Ethical Ben Purkiss is the 'Sheriff' of Walsall
Manager Dean Smith today claimed the work ethic of Walsall's 'Sheriff' Ben Purkiss is what allowed the defender to slot straight back into the team.
Purkiss made his first senior Saddlers appearance since March in Tuesday's 1-0 win over Rochdale in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
The 30-year-old had previously not featured in a match-day squad this term after suffering an ankle injury in pre-season.
But he came through 90 minutes unscathed and impressed at right-back, with a performance which came as no surprise to his manager.
Smith said: "Ben's fitness levels have been superb. He came in pre-season and it was the fittest I have ever seen him.
"He is a regular knocker on my door saying he wants to be playing and in the team and he has worked very hard to get to where he is at the moment.
"I think all the work has enabled him to step into the game on Tuesday as he did and do so well."
Purkiss has earned the 'Sheriff' nickname from his Saddlers team-mates, as he is responsible for collecting the player fines.
Smith explained: "He is the fines master at the football club – Sheriff Purkiss they call him.
"He has kept himself involved all the time with the players through his injury but the biggest thing he has worked on is his fitness.
"He is in as good a shape as I have seen him since I have been here. That has enabled him to step in and do so well."
Now he has seen his first action of the season, Purkiss is hoping to keep his place and play his part in shooting down Oldham today.
He said: "It has been a long wait, those eight weeks with (physio) Jon Whitney. It was tough. Not just from a physical standpoint, but a mental one as well.
"You come back and get ready for pre-season, you get yourself in shape and all of a sudden you roll your ankle in freak circumstances. It was very good to be back on Tuesday."
Purkiss had not made a senior appearance since being sent off at Rotherham on March 15.
He said: "I didn't realise it had been that long. It's a long time.
"It was almost like my last proper game because I had 45 minutes at Wigan for the first game of pre-season and other than that there were just a couple of reserve games.
"After 10 or 15 minutes of the game on Tuesday I remembered reserve games are nothing like the tempo of a first team game.
"After 15 minutes my legs went for a couple of minutes but I was able to get through that."
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