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Four candidates to become the next Walsall manager

Sackrace

Walsall are searching for their fourth manager in the space of a year following the departure of Matt Taylor, who was dismissed on Wednesday after eight months in charge.

Taylor leaves the Saddlers four points above the League Two relegation zone and without a single point from their last seven matches.

Neil McDonald (6/1) has been placed in interim charge and will be assisted by former player Mat Sadler (33/1), however it looks like the club will make an external appointment.

Below we take a look at four potential options…

Steve Evans

After back-to-back novice appointments, could Walsall change tack and look to appoint a more experienced head as they bid to bring a halt to their torrid form and move away from the dreaded drop zone.

With that said, Steve Evans has buckets of experience to his name, is available for hire, and can be found at an attractive price of 20/1 to make a swift return to management with the Saddlers.

The Scot, who left League One Gillingham last month, previously led Rotherham from League Two to the Championship, has promotions from his time at both Crawley and Boston, and counts Leeds, Peterborough, and Mansfield as former clubs.

The passionate Evans doesn’t take fools gladly and knows how to get results. There’s no escaping the fact that a confidence-crushed Walsall are in dire straits right now, they need to pick up results fast. It may not be pretty, but Evans would devise a strategy to give the club their best chance of staying up and could well prove to be the antidote to their problems. 

“His managing style goes against the norm which is what makes him completely different, some people can handle it some can’t, but nobody can really argue with his record,” Ben Pringle said of his time working under Evans at Rotherham.

“It’s the way he gets his point across – he’ll tell you exactly what he thinks and not hold back, whether it’s in the street or on the training pitch, which is quite rare these days.”

Football Tips

Dean Holden

Could Walsall opt for a familiar face?

At the time of writing, it’s Dean Holden who has emerged as the new favourite for the job, 24 hours after the exit of Matt Taylor.

Holden, currently an assistant manager to Michael O’Neill at Stoke, is a former Saddlers player - under Dean Smith - U21s coach and assistant, who has had spells in charge of Bristol City and Oldham (caretaker).

“He’s big and he’s Holden and he’s number 5 (repeat). Everyone needs a nutter in the middle, everyone needs a nutter.”

- Walsall fans affectionately sung to the theme of the Cornershop’s ‘Brimful of Asha’ when Holden was at the club.

At Bristol City, Holden took over from Lee Johnson in the summer of 2020, winning 18 and losing 18 of his 41 games (five draws). Holden led his side to the summit of the Championship after a bright start and was in the play-off places in December, only for injuries and a loss of form to combine and he was dismissed in February (2021).

It was no doubt a testing maiden venture into outright management, but Holden (42) has since bounced back as an assistant at the Potters who are in the mix for the Championship play-offs and through to the FA Cup fifth round.

“He's an outstanding young coach with an excellent track record in developing younger players,” Stoke said after his arrival at the club last April.

Michael Flynn

Linked with multiple clubs since leaving Newport in October, and for good reason too.

In what was his first and so far only job, Michael Flynn saved the Exiles from relegation out of the Football League then inspired two journeys to the League Two play-off final.

The ambitious young boss, 41, no doubt has aspirations of working in League One but if he’s keen to return to work soon then, if the right offer was presented, perhaps he could consider another pop at League Two.

He may need some tempting but it would represent a real coup for the Saddlers given the miracle he performed at Newport, who appeared dead and buried when he took over.

He’s currently in the mix at 6/1.

Steve Evans

Russell Penn

A bit of a left-field one here, but Russell Penn is a promising young manager who has received widespread praise this season.

A few days ago the Dudley-born 36-year-old came within seconds of conjuring up one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time. His side, Kidderminster Harriers, were 1-0 up against West Ham in injury-time only for Declan Rice to power in a late equaliser. Jarrod Bowen then scored the winner in the final moments of extra-time to break non-league hearts. Football is cruel.

In charge for two years, Penn currently has his side third in the National League North with two games in hand on the teams above them. Penn’s side are difficult to break down, reflected in their league record - just 19 goals conceded in 23 games - and from their display against West Ham who they managed to keep at bay for 90 minutes.

A move up two divisions into the EFL is quite the leap, but Penn could well prove to be the breath of fresh air Walsall desperately need.

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