It seems like an eternity since Walsall FC played their last game-Saturday December 19th- in a 2-2 draw at the Banks's Stadium against Leyton Orient. That game survived the weather conditions due to the covering of the pitch and the use of maybe comical looking, but usually highly effective burners which blaze away and melt the frozen parts of the pitch on the morning of the match.
Walsall's first scheduled game of the festive season was the Boxing Day trip to Bristol Rovers which was, as expected, postponed following the 9.30 am inspection on the morning of the game. Besides a large portion of the pitch being frozen the surrounds of the stadium were equally as bad and the Saddlers fans were pleased that such an early inspection prevented a wasted journey to Bristol.
Walsall's attractive home game to Norwich City on holiday Monday afternoon didn't seem in any danger of being off as there wasn't even an official inspection on the morning. The referee turned up at around 11.30 am and he and Walsall FC manager Chris Hutchings were happy with the pitch which again had been covered over several nights and although the burners were dotted around the one end of the pitch everyone was getting ready for the 3pm kick off.
Norwich had sold 2,000 tickets for this match and Walsall were expecting a larger than normal response by their supporters especially with it being on a bank holiday. Norwich manager Paul Lambert turned up around 1.30pm and sought out the referee stating he was not happy with the pitch and after a little discussion between the two club officials and supporters of both clubs were absolutely astonished to learn that following this the match was called off at 2.05pm, just 55 minutes before its start. The 2,000 travelling support were already assembled outside and many Walsall supporters who had to come some distance likewise.
So following this disappointment, a 10am inspection was ordered for the following Saturday's visit from Charlton Athletic to hopefully prevent a repeat of the Norwich fiasco. The referee wanted to give this game every chance of taking place so he said he would look at it again at noon. Walsall fans were already having doubts and it took 40 minutes for the ref to decide it wasn't playable after all! Another bitter pill to swallow and again around 1,000 fans from Charlton had a wasted trip.
So for the first time since the big freeze of 1962-63 Walsall had gone over Christmas and the New Year period without playing a game. The away game at Southend was thankfully postponed 48 hours before the kick off which was fair enough. With snow, frost and ice still around and talk of more snow to fall doubts must linger regarding the re-arranged Norwich fixture on Tuesday night.
Most teams in League One don't have undersoil heating like the big clubs enjoy in the top two divisions. But as we have seen recently even that doesn't ensure the games always go ahead. The surrounding parts of stadiums has to be considered before the games can go ahead. I can see a fixture pile up going to affect Walsall FC and the supporters. Oh the joys of being a football fan in winter!
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