Chris Marsh: By George, a hero came to Walsall's rescue!
We’ve done it! Walsall are safe and with a game to spare.
And it is a huge relief to be able to say that after the highs and lows of the past few weeks.
I’m absolutely delighted for the fans. And I’m so chuffed for my former team-mate Dean Keates who deserves the chance to build his own team in League One. Now we can all enjoy a relaxing trip to Fleetwood safe in the knowledge it’s going to be Rochdale or Oldham that joins Northampton, MK Dons and Bury in the bottom four.
Survival was secured thanks to a 1-1 draw at Bradford on Tuesday. But it was that thrilling victory over the Cobblers on Saturday that clinched it for me. In this column last week, we placed an advert calling for a hero.
And George Dobson was the man who stepped forward with a stunning goal to put us within touching distance of safety.
What a moment that was at the Banks’s Stadium. When Dobson’s strike hit the back of the net, there was an outpouring of emotion. It was pure euphoria mixed with pure relief. It was fantastic. I texted Keatesy before the game saying: “Let’s get this nailed today.” And they got it nailed.
Northampton was such a big game and such a huge opportunity. But the lads got the job done.
It’s been tough for Keates since he stepped in to replace Jon Whitney. But he has made an impact. If you take away that second-half against Wimbledon, the defence has looked a lot more solid. They are a tighter unit and more compact.
Okay, we’d like to see more going forward. But that isn’t going to happen until Keates has the chance to bring in his own players.
He has shown in his short spell in charge though that, next season, we are going to be very hard to beat. He gets that from his time playing under Chris Nicholl and Ray Graydon. And it bodes well for the future.
One player who is sure to play a big part in any upcoming success is Dobson. He will feel like a different player after that goal.
When you score important goals, your confidence goes sky high. And all of a sudden, it feels like you are playing a different game.
That strike was one of the most important in the club’s recent history.
But for a player of Dobson’s ability, I think that goal will now really bring him on as a player.
I think he is going to be a very, very important for Walsall Football Club for the next few years from that goal alone.
Next season he will start like a new man. It’s not an arrogance thing. He won’t feel he is better than his team-mates. He will just have that added belief because when the chips were down he produced. And he will be proud of that.
I’m so pleased for the lad because we’ve always known he has ability but he needed to find a home. He had that spell at Sparta Rotterdam earlier in the season which didn’t quite work out for him. But now he has found a home at Walsall and that will really allow him to develop over the next few years.
Now safety has been secured, we can all start to look forward. Keates has got the summer to make some changes and bring in some more creativity – we’ve got one in George but we need some wingers and forwards.
He has addressed the situation in terms of keeping them in the division this season.
And he will know where he wants to make changes for next year. So let’s all breathe a huge sigh of relief, and look for forward to next season with optimism!