Walsall

Walsall slideshow

Paul Merson claims Arsenal would win league title with Harry Redknapp's 'tactical nous'

Paul Merson has invited ridicule once again for his latest comments. The Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal midfielder believes Arsene Wenger could land the Premier League title again at Arsenal - if he had Harry Redknapp's tactical nous. Merson played under both Wenger and Redknapp during his career at Arsenal and Portsmouth, but believes the Englishman deserves more credit for his managerial abilities. "People say he's a wheeler-dealer and it's so disrespectful," Merson says in an episode of Sky One's panel show A League Of Their Own. "Tactically, he's one of the best I've worked with. If Arsene Wenger had Harry Redknapp's tactical nous, Arsenal would win the league." Merson played under Redknapp at Portsmouth While Wenger has recently celebrated his 21st anniversary at the north London club, Redknapp is out of work again having been sacked by Championship side Birmingham last month. Redknapp resided over six straight defeats in all competitions and lasted less than five months in charge at St Andrew's.  Merson, however, remembers fondly one match where Redknapp's influence changed the course of one particular match. It was at Crystal Palace back in 2002/03, a season that Portsmouth went on to win the Championship as 33/1 outsiders that stays with Merson. "We won our first game at home and I thought we'd be alright and then went to Crystal Palace. We were 2-0 down at half-time and it could've been 10-0. I thought 'what have I done coming here - this is going to be embarrassing.' "Harry came in at half-time and took three men off, put three at the back, five in midfield with three rolling attackers and we won 3-2. "That's when I knew he was a great manager." Merson, meanwhile, is set for a return to football on the pitch with Welsh fourth-tier side Caerau. The club are awaiting international clearance for the 49-year-old to appear against Pontyclun next Wednesday, October 18. Caerau secretary Dai Hooper got to know Merson at a function several years ago and texted the former Walsall manager to enquire about his services. When asked in an interview on BBC about Merson's match fitness, Hooper replied: "He's looking okay on the box (television)."

Paul Merson claims Arsenal would win league title with Harry Redknapp's 'tactical nous'

Paul Merson has invited ridicule once again for his latest comments. The Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal midfielder believes Arsene Wenger could land the Premier League title again at Arsenal - if he had Harry Redknapp's tactical nous. Merson played under both Wenger and Redknapp during his career at Arsenal and Portsmouth, but believes the Englishman deserves more credit for his managerial abilities. "People say he's a wheeler-dealer and it's so disrespectful," Merson says in an episode of Sky One's panel show A League Of Their Own. "Tactically, he's one of the best I've worked with. If Arsene Wenger had Harry Redknapp's tactical nous, Arsenal would win the league." Merson played under Redknapp at Portsmouth While Wenger has recently celebrated his 21st anniversary at the north London club, Redknapp is out of work again having been sacked by Championship side Birmingham last month. Redknapp resided over six straight defeats in all competitions and lasted less than five months in charge at St Andrew's.  Merson, however, remembers fondly one match where Redknapp's influence changed the course of one particular match. It was at Crystal Palace back in 2002/03, a season that Portsmouth went on to win the Championship as 33/1 outsiders that stays with Merson. "We won our first game at home and I thought we'd be alright and then went to Crystal Palace. We were 2-0 down at half-time and it could've been 10-0. I thought 'what have I done coming here - this is going to be embarrassing.' "Harry came in at half-time and took three men off, put three at the back, five in midfield with three rolling attackers and we won 3-2. "That's when I knew he was a great manager." Merson, meanwhile, is set for a return to football on the pitch with Welsh fourth-tier side Caerau. The club are awaiting international clearance for the 49-year-old to appear against Pontyclun next Wednesday, October 18. Caerau secretary Dai Hooper got to know Merson at a function several years ago and texted the former Walsall manager to enquire about his services. When asked in an interview on BBC about Merson's match fitness, Hooper replied: "He's looking okay on the box (television)."

