Express & Star

Brian Dutton eyes long-term plans for Walsall as he battles for safety

Brian Dutton has revealed he is working on player contracts for next season to lay the foundations for his football philosophy.

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The head coach and his squad are currently under immense pressure with only one win in their last 16 games leaving them 20th in League Two.

Dutton has yet to get his first victory in charge, with six defeats in his opening nine games.

Despite that, he has revealed he still has one eye on player negotiations with the majority of the squad out of contract in the summer.

“I’ve got a long-term vision for Walsall Football Club and a short-term vision for Walsall Football Club,” Dutton said.

“Immediately, the short-term vision is the most important one because we have to make sure that we don’t get dragged into anything silly.

“But I’m chipping away in the background because it’s important that we’re not chasing our tail come next season.

“It’s very important that the foundations are being laid and we’re prepared for next season and the following season after that.

“You have to operate with that plan and vision otherwise you’re going to get sporadic results, which is what we don’t want. We want a clear vision and clear pathways with a long-term vision.

“I’m definitely chipping away with things in the background but my main focus on the moment is on the short-term.

“We’ll work in collaboration with the director of football and it will be a lot smoother.

“Such things as dialogue with players on contracts, that’s going to be a lot tidier and smoother for the football club moving forward.”

Part of Dutton’s long-term vision has been awarding Sam Perry with a handful of league starts for the first time.

The 19-year-old also netted his first senior goal at the weekend with a wonderful half-volley from 20 yards.

Dutton added: “Sam Perry has got his opportunity with me because I feel he is good enough – and if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. He has shown that.

“There’s loads of development left in him but as a starting point we’re pretty happy with him.”

Perry added: “This is what I’ve waited for and for the gaffer to put his trust into me is brilliant.

“I have to keep going now and keep pushing hard.

“I was over the moon to score my first professional goal and hopefully there’s many more to come.

“I surprised myself that I was up there to be honest. Hopefully I can take it into my game now and score more goals.

“Goals bring results so hopefully I score more in my career, but to score the first is brilliant.”

Meanwhile, Perry insists his time out of the team – and inability to play reserve games – was tough.

The midfielder made his debut in January 2020 against Portsmouth in the EFL Trophy, putting in a man-of-the-match performance.

Despite being promised more opportunities they never came while Darrell Clarke was manager, but Dutton quickly reinstated the youngster and handed him his EFL debut against Bradford in February.

Perry has made three more starts since then and is becoming and increasingly more important member of the squad.

During his time out of the team he was unable to play many reserve games due to the Covid-19 bubbles and the youngster insists he had a difficult time not playing football.

“I played two reserve games, one against Huddersfield and one against Grimsby.

“But due to the Covid bubbles I only played those two games, it’s been tough really.

I had to work hard on the training ground and put in the extra work.

“Not playing professional football for over a year is very tough. I had to keep working hard.

“When I started against Bradford I hadn’t played a game in around three of four months, so it was tough.

“Now I’m coming back to match fitness and I need to keep playing games now.”