Bescot Banter: A season to forget for Walsall
Well, we've reached the end of the season and what a dreadful season it turned out to be.
From their opening pre-season defeat to Crewe way back in August to last weekend's goalless draw with Carlisle United, the Saddlers have struggled to make enough of an impact in the final third, something which is evidenced by the less than one goal a game the side managed over the course of the league campaign.
Lengthy winless spells, Deadline Day departures, managerial exits, and an apparent lack of desire among many of those left behind saw the team drift through the season, ending in a century-long low 19th in the fourth tier.
And whilst many fans may be able to accept a poor finish, we've all had to come to terms with it over the years, the team still has to go out there and show that they are willing to battle for the cause, something which was lacking for far too much of the season.
Goals from Elijah Adebayo, creativity from Rory Holden, midfield magic from Sam Perry went a long way to proving that at least some of the current crop were capable of performing at a level which may have seen the team avoid the disastrous finish and possibly even enter the nosebleed territory which is the top-half of the table.
However, there were far too many occasions where the so-called creative outlets in the team simply failed to perform, resulting in far too many bystanders and not enough difference makers. This, along with the injury absence of Holden and the disappointing departures of Zak Jules and Adebayo, weren't exactly a recipe for success.
Not long after the season came to an end club officials began taking steps toward a summer rebuild with the unfortunately necessary departure of Head Coach Brian Dutton taking place on Monday afternoon.
Despite guiding his team to safety there appeared to be very little prospect of a future for Dutton in WS1, something which he appeared to be fully aware of when he publicly sought to clarify his position towards the end of April.
Winning just three of his twenty games at the helm, Dutton was unlikely to be topping the internal list of preferred candidates to take the team forward, and, despite chairman Leigh Pomlett clearly seeing something in the 36-year-old, the worst ever finish wasn't something the club could or should accept.
Just a day after Dutton's departure came the publication of the much-anticipated Released and Retained. With the list containing a few surprises as the club begins to prepare for a much-needed summer overhaul.
Confirmed for departure were club captain, and 2020/21 Community Player of the Season, James Clarke, strikers Josh Gordon and Caolan Lavery, defenders Cameron Norman and Callum Cockerill-Mollett, midfield stalwart Stuart Sinclair, along with attacking outlets Jack Nolan, Wes McDonald, Josh Gordon, and Caolan Lavery.
Whilst the list of departures included several players yet to achieve anything like the level of performance we believe they were capable of, the time for change has arrived. A season which saw the team achieve precisely nothing cannot be rewarded with an extended stay, especially as finances will continue to be squeezed over the coming weeks and months.
And, although we don't know if the chairman had sought to secure the services of some of the players destined for pastures new and were turned down, this presents us with a chance to almost completely rebuild the team ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.
With the club set to confirm the appointment of a new Head Coach, currently believed to be former Crystal Palace and Reading manager Steve Coppell, although the market is changing on a regular basis, there may well be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Clearly, there is a long summer ahead. A new gaffer and players will go a long way to righting a few of the wrongs which have occurred over the last few seasons, but we've had several false dawns before and change is no guarantee of success.
Hopefully, as the summer break goes on, the new-look Saddlers will begin to take shape, and we could even reach the new season with just a little of a positive outlook and dig out those rose-tinted spectacles once again.