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Walsall fan gestures Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Walsall fans react Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town manager Paul Hurst Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne reacts after a goal is disallowed Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Walsall fans react Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Walsall manager Jon Whitney Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne in action with Walsall's Mark Gillespie Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne scores but is ruled offside Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Walsall's Kieron Morris in action with Shrewsbury Town's Jon Nolan Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Walsall's Jon Guthrie handles the ball from Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne headed shot resulting in a penalty Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne celebrates scoring their first goal from the penalty spot Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne celebrates scoring their first goal from the penalty spot Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town fans celebrate after their first goal from the penalty spot Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne scores their first goal from the penalty spot Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town

Soccer Football - League One - Walsall vs Shrewsbury Town - The Banks's Stadium, Walsall, Britain - October 7, 2017 Shrewsbury Town's Stefan Payne scores their first goal from the penalty spot Action Images/Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Exclusive interview - Craig Shakespeare: 'Taking over from Claudio was the hardest thing I've had to do'

It was a Premier League game against Liverpool where it all began for Craig Shakespeare. He won that match in February - his first as Leicester's manager - but as he prepares for a reunion with Jürgen Klopp on Saturday, even he cannot have envisaged the drama of the seven months that have passed since. Shakespeare has endured the ultimate crash-course in management after succeeding Claudio Ranieri, a chain of events for which the best coaching manuals can never prepare anyone. As he settled into a chair in a suite at the King Power Stadium on Friday, he is still struggling to take in the tumultuous 23 games which have flown by since Ranieri's departure. “That first Liverpool game feels ages ago now and when you sit down and analyse everything that’s happened in that time, it can be frightening,” he says. Ranieri and Shakespeare won the league together but it did not stop rumours from circulating last season that Shakespeare had stabbed the Italian in the back Credit: Nick Potts/PA “We’ve had loads of things to deal with – there was me taking over from Claudio, the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my career because of the circumstances. “People had their ideas of who the villains were and my family were hearing about me being the man who knifed Claudio in the back. It didn’t really get to me because you have to be resilient in football.  “I was still an employee of the club and I didn’t want them to be in the relegation zone. That first result [a 3-1 win] was massive for everyone but it was still nice to walk my dog the following day and return to normality.” His 11-year-old chocolate Labrador, Alfie, must be one of the fittest dogs in Lichfield, for Shakespeare has spent much of this year striding on the parks near his home in periods of reflection. After securing top-flight safety he was whisked away to Monte Carlo by Leicester’s owners and offered the job, but those hopes of normality disappeared over the summer. Talking tactics: What Leicester did differently last season 02:08 First, there was Riyad Mahrez, who put in a transfer request and then spent deadline day hopping around European airports in a bid to force a move.  “I was sitting at home and got a phone call from Jon [Rudkin, director of football] saying the Algerian FA had given Riyad permission to miss the game. It was a real knife-edge time and we were in the hands of other people. We understood he wanted to move because he’d made it clear but the owners wanted a realistic price.  “Dealing with that was another moment in the managerial experience. He came back to training after the window closed and we were calling him Tom Hanks out of The Terminal.” And then there was Danny Drinkwater - another key member of the title-winning squad – who demanded to leave, eventually getting his wish with a £35m move to Chelsea. It was a moment which still rankles with Shakespeare. “Sometimes players see the opportunity to move to a bigger club and the financial rewards that might bring. Danny made it clear he wanted to move and didn’t want to be here. The relationship we’d had up to that point had been very good.  Nigel Pearson remains a strong influence on his former assistant Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t happy losing one of my best players. The big disappointment is I didn’t want to sell him for any price and ultimately I have to abide by people above me because they run the club.” Finally, the biggest head-scratcher of all. Sporting Lisbon midfielder Adrien Silva was targeted as Drinkwater’s replacement and though a £25m fee and terms were agreed, Leicester were 14 seconds late filing paperwork. Silva, and Leicester, are still waiting for the green light from Fifa to ratify the deal. “You can do all the courses in the world but I’ve never encountered this before. How can you call Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, and ask him about that one? “Legally somebody might tell me I’m not allowed to talk to him but the human side says you want to find out how he’s feeling. He’s a footballer in limbo through no fault of his or mine. You want to make him feel appreciated, which is why I invited him into the dressing room to see the players on Tuesday night [after the Carabao Cup win over Liverpool].” Despite all the turmoil, Shakespeare – or ‘Shakey’ as he is more commonly known - has adapted impressively to management after spending most of his coaching career as a No2 under Nigel Pearson and Ranieri. His reputation on the training field is exemplary, temporarily earning him a place on Sam Allardyce’s England staff, while he is also a shrewd tactician, spooking Atlético Madrid in last season’s Champions League quarter-final by switching to three at the back at half-time. Pearson, who returned to football on Friday by joining King Power owned OH Leuven, remains a major influence.  “Nigel has not only been a work colleague but someone I’ve grown up with during my football development. I’m really pleased to see him back in. “We stayed together at Hull, came back here and I would say Nigel has been my biggest influence from a coaching point of view. “He’s just a nightmare to get hold of. I must have about six phone numbers next to his name, but even then you can’t get him. He’s either walking up a mountain or somewhere with no reception.” Shakespeare’s other influences may surprise you. He was a left-footed midfielder as a player and Tommy Coakley, his manager at Walsall in the late 1980s when the club won promotion from the old Division Two, and West Brom’s Bobby Gould figure highly.  “They both taught me a lot. With Bobby, I’ll never forget when we went to Shrewsbury on the last day of the season with 4,000 fans there. He wasn’t a popular choice and we’d had an average season. We had a pre-match meal in the hotel and he suggested we take the 10-minute walk to the stadium instead of getting on the coach.  “We got recognised quickly and the fans were carrying mock coffins with Bobby’s face on the side. I was thinking: ‘Wow, he’s got a real thick skin.’ But it was about him saying we could deal with anything. It was about team spirit and togetherness, it really stuck with me.” Has Shakespeare changed since becoming a No1? “The job does take up a large chunk of your life. I switch off in the summer but during the season it’s difficult, I don’t want to let anyone down. “I quite enjoy my own space at times, but I don’t want to change. As an assistant I loved being just under the radar. As a Premier League manager you can’t do that so much. But you know what? That’s part and parcel of it and if you don’t like it, don’t do it. “The only thing that would probably surprise people is that I once got to the last 20 of the England under-16 volleyball trials. “Win, lose or draw against Liverpool, I’ll be walking the dog on Sunday.”

