Just when supporters were preparing to press the panic button over the mystery of the disappearing team, Walsall made their first summer signing this week .... but then lost the services of brilliant youth team coach Mick Halsall.
Central defender Mark Hughes, 22, joined the club from Northampton Town and is a straight replacement for Anthony Gerrard who has been sold to Cardiff City for £200,000-plus.
Just as the fans were allowing themselves a brief sigh of relief, however, news broke on Wednesday that star-maker Halsall had moved to deadly rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers who are now in the Premiership.
Manager Chris Hutchings expects to make further signings next week, and he needs to after losing Gerrard, Jabo Ibehre, Michael Ricketts, Sofiene Zaaboub, Stephen Hughes, and this week utility player Chris Palmer.
Palmer really underlined the difficulties Walsall managers have to operate under when he revealed how couldn’t afford to accept the terms offered to him at Bescot. Instead he has joined League One rivals Gillingham, just promoted from League Two.
So he will be facing his old team at the Banks’s Stadium on Saturday, August 29, when he will no doubt receive the customary welcome afforded to ex players!
Newcomer Mark Hughes came through the ranks at Everton, captained their reserves, played a handful of first team games for the Toffees then moved to Northampton where he made over 100 appearances and became skipper.
Hutchings said: “We are delighted with this acquisition. Mark is a leader and talker. We have had him watched regularly and received plenty of good feedback. He uses the ball well and arrives here at the right age to fill the void left by Anthony Gerrard’s departure.
“This is the first of what we hope will be a number of new signings as we continue to work hard behind the scenes to strengthen the squad.”
Meanwhile the loss of youth boss Halsall is a major blow, though it was pretty obvious he might be heading for bigger things eventually. He almost joined Stoke City not so long ago.
Chief executive Roy Whalley said: “It was disappointing to receive his resignation at this time. However, we have decided not to stand in Mick’s way and he will be allowed to leave the club and take up his new position at the end of this week.
“We acknowledge the excellent work Mick has done over the years for our youth development programme and wish him well for the future.
“We will immediately start the search for his successor, and in the interim period his duties will be shared amongst existing members of staff.”
Hutchings added: “I would like to thank Mick for the ten years of excellent service he has given to the club. He has done a wonderful job and will go with our best wishes.
“He has produced some good players over the years and we are sorry to see him leave.”