Gary Birch begins to rebuild at Walsall Wood
Boss Gary Birch has began his rebuilding job at Walsall Wood by signing nine new players as he aims to gain promotion back to the Midland League Premier Division.
The club were relegated to Division One last season after finishing third from bottom in a disappointing campaign.
The players, who have largely come from leagues above, will form part of a new-look team which Birch hopes can get them back into the top flight.
Birch took charge at Walsall Wood at the end of the season – just 24 hours after he left the hot-seat at Hednesford Town.
And despite the influx of new players, Birch is still looking to make further additions while the club are yet to decide the fate of some of their players from last season.
Former Chasetown defender Chris Slater, who made around 600 appearances for the Scholars, leads the list of new arrivals.
He is joined by former Chasetown and Stafford Rangers winger Peter Till while Jordan Fitzpatrick, Tony Clarke, and Lloyd Ransome have followed Birch from Hednesford.
Andy Westwood, Jack Farmer and Paul Sullivan have joined from Hinckley AFC while Drew Aiton has signed a new deal with Wood.
The main goal is to achieve promotion but Birch says he has plans for long term developments.
“We have assessed things very quickly since being here,” said Birch. “I watched Wood at the end of the last season and assessed very quickly what needed to happen.
“We have recruited players with a wealth of experience and hopefully we can go on and gain promotion.
“The club will announce a couple of more signings next week.
“Hopefully by then we will have a squad put together that we can take into pre-season.
“The signing of the calibre of players has raised a few eyebrows.”
Wood were relegated alongside Brocton and Tividale to Division One.
Slater has dropped down two divisions from Evo-Stik outfit Chasetown to play for Wood. Midfielder Fitzpatrick has stepped down three divisions, alongside forward Clarke, winger Till and keeper Ransome.
Midfielder Westwood, defender Farmer and striker Sullivan will go into the same league that they played in with Hinckley last season.
Birch said he spoke with Wood’s chairman Justin Hodgin before taking the job.
He said they discussed having a short-term plan but they will also focus on the long haul, and they hope to be competing with the likes of Chasetown and Rushall Olympic in seasons to come.
“It will take a while to achieve it,” said Birch. “But we are looking to bounce back straight away.”