Amadou Bakayoko 'could be the main man' at Walsall
James O'Connor believes Amadou Bakayoko has the potential to be Walsall's 'main man' – if he has the belief in himself to do it.
The Saddlers vice-captain has seen a host of young players progress into the first team this season with Bakayoko and Maz Kouhyar making their senior debuts and George Dobson and Jason McCarthy joining on loan.
Now 31, O'Connor is one of the more experienced heads in the Walsall dressing room. And he has been impressed with Bakayoko who netted a hat-trick in the 5-2 victory over Grimsby.
"Ama has done really well since the beginning of pre-season," O'Connor said.
"He's realised he is at that point where he is no longer a young, young player. Eventually you have got to produce the goods and kick on because football is a ruthless game.
"I know he has done a lot of work with (coach) John Ward and a lot of players have spoken to him individually. But it's always down to the individual and he has made a big effort this year.
"He's always worked hard but sometimes it's about more than that – it's about having a belief. The start he has had should stand him in good stead to really kick on and hopefully he can go on and become our main man."
Alongside Bakayoko, O'Connor has also been impressed with Kouhyar and Jordan Sangha – but warned them the hard work starts now. "It's a really exciting time for a lot of the younger players," the centre-back added. "To have earned the opportunity to play for the first team at such a young age is a massive thing.
"Lads like Maz and Jordan have really impressed me with how they have approached things. They now have a fantastic opportunity because Walsall is a club that gives young players a chance. For those lads it's now all about learning and putting in the hard work.
"They have to try and turn everything into a positive. There will be good moments but there will be defeats as well and it's how you cope with that."