Walsall and Setting Our Stall
SATURDAY’S opening opponents in this year’s EFL season are pretty much the epitome of a solid Sky Bet League One team.
Walsall staved off a small threat of relegation in 2017-18, the Saddlers host Argyle at the Bank’s Stadium at the start of their 12th consecutive campaign in the division. For most of that time, they have been firmly blissfully unencumbered by concerns at the top or bottom of the table
Argyle manager Derek Adams is an admirer of this achievement, as well as of the venue to which he and his new-look side will travel this weekend, when temperatures are set to trouble the mercury again..
“Walsall always have a good pitch,” he said, “and the first game of the season is always going to be hot. They’ve changed their team about over the summer and added some quality players
“They have lost a few players, yes, but, as they always do, Walsall they take in other players and I think they’re a strong outfit.
“They’ve obviously lost a central defender in Kory Roberts, a young promising centre-half, to injury."
You have to go back to 2015 to find the last time that we won our opening game of a season, August 8 to be precise.
Then, Gregg Wylde and Graham Carey saw off Wimbledon’s challenge in South London to get Derek’s Argyle tenure off to a perfect start.
Since then, we have been beaten 3-0 at home by Luton as our 2016-17 promotion-winning season got off to an inauspicious start and lost 2-1 at Peterborough United 12 months ago.
Sticking with Scots and stats, if Gregg Wylde makes an appearance on Saturday afternoon and gets himself on the score sheet before any of his team-mates, he will complete a hat-trick of sorts: the first goal in each of the three opening-day League fixtures in which he has appeared for Argyle.
In terms of stats of note against Walsall, we were beaten 2-1 when we played at the Banks’s Stadium early last season.
However, Ryan Taylor scored a solitary goal at the Theatre of Greens to secure all three points on New Year’s Day.
“Three points at any stage in the season is nice, but, as I keep on saying, the season is 46 games long,” said Derek.
For every fan, the opening day is one laced with excitement, but maybe more so than usual for the Green Army: we were one of the surprise packages last term, when we witnessed a roller-coaster of emotions - just what is this year’s model capable of?
With a few astute pieces of business from a man who is no stranger to finding a gem or two, this squad looks in good shape, a mix of youthfulness, experience and quality.
“Much of the same” was the mantra from the gaffer after being asked about his expectations as the start of his fourth season in charge loomed ever closer.
But surely we would be forgiven if we were to dream big this year?