Relegation leaves questions to be answered
An unsuccessful late attempt to avoid relegation from League One speaks volumes of Walsall FC in 2019, a club on the brink of free-fall and offering very little in the way of resistance.
Though the efforts of Martin O’Connor prolonged hope of a reprieve that only he and the fans would have deserved, demotion to the fourth tier has delivered a devastating reality-check that should resound at every level of the club.
In truth, the groundwork for an unfavourable League One exit has been laid over some time now, culminating in a season where the club's attempt to marry prosperity and austerity has fallen short of the minimum requirements.
We're told the club's frugal approach makes us well-regarded in footballing circles, but how many of our admirers would forsake their third tier status in pursuit of balancing the books?
The true cost of this relegation will become evident in time.
Players and managers are by no means without blame of course, but their input has been largely symptomatic of the club’s output. Experience, professionalism and consistency come at a price even in the lower reaches of League One - without a competitive budget or an alternative formula for success, relegation has loomed large.
Even half of the £440,000-a-year rental commitment would give a substantial boost to our modest playing outlay, one that is rumoured to be mid-range even in the unfamiliar and inhospitable environment of League Two.
A new approach and fresh thinking is required if the club is to address the institutional stagnation that might just send us into non-league football.
Statement of Intent
In the aftermath of relegation, Walsall FC released a short statement on behalf of its Board of Directors. Suitably apologetic without betraying any admission of guilt, it offered a few paragraphs reviewing the season and ended by detailing the obvious requirements of the coming weeks and months.
Plenty of platitudes and posturing, but nothing we didn’t already know.
Indeed, what supporters want now from the guardians of our club is not a generic statement of fact, but a detailed and determined statement of intent.
In the weeks ahead, important questions must be answered:
Do the club intend on appointing an experienced manager?
How quickly will an appointment be made?
Will promotion be an immediate requirement for the new manager?
With numerous players out of contract, who will handle renewals for players such as Liam Kinsella in the interim?
Will the playing budget be greater or smaller next season?
How competitive will the 2019/20 playing budget be at League Two level?
Does reaching the Championship remain the club’s long-term ambition?
How will the club’s approach be changed in order to achieve this?
Was our ‘footballing philosophy’ abandoned and how will it be re-built?
What will be done to address the apparent decline of our youth set-up?
And last, but not least:
Will the Chairman consider a rent-break in order to manage the potential effect of relegation on the playing budget?
These questions have been submitted to the club this morning. Hopefully the response will not only be prompt, but also indicate that Walsall FC has a clear and ambitious plan to return to League One at the first attempt.