Express & Star

Walsall hand professional deals to academy duo

Walsall have handed first professional deals to academy duo Dylan Thomas and George Barrett.

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Thomas, who joined Walsall at the age of nine, made three appearances for the senior team this term.

He was handed his debut aged 16 in a 3-2 home defeat against Brighton under-21s in August last year and made further cameos from the bench against Sheppey United and Shrewsbury Town respectively.

The 17-year-old has trained regularly with the first team at Essington over the past season and said earning his first professional deal is the realisation of a lifelong dream.

"It feels amazing and it's what I've been working towards since the age of four or five," Thomas said.

"I loved every single minute of last season. If I could mention all of the first team I would because all of them have been so good with me and I've learned so much from all of them.

"Making my debut when I was a scholar wasn't expected but I came in firing last pre-season, smashed the runs in the under-18s and went straight up and did what I can.

"I was grateful to earn my debut and I thank the manager and all of the staff. To sign was a huge relief and I'm ready to kick on next season."

Barrett has been named in the squad on a number of occasions and has thanked those in the goalkeeping department for setting a strong example to help him secure a contract.

He added: "I am absolutely buzzing. I've spent the last two years in and around the first team with Watto (Dan Watson), Jackson (Smith) and Owen (Evans) so I've had a great example set to me. So if I follow that example, I'll fit right in.

"I've had a good last two years at the club and it can only get better if I put in the work and do what I know I can, especially with the players and staff I have around me.

"I am extremely excited."

Walsall have also confirmed that second year scholars Malik Lawal-Olumegbon, Oliver Jones, Tom Cox, Linton Chakki, Zak Poskitt, Piers Juliff and Will Uchenna have all been released.

A club statement read: "We would like to thank them all for their efforts and wish them well for the future."