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Chris Marsh: The ultimate poker game is under way for Walsall

By Chris Marsh | Walsall FC | Published:

The transfer window is in full swing and all clubs are working hard to land their targets.

Dean Keates

But these weeks just before the start of pre-season are always a strange time for players on the lookout for a move.

It’s like playing cards, it’s the ultimate game of poker and you have to play the right hand.

There will be players up and down the country now who have offers and interest from clubs.

They can sign and be secure. Or they can sit and wait and see if something else materialises.

If it does, it will put them in a stronger position when they negotiate a contract.

But they may find those deals are no longer on the table if they take too long.

Managers – particularly in the lower leagues – will be looking at a host of players who can do a job for them.

And one move triggers another so targets can shift very quickly as players suddenly become available.

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So far Walsall have managed to get two deals over the line with Josh Ginnelly joining Andy Cook this week.

But the squad still looks worryingly light to me.

By my count, Walsall currently have 16 players who have first-team experience. I’ve included Joe Edwards in that even though he’s yet to sign his new deal.

But I’ve also had to include Kory Roberts, Maz Kouhyar, Callum Cockerill-Mollett and Mitch Candlin.

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They are all talented but they are all young. And that is a concern. Again it shows just what a mess Dean Keates inherited.

The squad was lacking in strength and depth last season but we can’t just get bodies in. We need numbers but we need quality. And with Walsall’s budget it’s not easy.

For me, we still need a couple of centre-backs, a couple of strikers another winger and another midfielder.

It’s a lot. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a quiet few days as players continue to mull over their options.

Then – when pre-season closes in – we’ll probably see a flurry of new arrivals.

On a separate note, it always amuses me when I read that players have now started work on their summer fitness programs.

I can remember Keatesy saying he wanted the Saddlers players to enjoy the first two weeks of their break.

And then they had to start working on their fitness regimes for the summer.

It makes me laugh because in my day we had 10 weeks off. It’s incredible just how much the game has changed.

I’ll never forget the first day of my first pre-season.

I was an apprentice fresh out of school. And in walked Willie Naughton.

He was a fantastic player, he’d make it into my all-time Walsall XI because he had a heck of a left foot.

He jumped on the scales and he had gained 14 pounds over the summer – an entire stone. And then everyone clapped him with Tommy Coakley actually praising him for having done some work while he had been away.

My mouth dropped. He was a stone over. And everyone thought he had done well.

Everyone then told him he’d have no problem losing the weight in time for the season!

Nowadays, you get fined it you come back a pound over. That is how the game has changed. And I can assure Walsall’s players Keatesy won’t have a problem dishing out fines if they report back overweight.

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