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Walsall boss Jon Whitney: No timescale yet for James O’Connor return

By Matt Maher | Walsall FC | Published:

Walsall boss Jon Whitney admits there is currently no timescale for the return of James O’Connor as the defender battles a hip injury.

James O'Connor

The 32-year-old is yet to feature for the Saddlers in pre-season after sustaining the injury shortly after his return from the summer break and Whitney, for the moment, remains unsure whether the centre-back will be ready for the start of the League One campaign.

“James has a hip injury and is under medical care at the moment,” said the boss. “He did the first day and picked up a niggle. I am not sure when he will be back. I think we are a bit unclear on that one.”

Former Doncaster and Derby ace O’Connor has been a key member of the Saddlers defence since joining as a free agent three years ago. Yet any concerns over his absence have been tempered by this week’s arrival of James Wilson from Sheffield United on loan.

The 28-year-old’s performance and the collective organisation of a new-look Walsall backline was the big positive from Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Villa.

Whitney, who also expects academy product Matt Preston to sign a new deal in the coming days, admitted Wilson is a player he had been tracking for some time.

“I have watched him over the last couple of years,” he said.

“We played against him at Oldham and he was probably the dominant centre-half.

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“I spoke to (Sheffield United boss) Chris Wilder about him a few times and have been speaking to James now for a couple of weeks.

“I would like to thank Chris for helping him come to us. Sheffield United have helped me out with that one. I think he looked the part next to Jon Guthrie and I think we have the physical presence in there.

“Both of them are comfortable on the ball. That is key if we want to give the front lads a breather. We can’t always be stretching.”

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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