Chris Marsh: Big decision ahead for Walsall chiefs

By Chris Marsh | Walsall FC | Published:

It’s a tough job that needs to be filled by the right candidate.

Finding Jon Whitney's replacement is key for Walsall

But I don’t think Walsall have to look too far to find their next manager, writes Chris Marsh.

Jon Whitney was finally relieved of his duties this week. It had been a long time coming, but I was still surprised by the timing – I honestly thought he would remain until the end of the season.

I’ll talk about Whitney a bit more later. But the most important thing now is that Walsall find the right man to take them forward.

And, for me, there are only a handful of candidates who can do the job.

I truly feel it should be a legend who gets the nod. The fans feel so disenchanted with the club at the minute – but bringing back a former favourite would give everyone a boost.

Personally, I feel there are three outstanding candidates in Adi Viveash, Dean Keates and Craig Shakespeare.

Viveash is a fantastic coach, players love his training methods and – most importantly – he knows how to develop players which is crucial at Walsall.


At Chelsea, he had unbelievable success by Chelsea’s standards. He won two FA Youth Cup and two UEFA Youth Leagues.

He’s got a vast contacts book and is currently doing a great job with the first-team at Coventry.

Viveash has developed players that Chelsea have gone onto sell for millions and millions of pounds.

I think he would be great, but so would Keates.


He came up through the ranks with me and he has always been a dedicated and ambitious professional.

He is a local hero, he is from Beechdale, which the fans love.

But most importantly, he is doing a fantastic job in charge of Wrexham.

He is operating in a league within which it is very difficult to compete.

Yet Wrexham are flying high in fourth spot and right in the thick of the promotion race.

Keatesy is so passionate about Walsall though, it’s his club and I know he would give the job everything he had.

Another person who loves Walsall is Shakey. He lives locally and whenever I have spoken to him, you can tell his affection for the Saddlers.

For me, he is an outsider. He’s got a fantastic job at Everton and will be on a very good salary.

I’m sure money won’t really come into it for him. But it will be difficult to walk away from a Premier League club and the chance to work with that calibre of player day in, day out.

Outside of those three, you see the same names in the betting that are linked with every job.

But I don’t want to see a Brian McDermott or a Steve Cotterill. I don’t want a journeyman manager.

If we are going to look outside of club favourites, I think Lee Carsley would be a good shout.

He has recently left a coaching job at Blues so is available and lives locally.

Carsley has an interesting history as a coach.

He’s spent time at Coventry, Brentford and Manchester City.

And he did very well at Coventry and Brentford when he stepped in to take charge of their first-teams on a caretaker basis.

He would be a very intriguing appointment and has certainly got a lot of contacts in the game.

I would prefer it though, if the new boss is someone who has a close affiliation with the club.

Walsall is a special club, with a special set of fans and it needs someone who understands that.

Finally this week, I just want to wish Jon Whitney the best of luck for the future.

I think his departure is the right thing for the club, but I hope he now goes on to have a very successful career – either as a manager or in another role in the game.

I will always have respect for Jon for taking on the manager’s job at the Banks’s Stadium.

He had a job for life at Walsall after the excellent work he did in the 13 years before he was appointed boss.

But he was brave, took the job and knew if it didn’t work out he would be on his way. That takes a lot of courage.

If he had stayed behind the scenes, he would probably be the man the club always turned to whenever they did need an interim manager.

Now though he is gone and the man out of work. There are, of course, many reasons for that.

Tactically he wasn’t good enough at times. His comments in the press also weren’t great. And he had lost the fans a long time ago.

But he gave the job his all. Nobody can argue with that.

And I will take my hat off to anybody who has a job for life, but then goes and puts it all on the line.


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