Chris Marsh: Saddlers must heed Dean Keates' warning
Christmas may be just around the corner, but Walsall’s players can’t be feeling too festive after that second-half horror show at Bradford.
It felt like the Saddlers were starting to pick up a bit of momentum following the wins over Coventry and Sunderland.
They actually travelled to Bradford – who let’s not forget were bottom of the table at the time – sitting just five points outside the play-offs.
But they were a shambles in that second half and Keatesy didn’t hold back in his post-match comments.
Chris Nicholl was the best manager I played for and he always said as long as we gave him blood, sweat and tears there was nothing he could do.
You never want to lose games, but if you give everything – the fans will understand.
It seems like Walsall didn’t give their all in that second half on Saturday.
That is a sin. And that is why Keates told the players they are now playing for their jobs.
He isn’t wrong and his words should be taken on board by all the players – but particularly those who are out of contract in the summer.
People have a perception about footballers that it’s all expensive cars and big wages.
Of course, that is true in the Premier League.
And footballers in the lower leagues are well paid.
But they live in a completely different world to those in the top flight. For them, paying the bills is something they still need to think about.
And in football, there are absolutely no guarantees.
If you are a player whose contract expires in the summer – in around six months time you aren’t getting paid.
Clubs throughout League One and League Two will release the players they don’t want. And what then? You are in a cattle market hoping to be picked up.
All players will back themselves to find a new club.
But with a wife and three kids, I wouldn’t want to find myself in that cattle market.
The grass is not always greener – you can see that with Florent Cuvelier.
I think most Saddlers fans would agree that – when fit – Cuvelier is a good League One player.
But he has been hampered by injuries and was released by Walsall in the summer.
He recently signed a short-term deal with Morecambe. But before that he was delivering pizzas.
Now this is said with no disrespect to people out their delivering pizzas, but Cuvelier is too talented to be doing that.
His story should be a wake-up call to all Walsall’s players.
They are playing for a great club in front of fantastic fans and they need to fight to stay there.
Keates has gone on record to say he wants to strengthen the squad in January.
And you’ve always got the impression he’s been waiting for the end of this season to really make his mark on the squad.
But while he will look to do business next month, there is only so much he can do.
Walsall are never going to be a club where the manager is just allowed to push six players to the side and not play them.
The budget just isn’t there for that. Every player is needed.
That may mean fans have to put up with more inconsistency over the next six months.
But it also means the out of contract players have the chance to earn a deal for next year.
They should do everything they can to seize it because they are very fortunate to do what they do.