Exclusive interview - Craig Shakespeare: 'Taking over from Claudio was the hardest thing I've had to do'

It was a Premier League game against Liverpool where it all began for Craig Shakespeare. He won that match in February - his first as Leicester's manager - but as he prepares for a reunion with Jürgen Klopp on Saturday, even he cannot have envisaged the drama of the seven months that have passed since. Shakespeare has endured the ultimate crash-course in management after succeeding Claudio Ranieri, a chain of events for which the best coaching manuals can never prepare anyone. As he settled into a chair in a suite at the King Power Stadium on Friday, he is still struggling to take in the tumultuous 23 games which have flown by since Ranieri's departure. “That first Liverpool game feels ages ago now and when you sit down and analyse everything that’s happened in that time, it can be frightening,” he says. Ranieri and Shakespeare won the league together but it did not stop rumours from circulating last season that Shakespeare had stabbed the Italian in the back Credit: Nick Potts/PA “We’ve had loads of things to deal with – there was me taking over from Claudio, the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my career because of the circumstances. “People had their ideas of who the villains were and my family were hearing about me being the man who knifed Claudio in the back. It didn’t really get to me because you have to be resilient in football.  “I was still an employee of the club and I didn’t want them to be in the relegation zone. That first result [a 3-1 win] was massive for everyone but it was still nice to walk my dog the following day and return to normality.” His 11-year-old chocolate Labrador, Alfie, must be one of the fittest dogs in Lichfield, for Shakespeare has spent much of this year striding on the parks near his home in periods of reflection. After securing top-flight safety he was whisked away to Monte Carlo by Leicester’s owners and offered the job, but those hopes of normality disappeared over the summer. Talking tactics: What Leicester did differently last season 02:08 First, there was Riyad Mahrez, who put in a transfer request and then spent deadline day hopping around European airports in a bid to force a move.  “I was sitting at home and got a phone call from Jon [Rudkin, director of football] saying the Algerian FA had given Riyad permission to miss the game. It was a real knife-edge time and we were in the hands of other people. We understood he wanted to move because he’d made it clear but the owners wanted a realistic price.  “Dealing with that was another moment in the managerial experience. He came back to training after the window closed and we were calling him Tom Hanks out of The Terminal.” And then there was Danny Drinkwater - another key member of the title-winning squad – who demanded to leave, eventually getting his wish with a £35m move to Chelsea. It was a moment which still rankles with Shakespeare. “Sometimes players see the opportunity to move to a bigger club and the financial rewards that might bring. Danny made it clear he wanted to move and didn’t want to be here. The relationship we’d had up to that point had been very good.  Nigel Pearson remains a strong influence on his former assistant Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t happy losing one of my best players. The big disappointment is I didn’t want to sell him for any price and ultimately I have to abide by people above me because they run the club.” Finally, the biggest head-scratcher of all. Sporting Lisbon midfielder Adrien Silva was targeted as Drinkwater’s replacement and though a £25m fee and terms were agreed, Leicester were 14 seconds late filing paperwork. Silva, and Leicester, are still waiting for the green light from Fifa to ratify the deal. “You can do all the courses in the world but I’ve never encountered this before. How can you call Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, and ask him about that one? “Legally somebody might tell me I’m not allowed to talk to him but the human side says you want to find out how he’s feeling. He’s a footballer in limbo through no fault of his or mine. You want to make him feel appreciated, which is why I invited him into the dressing room to see the players on Tuesday night [after the Carabao Cup win over Liverpool].” Despite all the turmoil, Shakespeare – or ‘Shakey’ as he is more commonly known - has adapted impressively to management after spending most of his coaching career as a No2 under Nigel Pearson and Ranieri. His reputation on the training field is exemplary, temporarily earning him a place on Sam Allardyce’s England staff, while he is also a shrewd tactician, spooking Atlético Madrid in last season’s Champions League quarter-final by switching to three at the back at half-time. Pearson, who returned to football on Friday by joining King Power owned OH Leuven, remains a major influence.  “Nigel has not only been a work colleague but someone I’ve grown up with during my football development. I’m really pleased to see him back in. “We stayed together at Hull, came back here and I would say Nigel has been my biggest influence from a coaching point of view. “He’s just a nightmare to get hold of. I must have about six phone numbers next to his name, but even then you can’t get him. He’s either walking up a mountain or somewhere with no reception.” Shakespeare’s other influences may surprise you. He was a left-footed midfielder as a player and Tommy Coakley, his manager at Walsall in the late 1980s when the club won promotion from the old Division Two, and West Brom’s Bobby Gould figure highly.  “They both taught me a lot. With Bobby, I’ll never forget when we went to Shrewsbury on the last day of the season with 4,000 fans there. He wasn’t a popular choice and we’d had an average season. We had a pre-match meal in the hotel and he suggested we take the 10-minute walk to the stadium instead of getting on the coach.  “We got recognised quickly and the fans were carrying mock coffins with Bobby’s face on the side. I was thinking: ‘Wow, he’s got a real thick skin.’ But it was about him saying we could deal with anything. It was about team spirit and togetherness, it really stuck with me.” Has Shakespeare changed since becoming a No1? “The job does take up a large chunk of your life. I switch off in the summer but during the season it’s difficult, I don’t want to let anyone down. “I quite enjoy my own space at times, but I don’t want to change. As an assistant I loved being just under the radar. As a Premier League manager you can’t do that so much. But you know what? That’s part and parcel of it and if you don’t like it, don’t do it. “The only thing that would probably surprise people is that I once got to the last 20 of the England under-16 volleyball trials. “Win, lose or draw against Liverpool, I’ll be walking the dog on Sunday.”

Exclusive interview - Craig Shakespeare: 'Taking over from Claudio was the hardest thing I've had to do'

