Michael Ricketts and Michael Jackson – What do they have in common?

We all know about the sad fate of Michael Jackson but news of our ex centre-forward has been scarce since his high-profile court case in January 2011. That was until today.

It seems that Michael Ricketts does have something in common with Michael Jackson as he has sadly been diagnosed with vitiligo, the same skin condition that caused Jackson’s skin to lighten. The good news is that it hasn’t stopped Michael from playing the game that he loves as according to Richard Hughes of the Hunts Post, Michael Ricketts lined up at right-back for St. Neots in their Evo-Stik South Division 1 Central 7-0 thrashing of Chertsey Town.

However, it turns out that Richard Hughes had not quite checked all the facts before he reported on the story.

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Stevenage v Walsall – In-depth Tactical Analysis

When I saw that Andy Butler wasn’t in the team I was expecting the worse as I didn’t think that Manny Smith would be tough enough for this challenge but I was proved completely wrong as he ended up being man of the match in another backs to the wall performance from Walsall.

Stevenage came with a reputation of being an old-fashioned physical team in the same style of John Beck’s Cambridge. They are certainly a physically big team but there game plan does not revolve around long balls into the box from deep, instead they try to get their two wingers to get the crosses into the box and hang them high inviting everyone to attack the ball. To say that they are anti-football would be grossly unfair as particularly in the first-half they passed the ball in midfield along the ground and it was their physically less imposing players, those wingers, that caused Walsall all the problems.

I went with a friend today and his first comment after less than a minute was that Walsall have come for a draw as ‘your keeper takes a lot of time over everything’.  Walker used every bit of time he could in order to slow the game down and eke out a few more seconds. His experience and nous also ensured that we were never really uncomfortable and he did not have to pull off any his normal high quality saves but instead guide the defence in front of him who, in particular Smith, never looked in that much trouble despite more crosses coming into the box than there are direct looks into the camera in Ricky Gervais’s ‘hilarious’ new sitcom Life’s Too Short.

The midfield was as solid as I have seen for a long while, whether we were playing four in midfield or three, what was for sure that Chambers and Wilson were in the centre and then, depending on your perspective, Taundry was either in there with them or as more of a right-midfielder with Nicholls as either a left midfielder with a licence to break forward or an out and out left-sided forward. Macken and Grigg were up front and both, as is now the norm for Walsall, were starved of service.

Wilson impressed me in midfield, he did a lot of chasing back and was always available for a pass, so I was surprised to see him go off for the new man Halliday. This meant that Taundry went into centre midfield and we then all sat back on the 18 yard line inviting the pressure onto us and dealing with the crosses that came into the box rather than preventing them from coming in. Stevenage did go a bit more long-ball in the last ten minutes but we coped admirably. Halliday made probably the most anonymous debut I have ever seen for Walsall.

Macken missed our best chance, blazing way over from near the penalty spot and that was that. We went there with a game plan to get a 0-0 draw and that is what we achieved. All those Walsall fans criticising Stevenage for their brand of football should take a look at the way we play at the moment, it certainly isn’t pretty but at least for today, just like it normally is for Stevenage, it was effective.

Mark E. Smith Reads the Football Results

Mark E. Smith Reads the Football Results

I know this clip is ages old but it is worth seeing if you have never seen it before.

Fast-foward to 3.08 to hear the pronunciation of Walsall from Salford’s finest musician.

For those who have never heard of him, here is a clip of him in his more regular role.

‘Music and the Saddlers’ is what I always answer when asked what my biggest passions are in life. When I was living in Walsall, I was a regular in Sundown Records (R.I.P.) and also at Tudor Tunes in Lichfield.

There have been some fine songs that have soundtracked my time supporting Walsall. This song from Doves reminds me of the sadness I felt with Walsall being relegated under Ray Graydon and this melodic beauty from Kula Shaker brings back many happy memories of Walsall being promoted the following season.

Does music play a big part in your life as a Walsall fan? It is time for another poll…

Trevor Benjamin – A Tenuous Link to a Great Article about Racism in Football

He may not have been a Saddler for long but Trevor Benjamin has written his place in Walsall folklore as he scored the goal against Notts County that secured promotion back to League One.

That is why I feel that I can put this link up to a great article about racism in football which is currently a hot topic due to the John Terry affair. If you think that has dragged on long enough then that has nothing on this case.

If you are interested in articles about football that do not revole around the Premiership then this website is for you.

Brett Angell – Underrated and Unloved

I was off sick from work and flicking through the channels when I came across the LFC Station. It was showing a repeat of a Merseyside Derby from the Nineties. Leading the line for Everton was Walsall’s very own Brett Angell.

It never worked out for Brett at Everton, in fact if you ask any Evertonian, he would probably be considered one of the worst players in their history. It is not difficult to tell why, he was painfully slow, with the turning circle of a tank. He did have one gift though, he could head a ball.

Brett’s heading prowess was evident in the opening game of the 00/01 season, away at Rotherham. Trailing 2- 0, we came back to win 3-2 thanks to an own goal and two goals from Angell. He headed one in from a few yards with the opposition defenders bouncing off him, then scored with another header from close to the goal and it was his sheer presence in the box that caused the own goal.

Although he only scored one goal in the Premier League he was prolific at Stockport and because of this and the two goals against Rotherham, I fully expected him to score loads that season. This never quite happened and he never really won the Walsall fans over. This may have been because in a team of great skill (for Walsall) players like Matias, Hall, Bukran, Leitao and Byfield showed up his lack of technical prowess.

At one away game when we lost at Oxford, Brett missed an easy header from a few yards out. He responded to a shout from the crowd telling him to ‘F*** off’ by sarcastically applauding and shouting back ‘that’s really helping, thanks’. Shortly after this, we got Goodman in and the pecking order of strikers changed to Leitao, Goodman, Byfield, Angell. A young Karl Hawley was only sixth choice behind Gary Birch, oh for that choice now!

With the play-offs position already sorted, we sent out a weakened team away to Northampton and Brett promptly scored a hat- trick. I heard a report from someone who overheard two Walsall fans talking about Brett’s performance that day and one said to the other ‘but what else did he do all afternoon?’

He never figured in the play- offs and Sir Ray made it clear he wasn’t in his plans for the next season. He did come back briefly though, due to injuries and players losing form, and scored one of the best goals I have ever seen at Bescot, against Grimsby. With the ball played up to him on his own and fully 35 yards out he had three choices. Hold the ball up, dribble past the defenders, or welly it. He chose to welly it and hit a dipping half – volley into the top corner of the net.(Edit: I have just tracked down this goal on YouTube and it turns out that my memory of it is not quite right. It is still a good goal though, judge for yourself).

After that, he faded away from Walsall. Last time I heard anything about him, he was allegedly stacking shelves in a supermarket before moving on to a coaching role in New Zealand. I could make some sort of joke out of this but I won’t, as I have too much respect for him as a player. For his goals at Rotherham, for answering a loud mouth fan back and for the cracker against Grimsby I will always like him, despite him being underrated and unloved by many Walsall fans.