Express & Star

Departing goalkeeper to 'cherish' Walsall memories after Barnsley switch

Jackson Smith says his spell at Walsall has provided him with memories to "cherish for a lifetime" after his departure to League One side Barnsley was confirmed.

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The 22-year-old has penned a four-year contract with the Tykes, which includes the option of a further year in the club's favour.

Smith spent 18 months at Walsall, initially arriving on loan from Wolves in January 2023, before joining permanently on a one-year deal last summer.

He eventually succeeded Owen Evans as first-choice goalkeeper following his late-November introduction and went onto register 30 appearances last term.

Smith kept seven clean sheets in all competitions and was named the club's young player of the year.

Walsall offered Smith a new contract at the end of the season but it has been confirmed that a compensation package has been agreed between both clubs.

Following his exit, Smith took to social media to issue a farewell letter to the Saddlers fan base.

"My time at this football club has come to an end and I want to say I've loved every moment of being part of this family," he wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

"The love that you guys have shown me has never gone unnoticed and I hope this reflected in my passion on the pitch.

"It has been a swift 18 months but it's been full of memories which I will cherish for a lifetime.

"I've learned so much here and can only thank the club for giving me the opportunity to not only progress as a goalkeeper, but more importantly, as a person.

"I want to wish the club nothing but success for the future and I'm sure it will continue to progress and get back to where it belongs.

"Up the Saddlers."

Evans was also released by the club in May and has since been reunited with former Saddlers boss Michael Flynn after returning to League Two rivals Cheltenham Town.

19-year-old Tommy Simkin, who joined on a season-long loan from Stoke City last week, is set to head into pre-season as first-choice goalkeeper unless Mat Sadler brings in another option between the sticks before Saturday's pre-season opener at non-league Alvechurch.

Meanwhile, academy graduate George Barrett was handed his first professional deal earlier this summer after deputising on the bench on a number of occasions last season.