Express & Star

Academy boss: An essential Walsall pathway for young Saddlers

Rob Williams believes it’s been essential for Walsall’s academy squad to train alongside the first team at Essington.

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Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas has made three senior appearances this season, while fellow scholars George Barrett, Cayden Bennett, Jaiy Leydon and Charlie Wragg have all featured in matchday squads. Fellow academy graduate Joe Foulkes has made 17 appearances for the Saddlers and Rushall Olympic loanee Ronan Maher scored twice in a 3-2 win over Darlington in the National League North on Saturday. And Williams feels that working within such close proximity of the senior team at Essington has offered increased opportunities to his players.

The Walsall academy boss said: “It’s essential in any club if you’re going to give your players an opportunity to progress through the programme and create a pathway.

“If you can actually have that in place then the two things need to be close together to allow players to literally walk from one pitch to the other when needed. “Sometimes players move across because it’s planned and other times it could be last minute when they just need to make up numbers. But whatever it is, if you’re not there then you don’t have that opportunity so for us it’s absolutely essential to tie the two teams together really closely. Every academy under-18 player has trained with the first team this year at some point.