Chris Marsh message to Walsall players: It’s unforgivable to not give your all
I know one or two things about being in a relegation battle, writes Chris Marsh.
I’ve been part of teams that have successfully avoided the drop. And I’ve also been part of teams that have gone down.But I’ll tell you something, I’ve never been part of a team that didn’t give 100%. And neither has Martin O’Connor or Dean Keates.
I’ve read, watched and listened to everything I can about Walsall’s performance at Accrington. And the running theme is that they didn’t try. Effort-wise, it was pathetic. Desire-wise, it was pathetic. Hunger-wise, it was pathetic. And that is just not acceptable.
O’Connor, Keates and myself all played under Chris Nicholl. And I’ve said before in this column he was the most fearsome manager I ever played for.
He wasn’t afraid to get right into your face and tell you exactly what he thought.
But from day one, he always told us the only thing he demanded once we crossed that white line was that we gave 110 per cent.
He always said you are going to put a pass in the stands, you are going to have a shot that goes out the stadium and you are going to have the ball bobble off your shin when you try to control it. But if you come off that pitch with your jersey ringing wet with sweat – what else can I ask of you?
That has stayed with me throughout my life. And I know it’s stayed with O’Connor and Keates too. How dare those players not give their all at Accrington.
It’s breaking my heart to see us in this position. The fans are angry and lashing out. But that’s because their hearts are breaking too.
Let me tell you something about footballers. In training, you get good trainers and bad trainers.
But the players who don’t train well, sometimes they get away with it because it’s during 90 minutes on a Saturday where you earn your money. Everyone else works hard all week. But the only time they really have to deliver is then. So to not try, it’s completely unacceptable. If you are in a relegation battle, you have to fight, fight, fight.
There is a saying in football that if you go down, you go out on your shield.
That year we were relegated from the Championship – under Ray Graydon – we were up against very good sides. But we took it to the final day of the season against Ipswich.
That is team spirit, that is fighting for each other. We were outclassed most weeks. But we were never, ever, outfought. We went down on our shield.
The only saving grace as I write this today is that Walsall are just three points from survival. By the grace of God we are still in touching distance. If we were five points adrift – and I know that’s only two points difference – we’d be down. If it was four points, that would be a huge barrier. But three points, you are still in with a shout.
Now it’s Easter weekend and we have games on Friday and Monday. Everyone knows they are going to determine our fate.
But it’s more serious than that, if we don’t beat Southend on Friday I think we are down.
Our season rests on this. Our fate rests on this. It is the biggest game in years.
And those players now have to perform. They owe it the club that is paying their wages and has given them a shot at playing in League One. What really surprised me about Saturday is if any manager is going to get in their faces – it’s Martin O’Connor.
If he can’t get them going, I really don’t know who can. So it’s over to the players now.
They need to decide how they want this season to be remembered.
Do they want to be remembered as the team who were relegated by Southend and Wycombe over the Easter weekend?
Or do they want to put up a fight and put some pride back into the club and themselves.