Walsall sack Jon Whitney as manager of League One club

Jon Whitney
Jon Whitney first took charge of the Saddlers following Sean O'Driscoll's sacking on 7 March 2016

League One side Walsall have sacked manager Jon Whitney after two years in charge at the Banks's Stadium.

The Saddlers are 14th in the table, six points above the relegation places, having lost four times in five games.

Whitney, who first arrived at Walsall as physiotherapist in 2003, ends a 15-year association with the club.

Coach Ian Sharps takes temporary charge of first-team affairs, assisted by the vastly experienced John Ward, the club's professional development coach.

When he first took charge in March 2016, Whitney guided Walsall to third in League One and a play-off place, only to be beaten in the semi-finals by eventual winners Barnsley.

Having been appointed initially only on a caretaker basis, he was then offered the job on a more permanent basis that summer on a three-year deal.

But Walsall dropped back to 14th last season, which is where they are again this time round, 10 points shy of a play-off place.

Saturday's 2-0 defeat at second-placed Shrewsbury Town was their 10th away loss of the season.

The caretaker team at Bescot

Ian Sharps was brought in by Jon Whitney as coach from Chester in November 2016
Ian Sharps was brought in by Whitney as coach from Chester in November 2016

Former Tranmere, Rotherham, Shrewsbury, Burton, Telford and Chester defender Sharps, 37, has been with Walsall since November 2016.

Ward, 66, is approaching 50 years' service to football, first as a player with Lincoln City, Workington, Watford and Grimsby Town, then as number two to Graham Taylor at Watford and Aston Villa.

Since 1991, he has managed York City, Bristol Rovers (twice), Bristol City, Cheltenham Town, Carlisle United and Colchester United.

Having been taken on by then Walsall boss Dean Smith in a backroom role in 2015, he was part of a three-man caretaker management team when Smith left for Brentford.

Analysis

BBC WM's Richard Wilford

"Jon Whitney has been part of the furniture at Walsall for around 15 years, the majority of that time as physio. He was a very popular and versatile member of the backroom team, particularly during Dean Smith's five years at the helm.

"A brief taste of management as caretaker when Smith upped sticks for Brentford proved successful, and arguably that proved an eye-opener as much to Whitney as it did to the Saddlers board. So, when Sean O'Driscoll proved not to be a good fit as Smith's permanent successor, Whitney became a logical choice.

"But defeat to Barnsley in the League One play-offs in May 2016 was followed by an expected exodus of Walsall's best players, and recruitment on a tight budget has not necessarily proven to be Whitney's strong suit.

"His desire to bring young players through was praiseworthy, but the inconsistency that has been ever-present for the last two seasons has been an inevitable consequence. After his final game he reiterated his pride at lasting two years in his first senior management role.

"Having withstood a number of very public protests from both home supporters and, significantly, those who regularly travel to away games, Whitney may well have realised he was under serious threat of losing his job."

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