Before we look at the game, could you give us a memory from previous games against the Gas?
In 2008 I managed to persuade my new girlfriend that a weekend away in Bristol in January (taking in Rovers v Walsall, obvs) would be a good idea. It absolutely chucked it down all weekend and I was convinced the Away Tent was going to blow away (the game was a largely uneventful 1-1). She didn’t complain once.
We’ve now been married for 12 years.
How has your season been going so far?
We’re very much a work in progress. We signed 13 players in the summer, following the acrimonious end of the disastrous Darrell Clarke project.
Matt Taylor is an interesting managerial appointment but he’s still a rookie and we’ve struggled with injuries and suspensions to key players early on. We’ve had some good (Mansfield), bad (Forest Green) and downright ugly (Hartlepool) performances so far. Consistency is elusive and we’re still not entirely sure which Walsall will turn up from week to week.
And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?
After finishing 19th last season (our lowest position since the Football League went to four divisions in 1958) we’re crying out for some stability. I think most fans would be happy with mid-table and a sense that there’s a plan.
Expectations were raised with a few eye catching signings of proven L2 performers (Wilkinson, Labadie, Monthe) but none of these have featured particularly consistently for various reasons, so mid-table probably represents progress after the horrors of last term.
How is your form coming into the game?
George Miller’s home debut against Mansfield (in our last league game at Bescot) was probably the individual performance of the season. He’s by no means huge but he genuinely bullied their centre halves. He scored 2 and also hit the bar with a volley from 25 yards out. Miller was more subdued in our late defeat to Newport last time out but that was our first defeat in 5 games and we’ve won our last three at home in all competitions.
How do you think you’ll setup for our game?
4-2-3-1 is the preferred formation. We’ll try to hit Miller in the channels – very successful against Mansfield, so don’t expect that to change but we’ve used three different players in the ‘10’ role so I’ll be interested to see who gets the nod for this game. The rest of the side picks itself given injuries and suspensions.
Any weak links in your side?
He’s not a weak link but with Liam Kinsella out injured it’s a big game for central midfielder Sam Perry who will deputise in Kinsella’s absence. Perry broke through last season and looked a real prospect so let’s hope he can hit the ground running.
There are still question marks over the two full backs who have struggled to get forward so far this season.
Who are your standout players?
See that bloke with the suntan and the expensive suit sitting at the back of the stand? That’s the man from Barcelona and he’s here to watch Carl Rushworth. Apparently Barca have been keeping tabs on the Brighton loanee goalkeeper for some time and if they’ve watched any of his games for us this season they’ve probably been as impressed as we have. Shame they’re skint.
Apart from the previously mentioned George Miller, our dangermen are probably wingers Brendan Kiernan and Tyrese Shade as well as attacking midfielder Jack Earing.
2-0 to Walsall. Miller with a first half strike, then Joey Barton with a late OG after he unexpectedly brings himself on at half time.
He then resigns in an expletive-heavy post match interview before headbutting a ball boy.
Where do you think you’ll be come the end of the season?
Twelfth. Signs that we’re on the right track but nobody’s getting carried away and Taylor will need time to turn this around.