It was a Premier League game against Liverpool where it all began for Craig Shakespeare. He won that match in February - his first as Leicester's manager - but as he prepares for a reunion with Jürgen Klopp on Saturday, even he cannot have envisaged the drama of the seven months that have passed since. Shakespeare has endured the ultimate crash-course in management after succeeding Claudio Ranieri, a chain of events for which the best coaching manuals can never prepare anyone. As he settled into a chair in a suite at the King Power Stadium on Friday, he is still struggling to take in the tumultuous 23 games which have flown by since Ranieri's departure. “That first Liverpool game feels ages ago now and when you sit down and analyse everything that’s happened in that time, it can be frightening,” he says. Ranieri and Shakespeare won the league together but it did not stop rumours from circulating last season that Shakespeare had stabbed the Italian in the back Credit: Nick Potts/PA “We’ve had loads of things to deal with – there was me taking over from Claudio, the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my career because of the circumstances. “People had their ideas of who the villains were and my family were hearing about me being the man who knifed Claudio in the back. It didn’t really get to me because you have to be resilient in football.  “I was still an employee of the club and I didn’t want them to be in the relegation zone. That first result [a 3-1 win] was massive for everyone but it was still nice to walk my dog the following day and return to normality.” His 11-year-old chocolate Labrador, Alfie, must be one of the fittest dogs in Lichfield, for Shakespeare has spent much of this year striding on the parks near his home in periods of reflection. After securing top-flight safety he was whisked away to Monte Carlo by Leicester’s owners and offered the job, but those hopes of normality disappeared over the summer. Talking tactics: What Leicester did differently last season 02:08 First, there was Riyad Mahrez, who put in a transfer request and then spent deadline day hopping around European airports in a bid to force a move.  “I was sitting at home and got a phone call from Jon [Rudkin, director of football] saying the Algerian FA had given Riyad permission to miss the game. It was a real knife-edge time and we were in the hands of other people. We understood he wanted to move because he’d made it clear but the owners wanted a realistic price.  “Dealing with that was another moment in the managerial experience. He came back to training after the window closed and we were calling him Tom Hanks out of The Terminal.” And then there was Danny Drinkwater - another key member of the title-winning squad – who demanded to leave, eventually getting his wish with a £35m move to Chelsea. It was a moment which still rankles with Shakespeare. “Sometimes players see the opportunity to move to a bigger club and the financial rewards that might bring. Danny made it clear he wanted to move and didn’t want to be here. The relationship we’d had up to that point had been very good.  Nigel Pearson remains a strong influence on his former assistant Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t happy losing one of my best players. The big disappointment is I didn’t want to sell him for any price and ultimately I have to abide by people above me because they run the club.” Finally, the biggest head-scratcher of all. Sporting Lisbon midfielder Adrien Silva was targeted as Drinkwater’s replacement and though a £25m fee and terms were agreed, Leicester were 14 seconds late filing paperwork. Silva, and Leicester, are still waiting for the green light from Fifa to ratify the deal. “You can do all the courses in the world but I’ve never encountered this before. How can you call Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, and ask him about that one? “Legally somebody might tell me I’m not allowed to talk to him but the human side says you want to find out how he’s feeling. He’s a footballer in limbo through no fault of his or mine. You want to make him feel appreciated, which is why I invited him into the dressing room to see the players on Tuesday night [after the Carabao Cup win over Liverpool].” Despite all the turmoil, Shakespeare – or ‘Shakey’ as he is more commonly known - has adapted impressively to management after spending most of his coaching career as a No2 under Nigel Pearson and Ranieri. His reputation on the training field is exemplary, temporarily earning him a place on Sam Allardyce’s England staff, while he is also a shrewd tactician, spooking Atlético Madrid in last season’s Champions League quarter-final by switching to three at the back at half-time. Pearson, who returned to football on Friday by joining King Power owned OH Leuven, remains a major influence.  “Nigel has not only been a work colleague but someone I’ve grown up with during my football development. I’m really pleased to see him back in. “We stayed together at Hull, came back here and I would say Nigel has been my biggest influence from a coaching point of view. “He’s just a nightmare to get hold of. I must have about six phone numbers next to his name, but even then you can’t get him. He’s either walking up a mountain or somewhere with no reception.” Shakespeare’s other influences may surprise you. He was a left-footed midfielder as a player and Tommy Coakley, his manager at Walsall in the late 1980s when the club won promotion from the old Division Two, and West Brom’s Bobby Gould figure highly.  “They both taught me a lot. With Bobby, I’ll never forget when we went to Shrewsbury on the last day of the season with 4,000 fans there. He wasn’t a popular choice and we’d had an average season. We had a pre-match meal in the hotel and he suggested we take the 10-minute walk to the stadium instead of getting on the coach.  “We got recognised quickly and the fans were carrying mock coffins with Bobby’s face on the side. I was thinking: ‘Wow, he’s got a real thick skin.’ But it was about him saying we could deal with anything. It was about team spirit and togetherness, it really stuck with me.” Has Shakespeare changed since becoming a No1? “The job does take up a large chunk of your life. I switch off in the summer but during the season it’s difficult, I don’t want to let anyone down. “I quite enjoy my own space at times, but I don’t want to change. As an assistant I loved being just under the radar. As a Premier League manager you can’t do that so much. But you know what? That’s part and parcel of it and if you don’t like it, don’t do it. “The only thing that would probably surprise people is that I once got to the last 20 of the England under-16 volleyball trials. “Win, lose or draw against Liverpool, I’ll be walking the dog on Sunday.”

