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A secret of Dean Smith's success

Walsall | Sport | Published:

Walsall are 'Sailing' towards the safety line – and manager Dean Smith has cranked up the volume on the Saddlers' survival hopes.

Walsall are 'Sailing' towards the safety line – and manager Dean Smith has cranked up the volume on the Saddlers' survival hopes.

The manager has revealed he's been pumping Rod Stewart into the dressing room as part of his new regime.

Smith has given the demoralised Saddlers a 'Reason to Believe' after banking seven points from their last three games.

The boss could even release a 'best of' collection after a thumping 6-1 win over Bristol Rovers and last weekend's 3-1 victory at Carlisle.

Another smash hit at home to Bournemouth tomorrow and the Saddlers could move to within a point of the League One safety line.

It seemed far fetched just eight games ago when they were eight points and rock-bottom, but with help from an ageing Scottish crooner and Smith's philosophies Walsall are recovering.

The manager said: "I put my Ipod on in the dressing room ahead of the game on Saturday, a bit of Rod Steward. I was tempted to put a bit of Half Man Half Biscuit on but the lads didn't know who they were.

"I would say I have probably tinkered, I don't think I've made massive changes, I've made small changes in and around the training ground though.

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"Little things like the start time, simple things like that. People may think it's silly but all of a sudden it's putting my stamp on it to the players.

"We train slightly later now and we train for 90 minutes because the games last 90 minutes.

"I gave them Monday off this week because we had three tough games last week and we had a spa day before the Bristol Rovers game."

The players have been receptive to Smith's methods since succeeding Chris Hutchings last month, although the manager's musical influences might not agree with the entire squad.

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But midfielder Matt Richards insisted he's happy to leave the boss in charge of the tunes – with the Saddlers edging towards their drop rivals.

He said: "I don't mind it so much but a few of the others might have a little word about it! While we were out for the warm up on Saturday there were a few strange tunes coming out of his Ipod.

"I think he had Maggie May on – some of the others weren't best pleased but I don't mind it really, I'll listen to anything.

"Maggie May isn't one to get you going, but a couple of his others might!"

The transformation in the atmosphere, both on and off the pitch, has been a drastic one and Essington is a happier place – thanks to Smith's revolution.

Richards said: "He's just changed a few little bits to how he likes it. Everyone is enjoying the change and having a little bit more time to prepare in the morning! It's the little things that which count.

"We know what we're doing, we know what we're doing throughout the week, we've got itineraries instead of coming in and being told 'we're doing this'. We know what we're doing, it's all prepared and we're all benefitting from it.

"Before, day to day we weren't sure what we were doing but things are a lot better, we have a week plan and know what's happening, it's a bit more organised.

"It's not detrimental to the former manager but the way the gaffer has done things is brilliant."

Smith is aiming to stretch Walsall's unbeaten run to five games but will still be without injured skipper Darren Byfield who is nearing a return from a knee injury. Jason Price is available again after being ineligible to face parent club Carlisle.

Bournemouth are sweating on the fitness of left-back Rhoys Wiggins who has missed the last three games with a calf injury.

And new manager Lee Bradbury, who played with Smith at Sheffield Wednesday, is wary of the Saddlers' threat.

He said: "Dean was a very determined and hard-working player. He will have instilled that into his players.

"They have worked hard and have had some good results. They beat Bristol Rovers 6-1 and then won at Carlisle, which is not an easy place to win at. They have got their tails up at the moment but so have we.

"He is very professional and won't let anybody slack. That was the type of player he was and I'm sure he will make his players the same.

"It's different but they both bring different pressures. The pressure is on me to keep the team at the top of the table and for Dean it is to keep them in the division.

"I would rather have my job that's for sure."

Bradbury also made eight appearances, scoring once, for the Saddlers in 2004 when they were relegated from the Championship.

He added: "I went on loan initially from Portsmouth after a bad knee injury to get some fitness. I wasn't offered another contract and they ended up taking me permanently.

"They were struggling in Championship at the time we ended up going down. It was a disappointing three months for me.

"It is a good club, good fans and a good board behind them, so I'm sure they will be OK."

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