Brian Dick hears how the arrival of new manager Kevan Broadhurst signals a climate change at Walsall...
Even Jeff Bonser admits it. The difference between the new Walsall manager and his immediate predecessor could not be more marked.
"Paul and Kevan are like chalk and cheese," the chairman said. But then that's the point.
Having had two years of Merson's sometimes breezy but often flimsy football, Walsall have slumped into the League One relegation zone and they now need a dose of dour Yorkshire pragmatism to get themselves out.
Broadhurst, born in Dewsbury, is just the man. He's proved it on a number of occasions with a managerial record that, although staccato, has seen him bring clubs in situations as bad as Walsall's back from the brink.
In his last job, Bristol Rovers were heading out of the Football League until he took over with a month to go and guided them to three wins and two draws from six games. In the end, they stayed up at a canter.
Before that, in 2001, he went to Northampton Town in the midst of a transfer embargo and turned round a squad that seemed destined to drop into League Two. They, too, retained their status, by the relatively comfortable margin of five points.
Unlike Merson, who taught football as he played it - with gaiety and near-reckless abandon - Broadhurst is a man for a crisis.
"People tend to look at those managers who get promotion as the successful ones, but it can be as hard to keep people in leagues," he said yesterday.
"I have done okay at it, but I don't do it by design because it isn't an easy job. If you do fail, then it comes back to haunt you."
Bonser was so keen to exorcise his own personal ghost of his last appointment that he even made sure their playing careers were polar opposites.
Merson was very much a man of the shiny, happy, 1990s; a feelgood midfielder who could be inspirational or an outright luxury. No-one could ever level the same accusation at his successor.
Broadhurst, now 48, spent his formative years at the heart of Birmingham City's defence. A sturdy centre-back upon whose foundations City's promotion in 1980 and subsequent four-year stay in the top flight was built.
His career was cut short by injury in 1983 and he eased in to coaching at St Andrew's after which he embarked on a series of positions with Northampton and Luton Town. He has a reputation as a man who cares little for the delicacies of the sport.
He has promised to make Walsall not just difficult to beat, but downright ugly. The next three months, he says, will not be a smooth ride.
"The insomnia has started already," Broadhurst said. "I did not sleep last night, just thinking about talking to the players. It is an allconsuming job to get it done right. It is something I have done before, I know what it's about and I'll give it my best shot."
He knows he hasn't been brought in to mastermind another set of neat triangles. His brief is to keep Walsall in football's level three and no more. A glamour appointment, it is not.
"I am sure, when the club was looking, they wanted the right man to tick certain boxes; an experienced person in Leagues One and Two.
"They also wanted someone who has been through this before, because it is tough. It will be tough on me, tough on my family and tough on the players.
"It takes a strong character. Sometimes, things get worse before they get better and you have got to have belief in what you are doing."
The players have spoken of their willingness to do whatever it takes to avoid relegation. Extra sessions have been mooted and the first team will undergo an overnight transformation. It is interesting to wonder what Broadhurst will make of Mads Timm losing the ball in his own half and not chasing back.
For Bonser's part, there have been tears. He admits to crying when he sacked Merson but is adamant, on this occasion, he has got it right.
This time, the chairman's partner might not be sexy, but she's likely to be a good housekeeper and won't burn the place down. In their current plight, Walsall cannot ask for any more.