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Time to deliver, James Baxendale is told by Walsall boss Dean Smith

Walsall | Sport | Published:

Walsall manager Dean Smith has warned James Baxendale he must deliver on his potential to force his way back into the Saddlers first team.

Smith has hailed the attacking midfielder's attitude after he volunteered for reserve-team action and the Walsall boss has insisted he still has faith in the 22-year-old following his recent axing from the first-team squad.

But Smith has warned Baxendale that raw potential is not enough after he was dropped from the 18-man matchday group for the Saddlers' last four League One games.

"The kid has potential that is for sure," said Smith. "The trouble with potential is it is only a word. You have to go and fulfil it. He did that for a long time but has probably not had the season he would have wanted.

"There is still a player in there, that is for sure."

Smith dropped Baxendale from his first-team squad following the latest of several misfiring displays in the 1-0 defeat at Chesterfield on March 28.

And his exile from the senior setup coincided with youngster Kieron Morris's return from his loan spell at Wrexham.

Morris has produced four impressive displays since the end of his stint in Wales but Smith insists he simply wanted to take Baxendale out of the firing line and praised the response of the youngster, who still has a year remaining on his Banks's Stadium contract.

"I just wanted to give him a breather so I pulled him out," said Smith.

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"With Bax, one thing you can never criticise is his commitment and energy.

"I just felt at the time he was trying a little bit too hard.

Smith added: "He has put himself forward to play. He played at Morecambe for the reserves and played at Brocton this week. I just felt he should have a breather from the first team for a little bit to come out of the firing line."

Baxendale is under contract for next season. but Smith is already deciding the futures of the players whose deals expire at the end of the season.

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And he says he must resolve the futures of his out-of-contract stars – headed by goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell – before targeting new faces.

"I think at most clubs your budget is usually gauged on 'early bird' season ticket sale and we have only just finished that," he said.

"What we can do, or what we have been doing, is extending contracts so players don't go all the way through to the end of the season not knowing what is happening. As soon as we get that sorted we can start tying people down for next season."

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