Chris Marsh: Dean Keates proving he is suited to Walsall
Perhaps Dean Keates secretly wishes he was still out on the pitch – because he appears to have given himself a home and away kit this season!
Walsall’s boss has turned up to every game at the Banks’s Stadium in a smart suit, but when the Saddlers are on their travels, he dons the tracksuit.
Considering his team has started like a house on fire, and are now unbeaten in five games, it’s only right that he keeps this up.
Footballers and managers are a highly superstitious bunch, believe me.
When Kevin MacDonald played for Walsall, he used to tell us stories about his days under Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool.
Dalglish was so superstitious that whenever they got a coach to an away game, if they had won the previous away match, he’d make sure all the players sat in the exact same seat.
But worse than that, he’d make sure all the players ate the exact same pre-match meal too. Considering he won three league titles and two FA Cups with Liverpool in that period, there were a lot of wins.
It’s great being a Walsall fan at the moment. We’ve hit the ground running, and while we may have had the rub of the green at Wimbledon the other night, Keates has got the team playing fantastically well. Nowadays the 4-4-2 formation is classed as ‘old school’, just because Pep Guardiola and other foreign coaches have come in and played one up top.
I’ve always been a fan of putting two strikers on the pitch with wingers if you can. It may look old school, but if you’ve got the right personnel to suit the system, it works.
Keates appears to be influenced by Chris Nicholl and Ray Graydon, two men who managed him as a player at Walsall.
Defensively we look sound, and having spoken to a number of people from other clubs, they’ve been impressed with how many of Walsall’s players are willing to put their bodies on the line.
There seems to be a real team spirit brewing under Keates, and if they carry on the way they’ve started, ambitions will start to shift.
At the start of the season, the best we hoped for was a season of consolidation around mid-table.
And while it is still very early days, there is hope of something a little bit more successful than that.
The main thing this start has proved though, is that Keates is the right man for the job, and when the team hits a sticky patch – because it will at some stage – fans will have faith in him to turn it around again.
As long as he keeps the suit for home games!