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James O'Connor: I can go up with Walsall

Walsall | Sport | Published:

Influential defender James O'Connor has targeted a place in the Championship after committing his future to Walsall.

The 31-year-old has put pen to paper on a new two-year deal that will see him extend his stay with the Saddlers until the summer of 2018.

O'Connor joined Walsall from Derby County in 2014 and is currently enjoying one of his best ever seasons for the League One promotion chasers.

He said: "I'm delighted to have got my contract done so early and I can focus on my football again now.

"When I joined the club it was on the back of a tough 18 months for myself, career-wise, as I'd suffered a really bad injury and become a bit disillusioned with the game.

"First and foremost the club have given me an opportunity to enjoy my football again and get back to playing good football as well.

"I've really enjoyed my time here and I'm now looking forward to many more good times to come.

"We want to finish as high as we can in the table and the ultimate aim has got to be promotion and a place in the Championship."

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O'Connor will be part of the Walsall team that takes on Fleetwood at Highbury Stadium tonight.

Now one of the elder statesman in the Saddlers ranks, he admits he enjoys being part of what is largely a youthful squad.

He said: "I'm at a different stage in my career now and I enjoy helping the younger lads improve their game.

"But also they can help energise you and keep you on your toes.

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"I enjoy the environment here and when you look at people like Adam Chambers, he is an example to me on how I should be the younger players."

Interim boss Jon Whitney was also pleased to see O'Connor commit his future to the club.

He said: "He's been one of our most consistent performers this year and his experience is invaluable, on and off the pitch.

"Jimmy can be a role model for our younger players to see how to do it and how to have a long career as a professional footballer."

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