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Walsall boss Darrell Clarke keen to focus on developing youngsters

New boss Darrell Clarke believes it’s vital Walsall return to their values and start developing players once again.

Darrell Clarke
Darrell Clarke

Particularly during the Dean Smith era, the Saddlers enjoyed a reputation for developing youngsters – either from their own academy or by picking up players released from other clubs.

But while the likes of Liam Roberts and Liam Kinsella have broken through over the past few years, that production line appears to have slowed down.

And that is something Clarke, who guided Bristol Rovers to back-to-back promotions from the Conference Premier (now National League) into League One, wants to rectify.

“I think it’s important we get to the traditional Walsall way of building our own players,” the manager said. “We’ve got a big rebuilding job to do and it’s not going to be a quick fix that’s for sure.

“I remember when I started with Bristol Rovers in the Conference we didn’t have a great start to the campaign. But you build. Sometimes you bring new players in and it takes a bit of time to adapt.

“But at the same time, you can build a squad of players who then start really, really well.

“I’m not thinking that very, very quickly it’s going to be a bed of roses. We are going to take some hits but we have to get this club back to where it wants to be.”

Clarke had huge success developing players during his time at the Memorial Stadium.

The likes of Matt Taylor, Billy Bodin and Rory Gaffney were all relative unknowns until he helped them fulfil their potential.

And he feels key to that success was identifying players who were hungry to improve.

“You want hungry players, players who are hungry for success and who want to bring Walsall success,” Clarke continued. “But they also need to want to have individual success.

“We live in a world where people want to do the best for themselves so you can manage in that way.

“You want players who want to go on and play at the highest level.

“But first and foremost they have to want to do their utmost for Walsall and to start moving this club forward.”

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