Walsall must lift weight of pressure says Dean Keates
Walsall boss Dean Keates has told his players to relax and believe in themselves as they get set for a crunch relegation six-pointer with Bradford.
The Saddlers have lost eight of their last nine matches – with that run leaving them perilously close to the relegation zone in League One.
That form is in stark contrast to the beginning of the season when Keates’ men began the campaign with a seven match unbeaten run.
And the boss feels it’s important his players remind themselves just how good they were in the summer.
“Do I believe in this squad? Yes,” the boss said. “It’s virtually the same squad that went on an unbelievable run at the start of the season so is it down to between the two ears? Yes, it’s got to be.
"All of a sudden it becomes hard to run around and I’ve said to them you could be 11 stone, top of the league and you feel light as a feather when you run around. You could be 11 stone down the bottom and you feel like 15-16 stone.
"They need to shake that off and believe in themselves again.
“We are at a point where we have to go out and be bright, be sharp and resilient.
“If something doesn’t go for you, it is what it is – things will go against us, that’s football. But we have to keep our heads up and keep going.”
When Keates was appointed Walsall boss last year, he inherited a squad with a host of players who still had 18 months to run on their contract.
Those players will now become free agents this summer. And Keates believes their performances in the final 13 games of the campaign will have a big impact on their future.
“There are a lot of players whose contracts rolled over,” the boss continued. “The club needs to stabilise and get back in control of itself and, at the end of the season, it will do that.
“Going forward the club could have the possibility of 11 players in contract, 11 out of contract so you can refresh it, not have 17 contracts rolling over like this season.
“The players that are out of contract, they have to sell themselves to me, to the football club.
“They need to show they deserve to be here next season or, you never know who is watching.
“There are always potential employers watching. You are always in the shop window as a player. They have to go out there and do there best.”