Youngster Paul Downing is hoping his patience will be rewarded as he prepares to step into the League One fray in Walsall’s hour of need.
The 20-year-old is in line for a full league debut for the Saddlers at Bury tomorrow as regular starter Dean Holden counts the cost of his unfortunate red card at Sheffield United.
And despite his obvious sympathy for his experienced team-mate, Downing is determined to stake a claim for a regular first-team spot. The former Albion trainee impressed after stepping off the substitutes’ bench at Sheffield United after Holden was dismissed for dragging down Dave Kitson following Jamie Paterson’s poor backpass.
Now Downing is hoping Walsall’s bad luck will turn out to be his own good fortune.
“You get your chance when you least expect it,” said Downing.
“It was difficult circumstances to come into the game when I did but it’s a team game and you’ve got to be ready for when your chance does come.
“If I play tomorrow it will be my first league start for Walsall so I will look forward to it and hopefully we can bounce back from Tuesday’s game.
“I’d like to think for myself this is an opportunity to get a run in the side.
“Dean has done really well this season but this is an opportunity for me to step in and hopefully keep my place in the team.”
Downing has been forced to wait for a League One chance since swapping The Hawthorns for the Banks’s Stadium in the summer.
The form of Holden and Andy Butler has kept Downing – nephew of former Wolves midfielder and current Baggies coach Keith Downing – on the sidelines save for a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy start and three appearances from the bench in the League.
Now, having watched and learned from former England captain John Terry, he is looking forward to continuing his football education by learning from experienced Saddlers captain Butler.
“He is brilliant,” said Downing. “On Tuesday he was a really calming influence on the pitch alongside me.
“He is a really experienced player and the type of player I’ve got to learn from and listen to.
“He leads the team really well and he’s aggressive.
“He’s done that throughout his career so far and if I can do similar things to him that would be good.
“I had good coaching when I was younger and that helped, and I then I would watch players like John Terry each week.
“He reads the game really well and puts himself in the right positions, and leads the team really well by talking, which you have to do at the back.
“He is very consistent with his performances.”
Downing looks set to answer the call to arms at the most difficult point of Walsall’s impressive season.
Dean Smith’s side are without a win in six games despite winning plaudits for their performances, but Downing insists the team spirit that has helped him settle in will see the side back to winning ways.
“We have played well in a lot of the games but we just haven’t turned that into results,” he said.
“We’ve got to address that, get back onto the training ground and work hard and start getting the results to go with the performances.
“We were a bit disappointed on Tuesday that things didn’t really go our way but at 1-0 we were always in with a chance.
“That was the main aim – to keep it at 1-0 and maybe snatch something late on but it just wasn’t to be.
“We need to stay together as a team and keep working hard and eventually we hope to get that break.
“It’s about staying mentally positive and together as a team. If we do that results will come.
“We’re a young group of players and I get on really well with everybody.
“They have been welcoming and we’ve got a good team spirit so that’s made it easier for me to adjust.”