Walsall boss Dean Keates hails Connor Johnson
Walsall boss Dean Keates has praised Connor Johnson for seizing his chance in the FA Cup clash with Sunderland.
The 20-year-old, who is on loan from Wolves, has seen his first-team opportunities limited ever since the Saddlers snapped up Russell Martin on a free transfer.
But with Martin falling unwell last Friday, Johnson was thrown into Walsall’s starting line-up for the visit of the Black Cats.
The centre-back only found out he was playing at 1pm but went on to put in a commanding performance at the heart of the defence.
And Keates was delighted with how he performed.
“I thought he (Johnson) was outstanding,” the boss said. “Sometimes coming in at the last minute can be a good thing, sometimes it can be a bad thing. But he stood up to the challenge and I can’t speak highly enough of the lad.
“He has come in on loan from Wolves. He had only played in the Checkatrade. But he just goes about his business, he is one those where you can’t pick fault with how he applies himself.”
Keates admitted he had a conversation with Johnson last week about his lack of playing time.
“I spoke with him last week and told him there may be some weeks when he finds himself not even on the bench with what’s happened over the past few weeks,” the boss continued. “Russ has come in and brought some experience.
“But he understood that. And I said to him keep doing what you are doing because opportunities can come from nowhere.
“And he got an opportunity against Sunderland and staked his claim. He was excellent.”
Johnson is suspended for tomorrow’s Checkatrade Trophy clash with Shrewsbury after being sent off against Port Vale.
The game is the first of eight Walsall will play in December. But Keates says his squad can cope with the gruelling schedule.
“It’s going to be a busy but we will deal with it and get ourselves ready for Wednesday,” he added. “We have got a lot of bodies. We are young and we have got a lot of bodies.”