Express & Star

Walsall's David Okagbue relishing his central role

David Okagbue is loving life at Walsall and his new found leadership role in the heart of defence.


The defender has been a resounding success on loan from Championship outfit Stoke City and scored his first EFL goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley, after amassing 25 appearances in all competitions.

He has slotted into the centre of a back-three in the absence of Donervon Daniels and Priestley Farquharson, after previously playing on the right of the defence alongside the injured pair.

The Republic of Ireland under-19 international is currently the most fully-fledged member of the back-line alongside Emmanuel Adegboyega and Taylor Allen, who’ve impressed as a makeshift back-three.

The trio only played together for the first time during the second half of the 2-1 win over Mansfield Town a fortnight ago. Since then, Walsall have conceded just twice and kept two clean sheets, while Adegboyega has scored three times in his first four league appearances.

Okagbue is relishing the extra responsibility bestowed upon him and is delighted to be establishing himself as a vocal force at the back.

Reflecting on his loan spell, the centre-back noted: “I got injured at the start. Then the first few games I probably wasn’t happy with how I was playing and it took me a while to find my feet.

“Learning from Priestley and Donervon everyday is special. You learn a lot from them and that’s helped me to where I am now.

“Moving to the middle has given me a leadership role so my voice has become a lot louder which is something I wanted to work on.

“It’s mad because I’ve only just gone 20 but I am happy with how I’ve stepped up.

“Being is the middle is good because I can get to control the game a lot more. You can see more, you can see both sides, you can speak to your outside centre-backs, push them in and get around them.

“We’ve got a really good understanding of each other and it’s only been a couple of games.”

Daniels and Farquharson are expected to feature before the end of the season but the recent defensive performances without them will provide the pair with a difficult challenge to break back into the side.

Mat Sadler has been impressed by the relationships building at the back and has said that the challenge is to maintain the recent standard of performance.

“David has done great. The three of them back there have really taken it on and have been aided with Jackson (Smith) as well.

“The challenge is to keep playing well but there’s some really good relationships back there and the dynamic looks good.”

On Okagbue, Sadler continued: “I am sure that Stoke will be delighted with how it’s gone for him during his loan spell.

“He’s been a credit to himself. He goes about his business really well and has a brilliant mentality towards the game.

“He is also a little bit dopey and I think that helps him because he just thinks, ‘no problem, on to the next thing’. It doesn’t faze him.

“David has really found his voice in that backline. I’ve played in that position and when you sit in the middle, you need to see everything and talk through everything.

“He does that really well. I think he’s aided by Taylor’s voice on the other side. Between them all, they’re doing great.”

Okagbue’s contract at parent club Stoke is due to expire in the summer, although the youngster remained understandably coy on his future.

When quizzed if he would consider Walsall if they were an option, he responded: “Definitely. Of course with how well it’s been going but there’s still a lot of games to be played and you don’t know what’s going to happen with your parent club.

“All I can do is just wait until the summer and we’ll see what happens.”