Exclusive: Walsall chairman Leigh Pomlett on the transfer window, October's losses and his first six months
It’s been six months since he took over as Walsall chairman and it’s fair to say Leigh Pomlett has enjoyed his time at the helm.
It hasn’t been without difficulty however, with six straight losses in October making for a ‘horrible’ period for the club.
But since then the Saddlers have been on an upward trajectory and the 63-year-old is pleased with the progress.
“I’m generally pleased with the club, both the playing side and the club itself,” he said.
“We have to put it into context, we got relegated last year.
“Bouncing back from relegation is a tough ask.
“You have to bring in a brand new squad of players, a brand new management team and it’s tough.
“Generally I think we’re heading in the right direction.
“It would be fair to say I wish we were going a bit faster, but then I’m naturally impatient.
“But generally I’m pleased with the progress the club has made.
“Not too much, but it’s important to have patience.
“It’s no good me getting impatient now.
“I’ve kept very patient and I will continue to do so, but at the same time I’m ambitious for us to get back into League One.”
That patience, for many, would have been hard to maintain when the Saddlers endured their dreadful October losing run.
But the new chairman insists that, although it was difficult, he never considered sacking manager Darrell Clarke.
“It was a horrible month, but they’re going to happen,” he said.
“As chairman you can throw your toys out the pram or you can manage the situation.
“I’ve managed a lot more difficult crisis’ in my career than that.
“Alright, we lost six football games in a row, which is a horrible run.
“But I didn’t lose faith, there was never an occasion where I thought this is coming off the rails.
“I knew it would come back on because I’ve spent enough time talking with the management team, and at the training ground, to know.
“I was disappointed, I was frustrated but never once did I think it had come off the rails.
“I think we were unlucky with some of the games too, the results were just horrible.
“We may look back on this season and think October cost us, but life is like that sometimes and you have to ride out those storms.
“No, not any stage. Absolutely, categorically not (did I consider replacing Clarke).
“That would have helped no-one and would not have helped the situation at all.
“I want Darrell Clarke here long-term.
“He’ll go through some tough phases and he’ll go through some great months, that’s the nature of it.
“So no. Not at any stage was I tempted to make any changes at all.
“What would that have achieved? It’s a case of holding nerve.
“You’re on a journey here and I will not knee-jerk react to situations.
“I will carefully consider the options but at no point did that even cross my mind.”
Forever the businessman, Pomlett’s focus is on the long-term.
He is eager for a return to League One as soon as possible, but his five year vision will see the club set up for the jump to the Championship.
“I want us to get back into League One and you do these things in steps,” Pomlett added.
“My ambition is a five year plan for the club and I’m looking to get back into League One as the first step of that.
“There is a gap between League One and League Two but the gap between League One and the Championship is massive, it’s a chasm.
“Therefore, to prepare Walsall Football Club for the Championship is a whole new level of thinking.
“It’s not incremental thinking, it’s a big change.
“Once established in League One and we’ve re-united this club with it’s freehold, all those steps have to be taken and then we can look at preparing the club for the Championship.
“My plan is for it to be a five year plan.
"I've always said, and I know I'll bore people to death with this, but a 5,000 crowd makes a hell of a difference to us.
"I'll continue to keep working so there's a minimum of 5,000 people in this stadium because it makes life at the football club so much easier.
"We're still working on plans now for that 5,000 and that's never going to go away.
"That will always be the case because it makes life so much easier."
With that plan, comes the current January transfer window.
Fans have been desperate for some news after signing Wes McDonald to a new contract.
Pomlett, however, has been consistent in his approach, believing there is no rush to do deals this month – while adding that ‘too much emphasis’ is put on it.
“You don’t rush in at the beginning of January,” he said.
“There’s no need to, things progress through the month and most business is done at the end.
“We are active, we’re meeting players and discussing it on a daily basis.
“The consensus was that we should have this interview after the January window.
“No, there’s too much emphasis put on the window.
“It’s an opportunity to improve things but don’t overplay it, there’s far more important things than the January transfer window.”
Despite his views on the window and the terrible October, Pomlett is happy with how his first six months have gone and he still holds onto hope that the play-offs are possible this season.
“I’’d like us to be five or six points better off and I think we should be, but nevertheless I’m a pretty content chairman,” he said.
“We have to remember we got relegated and you have to renew the whole playing squad and management team from ground zero.
“It’s a tough thing to do and we’re in that process now.
“Directionally I’m very pleased, I just wish it was a bit quicker.
“We talk every day, including weekends.
“He’s brutally honest about the football club and himself and I enjoy the relationship I have with him a lot.
“We do have a lot of fun and talk about football a lot.
“The majority of fans I speak to, and I speak to them a lot, are supportive and understand this is a bit of a long-term game than just an immediate return.
“I’m sure Scunthorpe and Plymouth feel the same way.
“I’m pleased with the management team that’s been assembled, all the guys that are up there at the training ground as we speak.
“As a general statement I’m extremely pleased with them, as good as this football club has probably ever had.
“I think the fans have been damn good and they’ve been great towards me.
“The away support has been phenomenal too.
“I don’t think it’s (promotion) out of the question.
“There’s a gap to seventh place but it’s not out of the question.
“I’d be foolish to think we’re more likely to get there than not, but I certainly don’t think it’s out of the question.”