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Chris Marsh: Walsall striking trio are all pushing each other

By Chris Marsh | Walsall FC | Published:

It’s been three league games since one of Walsall’s trio of strikers found the back of the net.

Walsall's striking trio are all pushing each other

But I’m still incredibly excited about our front line.

In Morgan Ferrier, Andy Cook and Josh Gordon, we have three forwards with an abundance of talent and quality.

And I can’t remember a time when we had so many options up front.

It certainly didn’t happen very often in my playing days.

The policy back then was to have two centre-forwards and a young up-and-comer who would try and push them.

In the 1980s the partnership was David Kelly and Trevor Christie.

Then we had Andy Saville and Stuart Rimmer. And after that it was Rod McDonald and Kyle Lightbourne.

Eye for a pass: Josh Gordon

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There were times when he had a really promising young forward – Martin Butler and Michael Ricketts both fell into that category.

But there were other times the front two had next to no competition.

Now, though, we have three forwards who have all shown they can make their mark.

And that means they all know that if they don’t perform there is a good chance they will be out the team.

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What’s particularly pleasing is they are all very different footballers.

Cook is your battering ram. He’s a brute of a striker, but he showed with that thunderbolt against Middlesbrough in the Checkatrade Trophy he has got goals in him.

Ferrier is always on the shoulder, his movement is excellent.

And then you have got Gordon, who is more cute on the ball and looks to have an eye for both a pass and a goal.

It means not only is there competition for places, but Dean Keates also has options tactically.

That bodes very well for the future. And it’s not just up top where we have strength in depth.

Regular readers of this column will know I am a big fan of Kieron Morris.

So I was delighted to see him come off the bench to net that 94th-minute winner at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

The wingers are another interesting conundrum for Keates.

Zeli Ismail has the most flair. He can go past people with ease and is probably the best finisher. Josh Ginnelly works so hard down that left-hand side and is an excellent crosser of the ball.

But Morris is very direct, he has an outstanding first touch and he is starting to add goals to his game.

Battering ram: Andy Cook

I think he has been a little unfortunate not to get more minutes this season. But he is just as important as the other two. For me, he has really kicked on.

Finally this week I just want to touch on the Checkatrade Trophy.

Let’s be honest, it’s a competition that just doesn’t work – and as far as I can see it’s failing everybody.

It was great that Walsall beat Middlesbrough Under-21s the other night. But when you look at these academy teams, they are packed with players who don’t know what to do when they are put under pressure.

They may be good technically but they have no idea what it’s like to play men’s football.

And that is why Walsall were able to beat them so convincingly on Tuesday.

When I was coming through, you had the Midlands Intermediate League, which was a proper reserve league.

It was full of talented youngsters as well as senior pros coming back from injury or who were out of favour.

I was lucky enough to start playing in it at 15 years old.

And you wouldn’t believe some of the players I came up against: Steve McClaren, Tony Mowbray, Gary McAllister.

They were playing because they were still a few weeks away from full fitness and needed games.

Those games were competitive and you’d learn so much going up against the senior guys.

Movement: Morgan Ferrier

Now, though, youngsters in these big academies just play against each other.

It’s all about possession and the results don’t matter. And that means when they actually come up against seasoned pros, they are not up for the fight.

You get the impression a lot of these lads are pampered and think they have made it before they have.

But at 21, they should be pushing for a place in the first team.

I don’t think many of the Middlesbrough players that played on Tuesday will be coming into Tony Pulis’s plans any time soon.

One more thing this week, I just want to praise our fans because you have been exceptional this season.

The support the team is getting has been fantastic.

And I just want to say keep supporting the lads because you have no idea how important that backing is.

Keates’ men have been brilliant away from home – in fact they are still unbeaten. But while they have lost two at home, they have been really unlucky.

They did enough to beat both Accrington Stanley and Shrewsbury.

But while they were second best against Doncaster on the day – you have those days in a season.

Hopefully though – if we keep backing the lads – they will turn the Banks’s into a fortress and give us a campaign to remember.

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