Posted by: Bescot Banter


In the latest of his regular blogs, Hillary Street-Ender takes a look at the Saddlers recent run of good form, before shining a spotlight on the latest emerging talent at the Banks's Stadium, Rico Henry.
In the latest of his regular blogs, Hillary Street-Ender takes a look at the Saddlers recent run of good form, before shining a spotlight on the latest emerging talent at the Banks's Stadium, Rico Henry.

Our performances at Tranmere and then at home to Barnsley have seen a return of the feel-good factor among us supporters. The way we came back from two goals down at Prenton Park was immensely pleasing and showed that the team has a real gritty side to it, especially as the boys finally managed to rid us of the penalty shoot-out monkey on our back in seeing us through to the Paint Pot area final. On making my way out of the stadium I felt as good as I’ve felt after a game in who knows how long but the next game wasn’t too far into the future and the question then was could we take the confidence the players must have gained in clawing back a two goal deficit into the game against the Tykes? Yes, they could, but not without going a goal down first. Maybe we’re seeing the evolution of a new tactic where intentionally going a goal behind will be used as a way of firing up the boys. Maybe the threat of ending the game empty-handed brings the best out of the lads? It certainly has in the last two games but I can’t see it ever being adopted as a recommended motivational method at UEFA coaching courses, although with UEFA ultimately answering to Blatter anything is possible. Perhaps if I slip him a few quid. Maybe he’ll send me a gold watch for suggesting it. It’ll be okay, Sepp, I won’t tell anyone…..

Several players have caught the eye over the two games and that’s been great to see. Such has been O’Donnell’s level of consistency that a win-sealing performance is pretty much becoming the norm and it comes as something of a surprise when he lets one in. The Chambos have maintained the sort of showing that have everyone looking up to them and Purkiss looks as though he was never away. Cain has come in and taken on the Mantom mantle to the extent that Sam’s absence hasn’t been nearly so noticeable since Cain arrived from Leicester and our goal-threat has been boosted vastly by the return of Bradders. Cook plugged away manfully in young Tom’s absence but that cutting edge just wasn’t there so having our leading scorer back is a huge boost, particularly if he and Cook can develop their partnership in the way it began on Saturday. As well as Tom played against Barnsley he was overshadowed by Cook, who gave the kind of performance we’ll all be yearning to see repeated. Had his first goal been scored in the Premier League it would have been all over every kind of media you can think of but he plays for the Gurroles so it’ll go largely unnoticed. He produced a great bit of play to lay on Bradders’ goal and clinched the win with his second goal in the dying moments. O’Donnell was awarded the Man of the Match honour and he did have a very strong case but, for me, it should have gone to Cook.

However, as well as the above mentioned played it was another of the boys who, in my opinion, was the real star over the two games. Young left back Rico Henry was brought into the starting eleven for the trip to Birkenhead as replacement for the injured Andy Taylor and impressed hugely with a performance full of maturity, courage and skill. Had Taylor not been injured it seems highly unlikely that young Rico would yet be featuring at first team level but, as the old saying has it, cometh the hour cometh the man and the young lad slotted in as though he’d always been there. He kept his game simple, tackling and man-marking when required and keeping his passing short and accurate. There seemed to be no temptation to over-elaborate as very young players are prone to do and he didn’t allow himself to be bullied, something his slight – for now – build probably invited. Making his debut in an away game may be no bad thing, allowing him to begin to get his feet under the table away from the added pressure of a home game, easing him into first team football relatively gently. No Taylor again for the Barnsley game so the young lad kept his place and gave another performance of assurance and quality. Probably the best compliment he could be given over the two games is that the absence of Taylor, one of our most consistent performers, wasn’t noticeable and our back four looked as stable and solid as it has done at any time over the last couple of years. Slotting in so seamlessly is no mean feat for a lad of such tender years and he’s to be applauded for doing so well at a time when he probably hadn’t expected to be called up. He’s certainly one to keep an eye on for the not-too-distant future and his performances are a tribute to the judgement of the manager and coaching staff in seeing that he was ready for a bit of the proper stuff. Well done to all involved, particularly Rico himself. You haven’t done yourself any harm at all, son.

As we awaited kick-off at Prenton Park the young man who’s impressed was Rico Henry, just like he’d always been but considering his performances, and taking into account the retirement this week of one of the true greats of the modern era, should we now be calling him Rico ‘Onree?....................................

By: Hillary Street-Ender.
You can keep up to date with all the latest Walsall FC news across our social media channels, we're on 𝕏, Facebook, Threads, and Instagram. We also offer updates via Google News.
If you appreciate our coverage, please consider buying us a coffee via Ko-fi. You can also sign up to make regular contributions via Patreon.
Previous Post Next Post