Jon Whitney's Walsall could be in for a difficult season

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Jon Whitney and Walsall ahead of the upcoming 2017/18 League One season.

Background

Walsall probably hit par with a 14th-placed finish last season but the football was rarely inspiring and the fans couldn’t contain their lack of faith in Jon Whitney. Derision rained down from the stands on the final day as the Saddlers were trounced 4-1 at home by MK Dons and a local newspaper ran a poll the following week returned only 23 per cent support for the manager. Summer business has been slow and the departure of keeper Neil Etheridge could expose even bigger cracks.

Personality

Whitney is an impact manager, a highly-motivated extravert who wears his heart on his sleeve and is rarely understated about anything. An uncompromising midfielder in his playing days, he fell into management due the force of his personality behind the scenes as part of the backroom team under Dean Smith and his primary concern is managing people rather than ideas or methodology. He takes his media duties very seriously, seldom resisting the urge to issue rallying cries and ramp up the stakes whenever possible.

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Verdict

Walsall were on a downward spiral at the end of last season and Whitney will be under pressure to deliver results straight away. That won’t faze him one bit, though, and he has developed a habit of pulling something out of the bag when he needs it most. Tenacity alone could make the Saddlers competitive in the opening weeks but we shouldn’t brace ourselves for any tactical or strategical innovation. Looking beyond August and September, it could be a long campaign scraping around for points.

Prediction: survival battle

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