Walsall kids need to ‘grow up’ – Dean Keates
Dean Keates has urged his young Walsall squad to ‘grow up’ as they bid to put together a run of victories.
The Saddlers are low on confidence and fresh off back-to-back defeats as they seek a morale-boosting triumph over Coventry in the FA Cup on Saturday – that they hope can translate into building momentum in League One.
They have been brought back down to earth after a blistering start to the campaign and Keates said: “They are going to be low on confidence – one win in five is not great.
“They have been in a good place and hard work got us there.
“First and foremost, we need to get out there and put a shift in for the club.
“It’s part of their career. Yes, some of them are just starting and they want to climb the ladder and play as high as they can – but this is part and parcel of football. You have to learn from it.
“There is only one way you are going to get out of it and that is by getting your head down and working hard.
“It is a young group, but we need to grow up.”
The majority of Walsall’s current crop are aged 25 or under.
Recent recruit Russell Martin, who was signed on a free transfer as a player-coach, Isaiah Osbourne and Joe Edwards are some of the more experienced players on the Saddlers’ books.
And while Keates, who hopes to have Edwards back from injury in a few weeks, is very grateful to have the knowhow of those three – and injured skipper Adam Chambers – in the dressing room, he is keen not to lean on them too heavily.
“The squad is young, they are inexperienced – there are one or two that have been added to it,” said Keates.
“Russ has only come in the past few weeks, he has played three games in a week.
“He is now around the group and will have an effect.
“Joe is back in the group training. He isn’t far off and will have an effect over the next few weeks.
“Ozzy didn’t have a pre-season and what is left on the outside of that is young lads who are finding their way in the game.
“But it’s not just about the experienced players. It’s myself as well. We have to close ranks and pull together.
“Like I said to the players in the dressing room, we have to stick together.”
Edwards being back in training is a big boost for Walsall fans.
The 28-year-old was the Saddlers’ shining light in the last campaign, before rupturing his anterior cruciate knee ligament in a 2-1 loss to Blackburn in February.
Despite being injured, there were some fears he may have left at the end of his deal back in June, but he went on to sign a new 12-month contract, with the option for a further year.
Edwards’ performances last term saw him voted the club’s player of the season by supporters.