Long-suffering Walsall fans still believe former Mansfield Town star Darrell Clarke is the man to revive the club’s fortunes ahead of Stags’ trip there this weekend.
Having operated on a reputed bottom four budget in League One for a number of years, it caught up with the Saddlers last season when they were relegated as the players and boss Dean Keates were found wanting.
The board held off sacking Keates but pulled the trigger in early April after 10 defeats in 13 games which proved too late.
Clarke played 174 times for Mansfield, scoring 28 times, having come through the Stags youth system from the age of 10, but the Mansfield-born boss’ old club dealt him a major blow as boss of Bristol Rovers when Mansfield’s away win on the last day of 2013/14 relegated his Pirates to the Conference.
Clarke has now been tasked with the rebuilding job at the Bescot Stadium and is being given backing from the club’s board.
In the summer 22 players departed and 16 joined - the biggest turnover in the EFL – with top scorer Andy Cook joining Mansfield.
Ironically, it’s a shortage of goals that is costing the Saddlers so far this season, Cook having hit 18 in a doomed side last season.
Their strikers are not on form and in recent weeks the defence has struggled too - despite previously being solid this season – as Clarke continues to experiment with formations.
Promotion was the summer aim and the board still wants that in time, but will probably sacrifice this season as a rebuilding season, providing promotion is possible next campaign.
Former Newcastle and Liverpool midfielder Danny Guthrie makes the team tick when available, but is currently injured, leaving pacey and tricky winger Wes McDonald to offer their biggest threat.
Dan Scarr and James Clarke have largely been strong at the back and Walsall have tried to play on the floor and link-up, but currently the ball is often sent long to striker Rory Gaffney, who tries to hold the ball up and bring others in to play.
Mat Sadler will miss Saturday’s game after being sent off in their 2-0 defeat at Oldham on Tuesday night.
Mansfield have won just once in their last nine trips to Walsall.
Indeed, it took Stags 13 games to record their first ever away win at Walsall back in August 1966 after some terrible results at the old Fellows Park, including a 7-0 thrashing and an 8-1 hammering.
This will be the Stags’ first trip to Walsall since September 2006 when they were well beaten 4-0 by a Saddlers side that was topping the League Two table at that time.