Five candidates to replace Jon Whitney at Walsall

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 13 March 2018, 11:41

Walsall made the right decision to dismiss Jon Whitney as manager. The 47-year-old ends a 15 year association with the club and it was right that, in their statement, the board acknowledged his commitment, which has never been in question.

However, fans were not happy with the way he conducted himself, the absence of a clear playing identity on the field and the number of heavy defeats. Perhaps the biggest damning indictment of his tenure though was that he was never respected: even when, on paper, results were going relatively well.

If there was mutiny during those times, only one or two defeats were required to impose a sense of crisis. The board simply had no choice but to listen to the majority of the fanbase and act: the question now though, is who should they appoint to replace Whitney?

Here’s five contenders in the Next Walsall Manager Market.

Dean Keates

Why he should get the job:

More than anything, Walsall need a manager capable of uniting the fans. Dean Keates, who was born and bred in the town before making 209 appearances for the club over two spells – including being Player of the Year during their 06/07 League Two title-winning campaign – fits that bill perfectly.

The 39-year-old is one of the brightest young managers below the EFL: 18 months into his first managerial stint, his Wrexham side are set for their first National League play-off finish in five years.

Why he shouldn’t:

The board have already had to pay off the last 15 months of Whitney’s contract and might not be overly keen on paying extra compensation. Walsall have scored more goals this season - 47 - than Keates’ Wrexham - 43 - in 37 games apiece and it could be questioned whether his methods, which have led to a high number of draws, would get the best out of diminutive wizard Erhun Oztumer. Some Dragons fans question their manager’s substitutions and his tendency to protect one-goal leads with tactics that are occasionally perceived as overly defensive.

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

Keates wouldn’t be the perfect appointment, but he would bring some unity off the field and solidity on it – two qualities that wouldn’t go amiss.

Adi Viveash

Why he should get the job:

Walsall appears to be the only club at which fans have called for the appointment of Adi Viveash. That may be linked to a five-year spell in the 90s that the former defender spent with the Saddlers – for whom he made more appearances (202) than any other club – helping them to reach Division One (now the Championship) in 1999. Viveash enjoyed nine successful years working with the Chelsea youth setup and retains useful contacts at Stamford Bridge; his aptitude for developing the unfinished product is a crucial ingredient for any Walsall manager.

Why he shouldn’t:

Although the Saddlers have a young squad, the skills needed to nurture academy graduates may be different to those required to motivate fully-fledged professionals like, for example, Adam Chambers. It is reasonable to assume that Chelsea’s riches allowed them to appoint lots of well-paid staff members, meaning that Viveash’s job was tailored to his coaching strengths. Being manager of Walsall, by contrast, demands a wide array of skills that the 48-year-old might not have: his only experience in senior management came a decade ago with non-league Cirencester Town, hardly a glowing endorsement of his credentials.

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

Although Viveash would be popular initially, there is a danger that he would be too far out of his comfort zone due to a lack of senior coaching experience.

Brian McDermott

Why he should get the job:

Brian McDermott led Reading to the Championship title with a modest budget back in 2012 and a couple of years later, had Leeds in play-off contention. He played a part in the development of current Premier League stars Gylfi Sigurdsson and Shane Long, which underpins his preference for working with young players; the average age of Walsall’s last match-day squad was 23.

Why he shouldn’t:

McDermott’s second stint at the Madejski Stadium was more sobering than his first with Matej Vydra, an impressive forward at this level, arguably misused. The 56-year-old hasn’t been a leading contender for any other jobs in the 20-months since he left Berkshire and has no obvious connection to the Walsall owners or the club, meaning that unlike two of his competitors, he’d have no automatic head-start with the fans.

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

A manager with a good pedigree at League One level and could be a decent option.

Stuart McCall

Why he should get the job:

Many Bradford City fans were not happy with the sacking of Stuart McCall, who retains the respect of most players at Valley Parade. There could be a few who might not appear in Simon Grayson’s plans but would want to be re-united with their former boss. The Scot also managed Nicky Devlin at Motherwell and should be able to get the best out of the attacking right-back, if Tony McMahon's development is anything to go by.

Why he shouldn’t:

Bradford suffered partially from a lack of summer investment, yet they still had a top ten calibre squad, which could not have suffered six successive defeats without something going badly wrong. McCall’s doubters imply his affable manner was not wholly a positive thing and the ex-midfielder gave certain players more trust than their displays sometimes merited. His substitutions have been questionable as Walsall found to their benefit back in August, when they overturned a three-goal second half deficit to draw 3-3.

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

Provided McCall can learn some lessons from the way his time at Bradford ended, there is reason to think he would be a good option for Walsall.

Lee Carsley

Why he should get the job:

In Lee Carsley’s spells as caretaker manager at Brentford and Birmingham, he inherited sides in 19th and 23rd respectively. It is rather impressive therefore that in a combined 13 games in caretaker charge, he led his sides to 21 points, which would be top six form over a whole season. The former midfielder is widely respected as a man of honesty and integrity, with a unique relationship with fans of the clubs he serves.

Why he shouldn’t:

Carsley resigned from his post at Birmingham City, not wanting the guilt of keeping his job whilst Steve Cotterill lost his. He could quite easily have been considered for the permanent manager’s job at Brentford, but passed up the opportunity. There is something admirable about the way Carsley conducts himself: but does he truly want the pressure of a manager’s job?

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

If Carsley wants a crack at senior management, he would be a low-cost option for Walsall and there is reason to think he has the potential to do well.

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Michael Collins
Michael Collins
(Bradford City)
3rd September
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