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Russell Martin has got faith in Walsall youngsters

Russell Martin believes Walsall have a squad of young players who will be successful – so long as they believe in themselves.

Russell Martin alongside Dean Keates
Russell Martin alongside Dean Keates

With a third of the season having now been played, the Saddlers have enjoyed a largely positive campaign with Dean Keates’ side currently sat 11th in League One – two points outside the play-offs.

That has been achieved with a host of young players with Liam Roberts, George Dobson, Josh Ginnelly, Liam Kinsella and Jack Fitzwater all aged 23 or under. Those players have had to learn quickly in recent weeks when – after a blistering start to the season – Walsall lost four out of five games.

But they got back on track by beating Coventry in the FA Cup before drawing at Fleetwood on Saturday.

And Martin says it’s imperative they grow in confidence from those displays.

“Things could have gone one of two ways before Coventry,” the former Norwich captain said. “We asked them to show a bit of character and resilience – but that’s easy to say.

“Football does that – you either build that resilience and rise to the challenge and find yourself working your way up the levels or you don’t and you find yourself standing still or dropping down fairly quickly. We’ve got a lot of young boys who are willing to take responsibility and they want to learn – that’s the best thing, they want to improve.

“They are good footballers, they are good players and you have to give them credit.

“Maybe they don’t believe in themselves as much as they should yet, but that will come with confidence, with games and hopefully with playing with people that have got experience and can pass that on.

“I see that as a big part of my role. I want to try to give them that belief so they can do more and really realise their potential.”

Martin says he has been particularly impressed with central midfielders Dobson and Kinsella in recent weeks.

“I think Kins has been brilliant the last two games he has come in – he has had energy, drive and I feel he’s got loads more to show on the ball as well,” the defender continued. “I think he can demand more, he’s a better player than he gives himself credit for.

“He’s been here a while and he’s been in and out in different positions but it’s up to him now to really cement himself.

“Dobbo, he can be a big, big player and play at the highest level in my opinion.

“We have also got lads that have come from non-league so it’s a really exciting time but you have to be patient with them – it’s not always going to be what you want from them, it’s going to be up and down.

“But once they develop a bit of consistency and belief in their game, we’ve got some real players on our hands.”

Kinsella, who joined the Saddlers aged just eight, has been deployed in central midfield, at right-back and in the No.10 role over the past few seasons.

He is currently playing in a holding midfield role alongside Dobson.

And Martin believes he is a player growing in stature.

“Technically he is a very good footballer,” the 32-year-old said. “He’s been brilliant the last two weeks.

“I thought he was superb against Coventry last week, he’s got real energy.

“He’s not the biggest but he wins his fair share in the air, he has real grit to win second balls, he’s a really clever footballer and he’s got more than what he shows sometimes and that’s just having a bit of belief in yourself – and I think it’s building.

“Liam and George have worked really well together, they complement each other quite well and he’s got me screaming in his ear the whole time so hopefully that helps.

“He’s a good footballer. He’s another one that’s come through here.

“It’s just about giving those boys belief because they are really good footballers.

“Big Jon (Guthrie) at the back, for me he could be a Championship centre-half no problem.

“It’s about them believing it and wanting to do it and not just being comfortable.

“That’s the challenge for them, and I think Kins has risen to the challenge the past two weeks and long may it continue.”

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