Virgil van Dijk makes forgettable Southampton return in heavy defeat to Aston Villa under-23s

Virgil van Dijk made his long-awaited comeback this evening but looked anything like the most valuable defender in world football after his lack of match fitness was fully exposed by two Aston Villa teenagers. Having being forced to stay this season at Southampton despite acrimoniously handing in a transfer request, Van Dijk made what was his first appearance for the club since January in an Under-23 fixture at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium. Van Dijk’s inactivity was then fully evident in a 4-0 defeat that included three goals in which he was at least partially culpable. He was caught out after just 13 minutes for the first when he stepped out for an attempted interception but was side-stepped by Jordan Cox who then fired a low shot past Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. The 18-year-old Cox was then again too quick as he controlled the ball to Van Dijk’s and then left smashed his finish past McCarthy. Van Dijk gets to grips with Aston Villa's Jonathan Kodjia Credit: ASTON VILLA FC Van Dijk was blameless for the third after Richard Bakary’s underhit backpass was exploited by Corey Blackett-Taylor but the 26-year-old again looked rusty for the fourth when he stood off another 18-year-old – Callum O’Hare – and allowed him to finish past McCarthy. Regardless of the result and performance, Southampton will just be relieved to see Van Dijk back out on the pitch. He attracted interest from a series of leading clubs this summer, most notably Liverpool, and is valued well in excess of the £54 million record defensive fee that Manchester City paid for Kyle Walker. Van Dijk was not involved in Southampton’s first team training and matches until the transfer window closed amid concerns about his commitment and focus. It meant that he has not played competitively since seriously injuring his ankle against Leicester City eight months ago but manager Mauricio Pellegrino invited him back into first-team training last week and now wants to again involve him in the senior team just as soon as he has recovered his match fitness.

Virgil van Dijk makes forgettable Southampton return in heavy defeat to Aston Villa under-23s

Virgil van Dijk made his long-awaited comeback this evening but looked anything like the most valuable defender in world football after his lack of match fitness was fully exposed by two Aston Villa teenagers. Having being forced to stay this season at Southampton despite acrimoniously handing in a transfer request, Van Dijk made what was his first appearance for the club since January in an Under-23 fixture at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium. Van Dijk’s inactivity was then fully evident in a 4-0 defeat that included three goals in which he was at least partially culpable. He was caught out after just 13 minutes for the first when he stepped out for an attempted interception but was side-stepped by Jordan Cox who then fired a low shot past Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. The 18-year-old Cox was then again too quick as he controlled the ball to Van Dijk’s and then left smashed his finish past McCarthy. Van Dijk gets to grips with Aston Villa's Jonathan Kodjia Credit: ASTON VILLA FC Van Dijk was blameless for the third after Richard Bakary’s underhit backpass was exploited by Corey Blackett-Taylor but the 26-year-old again looked rusty for the fourth when he stood off another 18-year-old – Callum O’Hare – and allowed him to finish past McCarthy. Regardless of the result and performance, Southampton will just be relieved to see Van Dijk back out on the pitch. He attracted interest from a series of leading clubs this summer, most notably Liverpool, and is valued well in excess of the £54 million record defensive fee that Manchester City paid for Kyle Walker. Van Dijk was not involved in Southampton’s first team training and matches until the transfer window closed amid concerns about his commitment and focus. It meant that he has not played competitively since seriously injuring his ankle against Leicester City eight months ago but manager Mauricio Pellegrino invited him back into first-team training last week and now wants to again involve him in the senior team just as soon as he has recovered his match fitness.

Walsall v West Bromwich Albion – Pre-Season Friendly – Bescot Stadium

(Martin Rickett/PA)

Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly

Soccer Football - Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly - Walsall, Britain - July 26, 2017 Tattoo on West Brom's James McClean Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/Files

Spotter’s guide: 20 things to look out for in the new Football League season

Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa’s John Terry in action against Walsall and Crawley Town head coach Harry Kewell.

Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly

Soccer Football - Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly - Walsall, Britain - July 26, 2017 West Brom's Boaz Myhill in action Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly

Soccer Football - Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly - Walsall, Britain - July 26, 2017 West Brom's Hal Robson-Kanu in action with Walsall's Amadou Bakayoko Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly

Soccer Football - Walsall vs West Bromwich Albion - Pre Season Friendly - Walsall, Britain - July 26, 2017 West Brom's Sam Field in action with Walsall's Adam Chambers Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Fred Bakewell: Northamptonshire’s lucky survivor

Alfred Harry ‘Fred’ Bakewell was born November 2, 1908 at Walsall, Staffordshire.

