Chris Marsh: Why can’t Walsall turn that on every week?
What a result, what a performance. But Walsall’s win over Bradford begs one question... why can’t they perform like that every week?
I don’t want to be too critical in this column because that result last weekend was one heck of an achievement.
To put it in perspective, I enjoyed 18 years as a professional. I played in more than 550 games.
But I never played in a game like that.
When Andy Cook was sent off after just six minutes, I honestly thought that was it.
I knew what Keatesy would try to do because he was schooled under Chris Nicholl and Ray Graydon.
Whenever we went a man down under those two, they made it abundantly clear we had to do everything we could to keep the ball out the net.
We would go to a 4-4-1 formation, just like Walsall did at the weekend, and we had to defend as though our lives depended on it.
It was a case of ‘batten down the hatches’ in two banks of four.
The reality is, in that position, the best you can really hope for is a 0-0 draw.
Maybe, maybe, you can push forward a bit more in the last 20 minutes in the hope of nicking something.
But in the position Walsall found themselves in on Saturday, it’s all about shutting up shop. It’s damage limitation.
So for them to go on and score three goals and win the game 3-2, honestly it’s remarkable.
Every single player was outstanding. It was a phenomenal team effort.
But as Keates said after the game, that has to be a platform now.
The players have shown what they can do – but they have to keep doing it.
That’s how they get themselves to the next level, you have to keep performing at seven, eight, nine out of 10 every week.
After the game, I texted Keatesy because I was just so delighted for him.
The pressure was on going into the game. And to put the result in perspective, Walsall would now be in the bottom four if they hadn’t won.
I was so relieved for him because we desperately needed to win that game.
I’ve got to admit it didn’t surprise me on Monday when David Hopkin left Bradford.
If you go a goal up against 10 men there is no excuse for not going on to win that game.
But to then concede three goals as well, that really isn’t great.
While Walsall’s fans and Keates were relieved on Saturday night, I bet Cook didn’t know what to think.
I was sent off three times in my career. And we lost all three.
I got sent off at Exeter for handling the ball on the line. They went on to score the penalty and win 2-1.
I also got sent off against Notts County. Initially, I smashed into a winger, it was probably too strong a challenge.
But the bloke got up and chinned me and, for some reason, the ref gave me the red card!
My other dismissal came at Cardiff’s Ninian Park and was ridiculous.
Initially, I got booked for not retreating far enough for a free-kick.
And then I got another silly booking later on so had to have an early bath.
When you’re sat in that changing room on your own, there is no feeling like it.
You are immersed in guilt. So I can’t imagine what was going through Cookie’s mind as he sat there in his tracksuit.
His manager was under pressure, the team could have ended up in the relegation zone – the consequences could have been massive.
When Cook walked down that tunnel, he knew there was probably a 95 per cent chance Walsall would go on to lose the game.
He is the team’s 16-goal top scorer. He has been the shining light of a disappointing campaign.
But he was probably sat there thinking all that would be forgotten.
Whenever I was sent off, the lads were always great with me. They would walk in and understand – especially as all my red cards were silly.
But it was a different story with the managers.
You felt awful anyway. But they would then let you know exactly what they were thinking. And then they’d slap you with a two-week fine.
I don’t know how Keatesy will handle the situation. But Cook was very lucky Walsall went on to win the game.
It’s a turnaround I have never seen before. And all the players deserve immense credit.
But there are still 12 games left and they aren’t out the woods yet.
The win against Bradford – as memorable as it was – it has to be start of something. It has to be the day that kick-starts a run that keeps Walsall in League One. It was truly remarkable. But a positive result at Burton on Saturday is just as important.