Walsall face one of their toughest ever seasons in the Coca Cola League One after the promotion and relegation issues have landed them with some huge challenges and marathon trips.
Former Premiership clubs Southampton, Norwich City and Charlton Athletic have come down from the Championship, Leeds United are still with us having failed in the play-offs, and difficult opponents like Brentford, Gillingham and Wycome Wanderers have been promoted from League Two.
Saddlers fans must have been praying for Shrewsbury to beat Gillingham in the League Two play-off final at Wembley to give them one local derby, but the Kent side won 1-0 and will renew their rivalry with Walsall.
Just look at the ‘local’ teams who have left the division - Leicester City, Crewe, Northampton, Cheltenham and Hereford United!
What it means is this: Walsall and their fans will travel over 6,000 miles next season to attend league matches, and if they are drawn away in the cup competitions they will clock up even more miles. And the recession is still biting!
As yet we have no idea how strong the Saddlers’ squad will be, but no-one will expect many big signings to boost the squad. You can’t imagine Chris Hutchings’ men facing anything other than a survival campaign, and at this stage my forecast of the League One table next May is:
1 Leeds United
2 Norwich City
3 Charlton Athletic
6 MK Dons
8 Oldham Athletic
9 Swindon Town
11 Wycombe Wanderers
12 Southend United
14 Tranmere Rovers
16 Carlisle United
18 Yeovil Town
20 Leyton Orient
21 Colchester United
22 Stockport County
23 Exeter City
I hope the Saddlers finish higher than my prediction, and of course they will benefit from the fact that Chris Hutchings and Martin O’Connor will have them together right from pre-season.
They may also be able to use their contacts to borrow a couple of players, hopefully from some of our neighbours.
Walsall FC spokesman Andrew Poole said: “One thing is certain.
“We shall have some very attractive games for our fans at the Banks’s Stadium. It’s going to be very interesting to see the fixtures when they are published on June 17.”
*Tickets are now on sale for the Saddlers’ mouth-watering pre-season friendlies against Wolves on Tuesday July 21 (7.45) and West Brom on Saturday July 25 (3pm).
They are £12 adults and £6 concessions, and can be purchased from the club shop at the Banks’s Stadium Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm, or from the town centre shop on Fridays and Saturdays, 9am to 5pm. The telephone box office is on 0871-663-0111.
Away fans have been allocated the Homeserve Stand and the West Bromwich Building Society Stand for the two friendlies.
Matchday VIP tickets for the game are also available for £35, which includes ticket, four-course carvery meal, programme, car parking, and half-time refreshments. Call he commercial department on 01922-651412.