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Squad balance is key for Walsall

Walsall boss Dean Keates says he wants the majority of his signings this summer to be permanent additions – but hasn’t ruled out a few players arriving on loan.

Walsall manager Dean Keates
Walsall manager Dean Keates

The 39-year-old is busy preparing for his first full campaign in the Saddlers dugout and has already held positive talks with a number of his transfer targets.

Last season, Walsall signed nine players on a temporary basis.

But while the likes of Tyler Roberts, Zeli Ismail and Jack Fitzwater impressed, Shaun Donnellan and Justin Shaibu struggled while Krystian Bielik failed to make an appearance.

And Keates believes for a squad is to be successful, the vast majority of players need to be contracted to the club full-time.

“I want permanent signings first and foremost,” the boss said. “I have to make our changing room and football club as strong as it can possibly be. The best way of doing that is to bring our own players in. Yes, the loan market can help. But you don’t want too many because you are not their parent club.

“When you contracted to a club, that is your place of work. Your head isn’t anywhere else, you’re not looking at any other result or how another team is going.

“You’re also not worrying about whether someone is coming to watch you from your parent club.

“When they are your player, they are fully focused on the job in hand and that’s the football club they belong to.

“First and foremost, we are looking at permanent deals. But there are one or two possible loans I might do quite early.”

One area Keates will strengthen is centre-half with the boss eager to bring in an experienced defender to play alongside Jon Guthrie if the right player is available.

“I have spoken about wanting a bit more experience and leadership and that position for me is vital on the pitch,” the boss added.

“Jon Guthrie has done outstandingly well. He’s been fantastic. He’s played every minute of every game and gained experience from doing that.

“But he is still, in football terms, fairly young. That is a position I am looking at and thinking ‘can I get an experienced player in at right centre-half?’”

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