t know it.
Jamie Paterson: Talented, but nowhere near finished developing. I still think my comparison with Florent Cuvelier still stands – that Paterson wants to be as good as him, and that in his head at least, he is.
Jake Jones: Never played a first team game, so playing regularly would be to be thrown in at the deep end.
Paul Downing: Thankfully, not a Hereford loanee last season, although he did spend time there a few seasons ago. But he did spend time in League Two last season, on loan. He played at Barnet. Predictably, they struggled throughout the season, but they weren’t relegated. Never made a first team appearance for West Brom before his release a few weeks ago.
Dean Holden: Appears a solid defender. But might be worth noting he played for two clubs last season: he played for Chesterfield initially and was then loaned out to Rochdale, before he signed for them permanently, before his release at the end of the season. Both clubs were relegated from League One.
Connor Taylor: Aston Villa youth team player. Never been anywhere near their first team. He’s only 18-years-old.
Florent Cuvelier: Brilliant player so for the purpose of my argument, ignore.
Ashley Sammons: Inexperienced. Never played for Birmingham City and was released; he was never farmed out on loan either, which might prove to be unfortunate.
Ashley Hemmings: Was sent out by Wolves to play on loan at Plymouth last season, who came close to being relegated in League Two. Was played, at least at the end of their season, sparingly. If he wasn’t judged good enough for a League Two relegation scrap, why judge him to be good enough for one in League One?
Aaron Williams and Malvind Benning: Both youth team products. Will surely be kept away from the first team this year, like Jake Jones was last season, unless things get very desperate.
Rudy Torres: Haven’t got a clue at all who he is or who he might be. The first few results from Google show a player who played for Hamilton in 2006 and seems to not have played since, so hopefully that’s not him.
Jimmy Walker: See Grof.
So, I count twenty one players were in that squad. One of them, Gilbert, was involved with a promotion run-in – but in League Two. Six of them played for clubs who were involved in the League Two relegation battle, four of whom were eventually relegated; and seven were involved with Walsall’s relegation battle. Six of them have never started a professional match.
Amongst the other Walsall players who didn’t play, Febian Brandy travelled to Greece signing for Panetolikos. Although he didn’t make the first team unsurprisingly they finished second from bottom in the Greek Superleague and were also relegated.
Who’s up for a promotion season, then?