“Hello, hello, is this thing on? Walsall! Can you here me? I say Walsall, can you hear me? You can? Then lettttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt’sbefuckinghaveyou!!!!?!!!”
I am back in the game. I had been accidentally locked in the bathroom in the bowels of the Bescot and now here I am sauntering down the steps from the Director’s box, grabbing the mike from the pitch-side announcer (who was just about to introduce Darren Rogers to the crowd) and whipping the crowd into a ravenous frenzy. I have rediscovered my mojo and picked up a jaunty spring in my step. Walsall are sitting near the top of the summit of League One and both a local(ish), derby and a top-of-the-table clash await us, this coming Saturday.
Burton Albion. Never seen them before. A first time for me and a first time for Walsall I believe. I have been engaging in loads of banter with Paddy Considine on Twitter (the only celebrity Burton Albion fan I know) about the match. He personally told me (and all his other followers) that he was filming Peaky Blinders this week, so I asked him if he had ‘time to watch the Walsall v Burton top of the table clash on Saturday?’ The fact my comment went without reply didn’t prevent me from asking the same question an hour later and again the next morning. I thought it best to leave it after that but then by the evening, and fuelled by a couple of glasses of wine, I had changed my mind and asked him yet again. Twice. I then woke up the next morning feeling incredibly remorseful and immediately deleted all trace of the tweets apart from my original one, which remains, just as I go to press, unanswered. Anyway, like I said, top banter!
So, on to the football. What have we done right this season that we were doing so wrong last season? I’ll tell you something for nothing, I have been well impressed with our new right-back, Jason Demetriou (who won’t be playing on Saturday). Last year, I contributed my best ever Walsall XI to the Yeovil programme and I struggled for a right back before plumping for Wayne Evans. That choice was mostly nostalgic because he was right-back when I first regularly started to watch Walsall, but, I tell you what, that could well change the way this new lad has played.
Our new keeper, Neil Etheridge (who also won’t be playing this Saturday) is pretty good as well. And handsome too, although far too clean cut for my taste and a little bit ‘boy band’ if I’m being brutally honest. My all-time Walsall pin-up will always be Adrian Viveash. What a man. Swoon.
Anyway, I digress. Why have we improved so much? Well, I’ll tell you. Individually, O’Connor has been splendid, Henry is an exciting prospect (although not a left back in a flat back four) that adds pace to the team, Sawyers has been bloody awesome and added goals to his game, Bradshaw (and his ultra-tight shorts) has been fit and has been banging in the goals and Sam Mantom has gotten forward more from midfield.
As a team, we are more fluid than I have seen for a long time and pass the ball forward and commit more people to attack than we have previously done. We have changed systems to suit the game and become a lot less rigid in our style. Defensively, we have always been sound but now we are even better.
Of course, there are still problems: No proper right-back for this game, not enough quality in reserve, a lack of height and physical presence to defend and attack set-pieces and a broken speaker system in the family stand.
However, I will concentrate on the positive and will go wild with my prediction for this game and state that it will be tight one, with Walsall to nick a late goal to send us top of the league. Our aforementioned international absences won’t help us but don’t forget that Burton’s manager, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, is also away on international duty for Holland this week, so that will even things out.
Before I go, I would just like to send out an Esther Rantzen Hearts of Gold badge to all those people who helped me up after I fell down a very dangerous manhole type thing on Bescot Crescent. It is just before you turn right (as if you are coming from Lord Street) towards Bescot Stadium, via the car park. You have been warned!
My simply awful fall happened before the Chelsea game and the very next day I reported it to Walsall Council’s Transport and Streets complaint department. I have heard nothing back from them yet, but I will keep you posted if there is any compensation due and will contact all of you to willingly share a (very) tiny percentage of what is surely coming my way.