Brian Dutton urges Walsall players to push for play-offs

Brian Dutton has sent a defiant message to his Walsall charges: “Let’s go for the top seven.”

Brian Dutton.
Brian Dutton.

The new head coach had his first sit-down meeting with the players on Thursday after a whirlwind few days that saw manager Darrell Clarke leave for Port Vale on Monday and the Saddlers face Cheltenham Town the following day.

Now, with a sense of optimism around his appointment and relationship with the squad, he has set out a firm target – make the play-offs.

When asked for his aims in the final months of the season, Dutton said: “We have to try and get into the top seven.

“The players I have at my disposal are fantastic. They’re really talented players with a great work ethic about them. They want to win.

“There is no reason why we can’t finish in the top seven and the only reason we won’t is because I’ve underachieved and let the players down.

“I might be naive in saying this as a young manager and not batting it back with a straight answer about focusing on the next game, but I only get one crack at it. The players are good enough to finish in the top seven. Lets have a go and see where we end up on May 8.

“We might not win a game or we might win many and finish in the top seven.

“I’m not going to shy away from it, lets go for the top seven.

“We sat down on Thursday and had a players meeting. I’ve explained to them what I’m going to demand from them from now until the end of the season.

“I made it clear how me and my staff are going to be implementing our philosophy and trying to get their by-in, because that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s about the players and them performing. I needed to be clear with my ideas and thoughts on it.

“Thursday was a really hectic day with player meetings and staff meetings but I’m glad to have got it out the way now.”

When asked if the players will share the responsibility if the Saddlers do not make the play-offs, Dutton said: “No. The players have a first class attitude.

“We asked them to go and play the other night against Cheltenham, the best team in the league for me.

“We asked them to get on the ball and play. Our league average this season is 333 passes, they made 436. Almost a third more than what they usually do.

“Did we create as many opportunities as what we wanted to? No we didn’t. But they showed me they have the courage to do what I’m asking of them.

“It’ll be me letting the players down if we fall short this season, it won’t be a case of the players letting me down.”

Cameron Norman echoed his manager’s comments, insisting that the team is ‘folly focused’ on making up ground on the top seven.

“There has been change and it’s been a crazy week but the ambition stays exactly the same,” Norman said.

“All the players are focused entirely on that. There’s going to be no lapse or leeway. We don’t want that to be the case.

“The aim doesn’t change. We’re all fully focused on getting to where we want to be come the end of the season. We have the new gaffer and naturally everyone wants to up their game and be in his thoughts.

“There’s a real focus on knuckling down and focusing on where we want to be come the end of the season.”

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