Walsall comment: Saddlers need balance in major summer recruitment drive

Walsall will enter the 2021/22 season with a new-look squad after releasing half of their current team.

Captain James Clarke has been released
Captain James Clarke has been released

And although some of the released names are up for debate, the club desperately needs a reset this summer, writes Liam Keen.

Overall, eight first-team players have not been offered a new deal, while three current loans have returned to their parent club.

As it stands Walsall have 10 players contracted to the club, including player-coach Mat Sadler, while defenders Dan Scarr and Hayden White, and youngster Danny Coogan, have been offered deals. If those three all accept new terms, the club will have 13 players contracted, meaning at least 10 new players are needed.

As a result, Walsall find themselves in a very similar position to the one they were in two years ago.

In the summer of 2019, following relegation from League One, the Saddlers brought in 16 new players alongside new manager Darrell Clarke.

Now, in an equally as important time for the club, they are in desperate need to bounce back and have a successful recruitment period.

It is important to mention the restraints they have worked under during the pandemic, as a business with little to no income, but the coming months offer a superb opportunity.

Plenty of good League Two players are out of contract and up for grabs and this squad needs quality.

It needs strikers to finish chances and players to support creative forces Rory Holden and Emmanuel Osadebe, who are both under contract for next season.

Out-and-out wingers are another priority, alongside a big and strong midfielder to compliment the good, young talent already in the middle of the park.

Josh Gordon and Wes McDonald are undoubtedly talented players but their inconsistent form this season has led to their release and they will certainly need replacing. The key word for this team is balance. For too long now this squad has been unbalanced and lacking a proper identity.

Down to the minute details, the players need to know what is needed of them, while the fans also need an idea of what they are getting behind.

Technical director Jamie Fullarton, alongside whichever manager he employs, will be a major part of that.

The recruitment process needs to be done with a philosophy running through it that allows the club to bring in players that suit the system and compliment the players already at the club.

With that there will be a need for several defensive recruits. There is now a gaping hole at left-back, while the release of skipper James Clarke will come as a shock to many. The 31-year-old was keen to continue his stay at the Banks’s Stadium but has instead been given his marching orders.

Some supporters gave him a hard time but in this writer’s opinion he was certainly worth keeping hold of.

With the club wanting and needed a reset this summer, however, Clarke may have fallen victim to the need for a new voice in the dressing room.

The captaincy will be another big talking point. Liam Kinsella could be an option, or they could choose to give a new and experienced signing the armband.

We may see some academy graduates earn professional deals this summer too, meaning the signings that come in from outside the club need to add experience to an already young group. Find a balance, identity and quality and the club cannot go far wrong. Make too many of the same mistakes, however, and it will be Groundhog Day.

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