Defender James Chambers today hailed the Dean Smith managerial style that has played the lead role in turning Walsall into surprise play-off contenders.
Tonight’s visit from fourth-placed Tranmere is the first of two home games which Saddlers fans will be relishing as a prime opportunity to really put the cat among the pigeons in the scramble for the top six.
Smith’s side are unbeaten in their last nine home games and on an unbeaten seven-match run, a thrilling and spirited response to the mid-season slump that saw them go 16 games without victory
That was a testing period for Smith’s young squad and all at the club and Chambers today paid credit to his manager’s calmness in the face of that adversity.
The full-back said: "It’s easy to be happy when things are going well. But the key thing this season which hopefully will stand us in good stead was the fact that the manager didn’t change his approach when we were struggling.
“He gave us a lot of self- belief, a lot of faith and kept reminding us about how our good start had already shown what we were capable of. The boys just love playing for him.
"He’s very friendly and very personable with the players and gives us the chance to relax on the pitch. He doesn’t want to forget what it was like as a player and what players need to perform well.
“I’ve played with managers who have made it tough for you to enjoy what you are doing. Some people may not understand that because of course it’s a fantastic job.
"But it can also at times be one you might not enjoy as much as you would want to. It’s testament to the gaffer’s character that he recognises that.
"He wants you to relax and play because he knows that’s how he will get the best from you. Don’t get me wrong – there has to be a balance between enjoyment and the fact that it is a results industry. We know that.
"And when I say ‘relax’ I do not want people to think we were not looking for answers during our bad run. But you can also have a tendency to try too hard when things are going badly.
“Now there is a buzz and energy about the lads which is just great to be part of.”
Whether or not Walsall can keep up the pace they have set since that 1-0 win over Colchester just before Christmas sparked an up-turn in results that has brought 10 wins and three draws from 15 games.
The Saddlers remain a long-shot for the top six but there is nothing more dangerous – or unnerving for the season-long contenders – than a dark-horse coming up on the rails with momentum.
And Walsall are exactly that as their comeback at Swindon proved yet again.
Smith realises his squad will be under enormous strain to keep up this pace which is why he is reluctant to talk about a play-offs challenge.
But the fact that they will take the strain with a smile on their collective face is, as Chambers admitted, a big advantage.
He said; "I tend to look at the games in blocks of three - we are clawing points back and pushing up the table. That’s all we want to keep doing."
Tranmere, after their superb first half of the season, have had a little stumble of late, with only two wins in their last eight games seeing them drift off the top to fourth.
But it's a slide that has had a crop of injury problems as a major factor. In contrast, Smith has a fully-fit squad from which to choose.