Dean Keates looking to Joe Edwards to play Walsall leading role
Dean Keates is hopeful Joe Edwards will play a big part for Walsall next season after offering the injured midfielder a new deal.
The 27-year-old, who was named the club's player of the year earlier this month, missed the last 13 games of the 2017/18 campaign after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Edwards is out of contract this summer and isn't expected to return to full fitness until November.
But that hasn't stopped Keates offering him a new deal, with the boss saying the midfielder boasts the leadership qualities he wants from his players.
"There is something in place for Joe – I've had a good conversation with him and he is going to be like a new signing for me," the boss said.
"He has been injured since I took over. And all being well, because his rehab has gone well, we are looking at him returning in November.
"That’s when we’d like to see him back on the first-team pitch and that’s without me being too optimistic.
"As I’ve said to Joe himself, he is a character. You can hear him around the place, you can hear him laughing and joking and having banter with the lads. And I’m sure he is the same on the training pitch.
"From the games that I have watched, he has been sorely missed.
"But he played his part in us staying up because of his personality around the place. He was a big influence in the changing room and in meetings – he spoke up."
While Walsall are hopeful Edwards will stay, Keates admits he is planning for life without Erhun Oztumer after the talisman told the club he wants to assess his options this summer.
"The club were made aware in January that Ozzy (Oztumer) wanted to see what offers were out there," the boss added.
"In my conversation with him, I wished him all the best and thanked him for everything.
"He is going to go out and see what options are out there. But, as I’ve said to him, he knows where the football club is.
"I have to look elsewhere though."