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Fresh start for Walsall's James Baxendale

Walsall | Sport | Published:

Walsall boss Dean Smith thinks next season will represent a fresh start for James Baxendale after confirming the midfielder remains part of his plans at the club.

The 22-year-old has struggled to fulfil his potential since signing a three-year deal at the Banks's in 2013, failing to make the bench for the final seven games of the season.

Despite making 37 appearances over the course of the campaign, many were as a substitute and he managed only one goal.

But Smith is prepared to persevere and hopes Baxendale can rediscover some of his former flair next term.

The Saddlers chief said: "Of course he is (part of the plans), he is still contracted to us.

"We both talked about it, he is disappointed with how the season has gone in that he did not play as many games – I think it is the lowest number of games he has played since he has been here.

"One thing I have always said about him is he is a great lad and sometimes I actually think he tries too hard.

"When you try too hard you can end up not thinking about the game as much as you can do. He will come back for pre-season and hopefully we get the old James Baxendale back, which we had only glimpses of last season. That needs to be more consistent."

Baxendale has been utilised in a number of different positions during his time with the Saddlers but has more recently been used as a winger, with Smith preferring Romaine Sawyers to play centrally.

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The Walsall manager believes Baxendale's struggles are partly down to the increased quality of those around him.

He added: "I feel the staff of players we have now is of a higher quality than it was two years ago. With that, you have got to compete more with better players to get into the starting line-up.

"If you are not starting as much it affects your confidence. You have to prove you are better than those you are competing with."

Left-back Malvind Benning, who was released by the Saddlers earlier this month, has now signed a contract with League Two side Mansfield Town.

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