Walsall today tied down another of their young stars after defender Paul Downing signed a new two-year deal.
The 21-year-old has become a mainstay of the Saddlers defence and has started every game this season alongside skipper Andy Butler at centre-back.
Downing joined the Saddlers from Albion in the summer of 2012 and only signed a new 18-month contract in January.
His latest deal, which keeps him at the Banks’s until summer 2015, comes just a month after midfielder James Baxendale signed a new three-year contract.
It is another clear indication that manager Dean Smith will try to use funds from the summer exits of Jamie Paterson and Will Grigg to secure the services of his current batch of promising young players.
Downing revealed his delight and hopes he will not be the last to pledge his future to the club.
“I think Bax (Baxendale) was the start and hopefully I’m not the last,” he said.
“We have a good group of players here and if the club can tie them down, it is in their best interests. I’m delighted with the new contract.
“This is a fantastic club for young players, we feel we can express ourselves on a Saturday. I’m really enjoying it and I have done since I’ve been here.”
Downing became a regular during the second half of last season as the Saddlers just missed out on the League One play-offs.
And he hoped they can mount a similar challenge in the current campaign.
“I’m a local lad and it’s good to sign another new deal and carry on where I’ve left off,” he said. “Every team in this division thinks they can get promoted and we are no different.”
Smith said it was vital for the club to sign players such as Downing to longer-term deals.
“I’m really pleased that Paul has signed,” he said.
“He’s done really well since he broke into the team and has put in some consistent and mature displays.
“It’s important for the club and the direction in which we want to go that players like Paul are signed up on longer deals.”