It has been in the pipeline for some time, and the arrival of Franck Moussa only seemed to delay the inevitable, but finally the news Walsall fans were expecting but dreading has come to pass as Tom Bradshaw handed in a written transfer request on Wednesday, with Barnsley fresh from promotion to the Championship having knocked Walsall out of last season’s League One playoffs, primed to make a second offer for the player.
The 23-year old scored 40 goals across all competitions in his two seasons with the Saddlers, and was Walsall ‘s leading scorer last term with 20 as the Black Country outfit reached the League One playoffs. Bradshaw has been the subject of much speculation for some time given his exploits at the Bescot Stadium, with Celtic one of the club’s reportedly interested.
However, it is South Yorkshire side Barnsley which seems the likely destination for the player, and they will be on red alert and ready to pounce after this latest breaking news piece to come out of the West Midlands. Though Yorkshire rivals Rotherham United are also keeping tabs on the player, hoping to tempt the lively young forward to the New York Stadium.
Losing their leading marksman would undoubtedly be a blow for a Walsall side that has somewhat been picked apart following their playoff run in 2015-16. Many of last season’s side including Jason Demetriou, Paul Downing, Sam Mantom, Anthony Forde, Jordan Cook, Milan Lalkovic and Romaine Sawyers have already left for pastures new but this will undoubtedly be the biggest blow for a side that had already lost the crux of its creative force and 35 of last season’s league goals in the aforementioned players. Now it seems their main source of goals will be heading for the exit door, and manager Jon Whitney will have a huge job on his hands not only in rebuilding his Walsall team but filling the boots of Bradshaw and accounting for the loss of an overall 55 of Walsall ‘s 71 goals last season.
His off the ball impact in his movement, pace and ability to escape his man will also be missed. He is capable in front of goal and a handful for defenders, and thrives from creativity and service behind him, something he’d certainly have at his disposal in a higher division. Given his League One tally there is no reason to suggest he couldn’t hit double figures in the Championship, which is where the forward’s probable destination will be, but the biggest loss would be for his former employers who have benefited massively from his services these past few seasons and their depravity would be the gain of any Championship side who were to acquire his services. Barnsley and Rotherham are two currently vying for his signature, but he had also attracted interest from Birmingham and Reading during the January transfer window.
Whitney has already set about the reconstruction of his side with the signings of Erhun Öztumer, Joe Edwards, Theo Vassell and the re-signing of Florent Cuvelier, but a goalscorer may now be on top of his shopping list with the club resigned to losing their prized asset. The loss will need to be remedied if Walsall are to match or even better their achievements of last season in 2016-17 but what is for certain is that Whitney’s team will be a new – look Saddlers side, and fans will be hoping that their main goal source can be replaced quickly with less than a month remaining before the League One season starts. It is a far from ideal loss, but it leaves Whitney with time to replace, which he will certainly bide to ensure he brings in the right player in what will now be a key recruitment for the club. They need goals, and they need to bring in the right man to get them.
Featured image: All rights reserved by dan.westwell