Fred Bakewell: Northamptonshire’s lucky survivor

Alfred Harry ‘Fred’ Bakewell was born November 2, 1908 at Walsall, Staffordshire.

Reading v Walsall - FA Cup Fourth Round

Football Soccer - Reading v Walsall - FA Cup Fourth Round - Madejski Stadium - 30/1/16 Walsall's James O'Connor in action with Reading's Hal Robson Kanu Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Paul Redding Livepic

Walsall v Chelsea - Capital One Cup Third Round

Football - Walsall v Chelsea - Capital One Cup Third Round - Banks's Stadium - 23/9/15 James O'Connor after scoring the first goal for Walsall Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic

VIDEO: YouTuber Releases Clip Showing 'Smallest XI vs Tallest XI' on FIFA 17

​As you can probably imagine, a game between the smallest and tallest possible sides on FIFA 17 is a rather ridiculous spectacle. But it's an entertaining one, as proven by YouTube channel 'Daily Trading Tips FIFA 17', who released a video revealing what happens. What happens is not far off what you'd expect; think Pep Guardiola's Barcelona vs Tony Pulis' Stoke (without the obvious quality difference). There aren't many household names in either side, although any Walsall fans will probably...

VIDEO: YouTuber Releases Clip Showing 'Smallest XI vs Tallest XI' on FIFA 17

​As you can probably imagine, a game between the smallest and tallest possible sides on FIFA 17 is a rather ridiculous spectacle. But it's an entertaining one, as proven by YouTube channel 'Daily Trading Tips FIFA 17', who released a video revealing what happens. What happens is not far off what you'd expect; think Pep Guardiola's Barcelona vs Tony Pulis' Stoke (without the obvious quality difference). There aren't many household names in either side, although any Walsall fans will probably...

Celtic defender O'Connell joins Walsall on loan

The Irish defender has moved south of Glasgow in search of regular first team football with the League One side

Sunderland's Papy Djilobodji Slams Former Club Chelsea for Never Giving Him a Chance

Sunderland summer signing Papy Djilobodji has slammed his time at Chelsea, stating the Blues never gave him a chance during his brief spell at the club. Djilobodji signed for Chelsea last year from French side Nantes, for a fee believed to be in the region of £2.2m. It's safe to say the defender made very little impact at the club as he managed only a single appearance; coming on as a last minute substitute during Chelsea's 3rd round match of the Capital One Cup against Walsall. He was loaned...

Sunderland's Papy Djilobodji Slams Former Club Chelsea for Never Giving Him a Chance

Sunderland summer signing Papy Djilobodji has slammed his time at Chelsea, stating the Blues never gave him a chance during his brief spell at the club. Djilobodji signed for Chelsea last year from French side Nantes, for a fee believed to be in the region of £2.2m. It's safe to say the defender made very little impact at the club as he managed only a single appearance; coming on as a last minute substitute during Chelsea's 3rd round match of the Capital One Cup against Walsall. He was loaned...

Sunderland's Papy Djilobodji Slams Former Club Chelsea for Never Giving Him a Chance

Sunderland summer signing Papy Djilobodji has slammed his time at Chelsea, stating the Blues never gave him a chance during his brief spell at the club. Djilobodji signed for Chelsea last year from French side Nantes, for a fee believed to be in the region of £2.2m. It's safe to say the defender made very little impact at the club as he managed only a single appearance; coming on as a last minute substitute during Chelsea's 3rd round match of the Capital One Cup against Walsall. He was loaned...

Sunderland's Papy Djilobodji Slams Former Club Chelsea for Never Giving Him a Chance

Sunderland summer signing Papy Djilobodji has slammed his time at Chelsea, stating the Blues never gave him a chance during his brief spell at the club. Djilobodji signed for Chelsea last year from French side Nantes, for a fee believed to be in the region of £2.2m. It's safe to say the defender made very little impact at the club as he managed only a single appearance; coming on as a last minute substitute during Chelsea's 3rd round match of the Capital One Cup against Walsall. He was loaned...

Rico Henry Transfer to Newcastle United Would Be Welcome News

​Newcastle United have been linked with League One club Walsall's hot prospect Rico Henry, according to media reports. The ​Chronicle has reported that the Magpies want to bring the youngster to the club, but they will face competition from Premier League clubs such as Arsenal. This deal is another progression of Toon manager Rafa Benitez's grand plan to bring more talented, young, English players into the squad as he looks to lead United out of the Championship and back into the top flight. ...

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