Maz Kouyhar's progress impresses Walsall boss
Boss Jon Whitney believes Maz Kouyhar is ready to step up and challenge for a regular starting spot at Walsall.
The winger featured seven times for the Saddlers last season after being handed his debut against Chesterfield back in August.
A full Afghanistan international, Kouyhar has impressed throughout pre-season and found the target in the friendly against Solihull Moors.
And Whitney admits he is delighted with the progress the 19-year-old is making.
"Maz has done very well," he said.
"I wouldn’t say he has been revelation because he was excellent in pre-season last year but was then very unfortunate with an injury.
"Maz shows you we have got that strength in depth. He protects the ball but he is also a threat in the final third. He can create and he has also got a goal in him.
"I like him. He made his debut last year but he has stepped on again. He is fit and he is pushing.
"He is pushing Kieron Morris for those wide positions."
Whitney's believes Kouyhar's progression proves it's important to give players the time they need to adjust to being a professional.
"We sign our young players on for two years now – there was a time we did it for a year," the boss continued.
"The first year for me is a chance for them to get used to the environment.
"It is a massive increase in intensity, much more disciplined.
"There is an expectancy, you are playing for livelihoods and there is much more criticism. You are accountable.
"That is what all young players need to learn to cope with. Some fast track it quicker.
"It's the same for our younger players. Age is not a factor but you have to prove to me you can handle the expectation that comes with being a professional footballer."
Meanwhile, Whitney feels his squad are in great shape heading into the new season.
"Every team is trying to get an upper hand in pre-season and do something different," he added.
"At the end of the day it is all about hard work and graft. After that it is application, attitude and mindsets.
"Fitness gives you confidence. Knowing you have put those metres in. I have a tally for the lads and it is over 200,000 we have done. They have been excellent.
"If you miss that you can’t get that volume back.
"People say if you miss pre-season you are never the same and I agree.
"You end up getting little niggles, chasing your tail all the time. You can’t chase back 200,000 metres. It is all down the fitness work they have done."