Chris Marsh: Dean Keates has got a big rebuild on his hands at Walsall

By Chris Marsh | Walsall FC | Published:

A Disappointing season has finally come to an end.

Dean Keates got Walsall over the line in battle for survival, but he has a lot of reshaping to do with his squad

And while I’m not quite sure how we did it – the most important thing is that Walsall managed to hold on to their League One status.

After the jubilation of the win against Northampton and then the draw at Bradford, the final-day loss to Fleetwood was a reminder of just how big a job Dean Keates has on his hands.

And I just hope the club now gives him the tools he needs to build a squad in his own mould.

I think it’s going to be a summer of wheeling and dealing. Keatesy has pointed out a few times around 75 per cent of the squad are still contracted for next year.

That does mean his hands are somewhat tied. But Dean is a realist and knew exactly what he was walking into when he took over.

I think it will be a busy summer and that he will try and move some of the contracted players on.

It will be difficult because I can’t see teams coming in and paying fees for any of them.

But if these players aren’t part of the manager’s plans, Walsall have to help them move on.


Staying is no good for their careers and it’s no good for Keatesy if he is having to pay players who aren’t part of his plans.

It came as no surprise to me this week that he said he’s looking to add more experience and more leadership to the side over the coming months.

From an outsider looking in, that squad needs more character and more voices in the changing room.

That will really strike a chord with Keatesy because when we played together we had some big personalities in our dressing room.


The season might be over, but I think the headlines are going to keep coming over the next few months.

With Saddlers fans having endured a difficult year, the boss will want to hit the ground running at the start of next season.

But to do that, big changes are needed. Keatesy, though, will not be afraid to make them.

Finally this week I just want to share a story on Sir Alex Ferguson following the shock news he suffered a brain haemorrhage last weekend.

As regular readers of this column will know, the same thing happened to me a few years ago.

It’s serious stuff and while I wasn’t educated about it at the time, I certainly am now.

The next few weeks are going to be crucial for Sir Alex’s recovery. He will have the best medical team out there.

And his first words when he woke from his coma were apparently to ask how Doncaster had got one – with his son Darren Ferguson the manager there. That is a very good sign. But his lifestyle will now have to change.

He’s going to have to undergo a lot of tests. And I’d imagine, like me, he will be on tablets for the rest of his life.

The warning signs for my brain haemorrhage were that I was being sick for days and I had such a bad headache I thought my head was going to explode.

I went to get checked out at a walk-in centre, but because the wait was so long, I got up to go home. I just wanted to sleep.

My wife made my stay. And the doctors later told me if she hadn’t, I’d have gone home for a nap and probably never woken up.

I’m still here because of my wife and the support of my family.

And I know Sir Alex will be incredibly grateful for all the support he’s receiving.

He really is a fantastic man.

When we played them in the FA Cup, he made the effort to shake the hand and talk to every single Walsall player. But he is the type of character that always goes the extra mile.

My brother was living in Blackburn at the time of that game and his daughter, my niece, was a big Manchester United fan.

After the match I got Sir Alex to sign a shirt and I gave it to my niece.

But then when I got home, my wife asked me why I hadn’t got one for my daughter!

So I wrote to Fergie and explained who I was and what had happened.

I didn’t think he would remember me, he certainly wouldn’t have remembered my performance at Old Trafford because I barely touched the ball!

But he sent back a hamper of signed things for my little girl.

It was incredible – a beautiful touch from a great man.

That’s the type of character he is. And that’s why I know myself – and every Walsall fan – will be wishing him a very speedy recovery.


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