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Gamble: Long-term planning key to Walsall success

Chief executive Stefan Gamble says long term planning – similar to the Dean Smith model – can see Walsall become a force again in League One.

Stefan Gamble
Stefan Gamble

The Saddlers, who host Fleetwood at the Banks's Stadium on Saturday, are currently embroiled in a relegation scrap in English football's third tier.

But while at present they are battling to stay in the division, Gamble insists winning promotion to the Championship remains the board's overall aim.

Walsall's last genuine shot at promotion came back in the 2015/16 season after Smith had been given a couple of seasons to shape a team in his own mould.

And Gamble believes the Saddlers, who operate on one of the lowest budgets in the division, can be successful again with similar long-term planning.

"Football is not always about the money," the chief executive said.

"Clearly the money helps. But it does not guarantee success at all.

"From our point of view, we do operate on one of the lowest budgets, but it’s how that money is spent.

"As we showed with Dean Smith it is possible to compete if you get a team together, build it over two or three seasons, be patient and give it time.

"If you have the right infrastructure behind you then you can go on and win promotion from this division.

"I think as a board we will always look at a two to three year period to achieve that. Dean Smith had that.

"I think whenever a manager comes in, it’s a big ask to turn things around in six or 12 months and have us challenging for promotion.

"It takes a bit of time and patience. But at the same time, you have got to be competitive in whatever season you are playing."

Walsall famously won promotion back in the 1998/99 season when Ray Graydon's side pipped Manchester City to an automatic promotion slot.

But Gamble admits the money that's come into football means it's now a lot harder to replicate that success.

"Every time we have won promotion from this division, we haven’t had the biggest budget – it is achievable," he continued.

"I don’t think we have ever been in a different position. It is tough. But it takes a lot of planning and making sure you have the right infrastructure behind the manager and the team.

"There is no doubt it is getting tougher. There are teams throwing phenomenal money at it.

"Sunderland is a great example. But we have played them twice at the Banks’s this season, drawn twice and we probably should have won both games.

"We then beat them at the Stadium of Light in the FA Cup.

"I think being successful in this league is about organisation and having faith in your team and manager. If you have that I think you can achieve great things."

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