Walsall comment: Matt Taylor and Jamie Fullarton bringing the feel-good factor

Matt Taylor’s reign at Walsall has barely begun but supporters are already bubbling with excitement, writes Liam Keen.

Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor

The club, to its credit, has built some momentum in the last week by swiftly bringing in four signings to get fans off their seats.

Taylor, alongside technical director Jamie Fullarton, have quickly created some good faith with Saddlers fans and if the remaining weeks of the transfer window are as successful – and the season gets off to a bright start – that relationship will only grow stronger.

The statement of intent began last week with the capture of Conor Wilkinson, who had been offered a new deal at Leyton Orient but favoured a move to the Banks’s Stadium.

A forward who scored 15 goals last season and knows where the net is in League Two – the perfect tonic for this squad.

His sending off against the Saddlers in 2019/20 also shows he has a bit of bite in his game, something this writer believes every team at this level needs.

The highlight signing so far, however, came days later when Joss Labadie walked through the door. Experienced, but not over the hill, and a major cog in a successful Newport County side that almost achieved promotion to the third tier.

He adds a physical presence to the midfield, something Walsall have clearly needed for at least the last two seasons. He also captained Newport and is a leader. Those attributes will be essential for a squad largely being built from scratch and one currently without a skipper.

With the loss of Dan Scarr the defence needed some signings and then Manny Monthe arrived.

More additions are still needed in this department, but the towering centre-back also adds more presence to the team, alongside some good attributes with the ball at his feet.

The running theme with all three of these signings is League Two experience, a proven track record at this level and varying degrees of success – but success nonetheless. It’s also accurate to say that the majority of fans at their former clubs wanted them to stay, which is always a good sign.

Add to that the signing of 22-year-old midfielder Jack Earing and Walsall have brought in a young talent with an eye for goal. The former Bolton man is highly rated and impressed with Halifax in the National League, picking up eight goals last season.

His signing, however, does pose some questions over the squad Taylor is building. There is now a plethora of players who can play in midfield, with Earing and Labadie adding to Liam Kinsella, Alfie Bates and Sam Perry who are already at the club. Throw in academy graduate Joe Willis too and that area of the field is perhaps overloaded. Although Emmanuel Osadebe and Rory Holden are more attack-focused, they too can play centrally with the former performing well as a number eight in midfield at the end of last season.

Those two, as well as Earing, can play out wide but are arguably all better suited in central areas, so the recruitment so far does potentially point to how Taylor may set up his team.

He could be opting for a midfield diamond without traditional wingers, that Tranmere often used well last season.

Or perhaps he is considering a 4-3-3 formation – or something similar – which could also point to the overload of midfielders.

Either way, it seems unlikely that Walsall will play a formation with two central midfielders unless Taylor sees Holden and Osadebe as wide players – but history tells us they are not best suited on the flank.

Perhaps one of Alfie Bates or Sam Perry could head out on loan? But with both showing talent and promise it may be better to keep them in the loop at home.

In the next few weeks, as more signings come through the door, we may look back and realise the direction they were heading in.

But regardless of that, the hierarchy deserve credit for building so much momentum among supporters, just in time for their season ticket sales, by battling with League Two rivals to bring in some of the division’s best players.

The allure of working with Taylor may be a big factor in that, but the modern model that Walsall have employed by bringing Fullarton in as technical director is already paying dividends.

The Saddlers have finally crashed into the 21st century and a successful season may be on the horizon. The fans deserve it.

But it’s important to remember that for all the excitement now, plenty more positions need to be filled and they must do the business on the field. A good start to the season in August and Walsall could go all the way.

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