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Walsall is as unfashionable as acid denim, which is why most punters are unfamiliar with Saddlers striker Tom Bradshaw, whom one thinks overpriced at odds of +1000 with BetVictor and Coral to be English League One’s leading goal scorer.
Bradshaw is plying his trade with his third unfashionable team having kicked off his career with Aberystwyth before earning a move to his birthplace club, Shrewsbury, and then capturing the attention of Walsall. Born on the English side of the border 23 years ago, Bradshaw has represented Wales at U19 and U21 level and it feels like only a matter of time before he gets a run in the full national team. Certainly Wales boss Chris Coleman is an admirer of the forward.
One thinks that Bradshaw would have made his full Wales bow and signed for a more illustrious team than Walsall had his Michael Owen-like hamstrings not restricted his appearances last term. Bradshaw endured several spells on the sidelines last season but the regular interruptions did not prevent him filling his boots. Bradshaw made 37 appearances for Walsall across all competitions – the Saddlers earned the right to grace Wembley Stadium for the first time in their 117-year history – scoring 20 goals at an impressive strike rate. Bradshaw’s 17 English League One goals were sufficient for joint eighth place in the division’s Golden Boot race, which was a fantastic achievement in the circumstances – he missed a lot of games and Walsall netted just 50 goals in its 46 matches, the competition’s sixth lowest tally.
Bradshaw was on one’s ante-post punting radar before the English League One season got under way but one was worried that Walsall, one of England’s most financially responsible sides, would cash in its chips if it received a good offer for its star striker. According to media reports, Swindon tabled a decent money offer for Bradshaw but Walsall owner Jeff Bonser told the Robins that the 23-year-old was not for sale. It is possible that Walsall may sell Bradshaw when the transfer window reopens in January but the man himself is making all the right noises about sticking around until at least the end of the current campaign. And if Bradshaw was to join Swindon at the halfway point of the English League One then one’s wager would not be dead in the water.
Walsall has made a surprisingly strong start to the English League One tournament. Walsall coach Dean Smith has adopted much more adventurous tactics than those that resulted in the Saddlers finished 14th on the English League One ladder last term, identifying that Bradshaw is a young striker going places and it makes sense to play to his strengths.
Bradshaw has scored four goals in the first seven rounds of English League One and the likelihood is one of the two leaders, five-goal Adam Armstrong, will not see out the season with Coventry. Armstrong is on loan to Coventry from Newcastle and Sky Blues manager Tony Mowbray is flummoxed as to why he is not playing for the Magpies in the top flight.
Bradshaw appears to be over the worst of his hamstring woes – he underwent a special summer training regime and Walsall physiotherapist Jon Whitney identified that the striker had a leg-length issue – and he seems committed to the Saddlers. Bradshaw has set his sights on breaking into the Wales squad that is almost guaranteed to take part in the UEFA European Championship and he sounds as though he thinks that the best way to achieve his personal ambition is to score bucketloads of goals for Walsall rather than moving to another side and, perhaps, not getting the same number of opportunities to shine. Wales are not drowning in strikers averaging better than one goal every two matches so Bradshaw will be the talk of the principality if, say, he scores 25 goals for Walsall in English League One and the Saddlers are in the promotion hunt. Twenty-five goals is a realistic tally for Bradshaw given his form and that of his Walsall colleagues, with the Saddlers having knocked out Brighton and Nottingham Forest in the English Capital One Cup to earn a date with Chelsea.
Tom Bradshaw to win League One Golden Boot
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