Dean Keates hails Walsall's youngsters following Checkatrade Trophy triumph
Boss Dean Keates was full of praise for his youngsters after Walsall kicked off their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a 2-1 win at Burton.
Goals from Kieron Morris and Josh Gordon saw the Saddlers run out convincing winners in their first match in Group E.
Keates made eight changes for the tie with Connor Ronan and Connor Johnson making their debuts after joining on loan from Wolves last week.
There was also a first start for teenage striker Dylan Parker while youngster Jordon Sangha was also given a chance to impress.
“The average age was 21.6 years - we worked that out at the hotel before we came down,” Keates said.
“And I couldn’t be anymore proud of the lads.
“I keep saying it and I’ll say it again. It doesn’t matter which players I pick, they put a shift in for the football club.
“We had to manage minutes. It has been Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday since the start of the season.
“There have been lads who have put in a lot of minutes and I felt we were a little bit lacklustre against Blackpool at the weekend. Perhaps there was a bit of tiredness there.
“It was a chance for some of the other lads and we had some outstanding performances.”
Keates was pleased with both Ronan and Johnson who trained with their new team mates for the first time on Monday.
“They joined the lads on Monday but I’d seen them play a lot of times last season,” Keates said.
“I knew what quality I was going to get from them.
“Connor Ronan had a taste last season and he doesn’t want to be sat in the under-23s and not be involved.
“When you have had a taste of first-team football, it’s hard to go back to the 23s.
“He wants to come and as soon as we told him of our interest he wanted to sign.
“Johnson came in and did himself no harm whatsoever. He had his loan with Telford last year sampling men’s football and he came in at Burton and did really well again.
“But all the lads did well Jordon Sangha has not played many minutes but I thought he was outstanding as well.”