Chris Marsh: Eight games left to save Walsall's season
The battle lines have been drawn, Walsall are in a real scrap and now it’s up the players to step forward and show they have what it takes to win this fight.
All year I’ve been worried the Saddlers would be dragged into trouble at the bottom of League One, writes Chris Marsh.
But it’s now got too close for comfort with the team hovering just four points above the drop zone.
With just eight games to go, we have now got eight cup finals coming up – starting with in-form Portsmouth on Saturday.
And we have all got a big part to play if we are going to help Dean Keates keep this team in the division.
For a number of reasons, Pompey is a nightmare fixture for the Saddlers this weekend.
They are in good form having won their last two games. They have got something to play for with Kenny Jackett’s men sitting just two points outside the play-offs.
And they also have a loud set of fans who really get behind them on road.
I think they are going to be up for their trip to the Banks’s Stadium. It’s likely to be a sunny day, the pitch is good, the ground is nice.
So we have to make sure we really get behind the lads to help them kick-start the Dean Keates era.
I know the new boss was sat in the stands for the game against Wigan – but for me, this is his first match in charge.
I read some interesting quotes from Karl Robinson this week after he opted to leave Charlton to take over at Oxford.
He watched from the stands as his new side were convincingly beaten by, of all teams, Portsmouth last weekend.
But he said he felt the game had come too soon for him. He explained that he is the boss and will be stamping his authority on the side.
But he wanted to watch that one from afar, which is exactly the same as Keates.
It’s very difficult for any manager to just walk into a club and prepare a team for a game straight away.
Of course, Keates would have had an idea about the players. But it won’t have been until he has seen training that he will really have been able to get an idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
He also hadn’t had the time to get to know them as people.
But he has had that now. The international break came at a good time for him.
And he has now had ample opportunity to set his stall out and get into the lads.
He needed that time on the training pitch to really see what the players are about.
Wigan really didn’t matter. I honestly don’t think with Jose Mourinho in charge we would have won that game.
They have been outstanding in both the league and in the FA Cup this season. They also have a budget that is far superior to Walsall’s.
Now though the time has come to fight.
And I believe it’s at home Walsall can win the points to keep them up in League One.
After Portsmouth, they have a tough game at Bradford on Easter Monday.
I hated going to Valley Parade, I don’t think I ever won there.
But then it’s Bury at home which is absolutely massive. That’s followed by another relegation six-pointer at Oldham.
And then there is yet another one with AFC Wimbledon coming to the Banks’s.
In those home matches in particular, Walsall can and should get results – there is no margin for error.
Hopefully, the players have already shown to Keates they are prepared to take on fresh ideas.
They also have to give 110 per cent when it comes to effort.
And – starting against Portsmouth – the fans also have to make sure they do their bit.
We need to drown out the visiting supporters because it’s Walsall who need the 12th man not the opposition.
Let’s do everything we can to get the Dean Keates era off to a flying start.
If we all do our bit, we should be able to get ourselves out of this mess.
And then we can all look forward to next season with a bit of optimism.