Chris Marsh: Bitter blow for Walsall to be back in the drop zone
It’s happened – Walsall have dropped into the relegation zone.
And – if you’re like me – you’re struggling to know just what to think at the minute.
On the one hand, the Saddlers have performed well in their last five games.
The players will take confidence from that.
But I can tell you from my own experience, dropping into the bottom four is a huge psychological blow.
The challenge now for Keatesy and the players is come out fighting.
And unfortunately I’m going to have to use a cliché I absolutely hate.
You’ll often hear players and managers say ‘We have to take the positives’ when they speak following a defeat.
It’s a cliché and it’s normally rubbish. Football is all about winning at the end of the day.
But I think Walsall have to take the positives out of the last two games.
They played well against Portsmouth and Sunderland and probably should have drawn both matches.
In the end, they didn’t. But there is no shame in that, because Portsmouth, Sunderland and Saturday’s opponents Barnsley have budgets that are absolutely massive in League One.
The bottom line is Walsall went toe-to-toe with two of the division’s big-hitters. Now they have to do it again, but this time get a result.
It’s going to be tough because I think Barnsley are the best team in the league. For me, they are better than Luton.
But Walsall’s recent performances mean there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Back on that run from December through to February, when we lost eight out of nine, performances weren’t great.
But they are a lot better now. And that is why we have to look at the positives because we will be OK if we continue playing as we have been.
It is going to be about how the players react now.
But I can tell them they really don’t want a relegation on their CV. Back in my playing days, I had four promotions and three relegations.
I talk about the promotions all the time. But honestly, the relegations stay with you just as much.
Just the other day I was thinking back to the 1988/89 season.
That was the year we were relegated from what is now the Championship.
We struggled and I can remember us going on a 15-game losing streak.
It was horrible and in the end we went down.
I’m almost 50 years old now. But I think about that relegation a lot.
Relegation is not nice and I wish I didn’t have any on my CV and now Walsall’s players have to make sure they don’t have it on theirs.
The big positive is the table is so tight. They kick-off at noon on Saturday and if they win can shoot up to 13th in the table.
It’s on TV as well and sometimes that can help you perform better.
I’m not saying they don’t give their all every week because they do.
But I think subconsciously it can lift you a little bit knowing you are playing on the box.
I was fortunate to score in front of the cameras. You go out for a meal afterwards and people come over and tell you they saw your goal. It’s nice.
And hopefully it will drive Walsall on this Saturday.
I’ve said it before in this column, but your home games are so important at the business end of the season.
Barnsley is tough, but any game at the Banks’s is a huge chance to get out the bottom four.
Walsall need to keep the faith and put in a performance that gives everyone a lift.
If they do that – hopefully – the table on Saturday night will be a lot more pleasing on the eye.