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Darrell Clarke has the belief for a Walsall rebuild

By Joseph Masi | Walsall FC | Published:

He knows it, the fans know it and the board know it as well.

Darrell Clarke has a huge rebuilding job on his hands at Walsall.

And, as first impressions go, he couldn’t have done any better when speaking with the press for the first time yesterday.

A lot of what he said will be music to the ears of Walsall’s fans.

But the most striking thing was the confidence with which he spoke.

Very simply, it was reassuring.

And it underlined why the board opted for the 41-year-old when they were tasked with making one of the biggest appointments in the club’s history.

The very nature of football management means it’s rare any new boss walks into a club on the up.

Nevertheless, Clarke still has an awful lot to deal with.

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Fans have become disillusioned following a series of disappointing campaigns that ultimately ended in relegation, while the new boss has also inherited a squad where 19 players are out of contract next month.

Clarke, in his own words, admitted it’s a complete rebuild.

What he smartly pointed out though, is that rebuilding clubs is not only what excites him, it’s what he does best.

At Bristol Rovers, he took charge when the team was on the cusp of being relegated into the National League.

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He couldn’t prevent relegation.

But he then released 16 players and signed 13 on free transfers.

That is a rebuild on par with what needs to happen at the Banks’s Stadium this summer. And it led to Rovers going on to win back-to-back promotions from the National League into League One.

When speaking yesterday, it was clear Clarke has absolute faith he can do a similar job at the Banks’s.

We all know he won’t have the biggest budget in the world. But he said he has what he feel he needs to be successful.

It wasn’t arrogance. It was confidence and self-belief – two things any successful manager has to have.

But that wasn’t the only side of his personality he showed. Clarke entered the room cracking jokes before taking the time to shake everybody’s hand.

He then said not to hold back with the questions – and promised not to shirk a single one.

As he got up to leave though, he also moved to remind the media he likes to keep them on their toes.

He happily warned he’ll be the first one to point out mistakes if we get our facts wrong.

And that was maybe a brief insight into how he will be with the players. Clarke came across as friendly and approachable. He said his door is always open and he welcomes fans popping to the training ground to speak with him.

But it was also clear – when it comes to the players – things will be done his way.

He had no problem describing some members of the squad as ‘dead wood’.

And anyone who doesn’t buy into his methods or who doesn’t want to be at the club will quickly be moved on.

At 41, he is still young enough to be able to relate to players and get on with them.

A video that went viral where he calls out the Grimsby Telegraph following Bristol Rovers’ promotion tells you that.

But there was also no doubt he knows exactly what he expects from his players and has very high standards.

At a time when Walsall need a complete rebuild, they have hired a manager who has enjoyed success doing just that.

Clarke seems to be the right man at the right time. And that will hopefully give fans real optimism after what has been a hugely disappointing few years.

Joseph Masi

By Joseph Masi
Football MMPJ - @josephmasi_star

Football journalist for the Express & Star covering Walsall FC.

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