Youngster doing the right things...SADDLERS’ youngster, Mal Benning, admits that he is shocked but delighted at the rapid progress he has made in the early stages of his professional career.
The confident 19 year-old only signed his first professional contract last summer, but has since been rewarded with a new deal after a string of impressive performances that will keep him at the Banks’s Stadium until 2015.
Now, local lad Benning is looking to repay the faith shown in him by establishing himself as a first-team regular, but insists he will not get too carried away in the heat of the moment.
“I was surprised to get my chance so early on in the season, but I’m glad it came along and hopefully I’ve taken it and I can keep pushing forward in my development,” he said. “Signing my new contract was just as much of a shock, but I was ecstatic at the news.
“My first objective is to repay the manager and the club for believing in me, and that is to help the team reach the 50-point mark as quickly as possible and then take things from there.
“I won’t get ahead of myself; I still have plenty to learn and personally there are certain aspects I can improve on and I will be working extra hard in my spare time so I can fully progress as a player.”
Benning made his League debut in the home defeat to Scunthorpe United, coming on as a substitute for the injured Andy Taylor, and has since made 12 appearances for the club, restricting the experienced defender to the bench.
The youth team graduate confessed that he has plenty of admiration for the former Sheffield United man and is enjoying the challenge of competing for a starting place.
“It’s great competition to have in the team and Andy is a very good left-back with experience at some big clubs," he added. "He’s an excellent role-model to have and I can’t praise him enough for the help he gives to me.
“We keep each other on our toes, meaning that we have to stay consistent and luckily I have the chance to do that being in the first-team and it’s up to me to keep my spot.”
The young Saddler is in contention to keep his place in the starting line-up ahead of the clash with Oldham Athletic on Saturday and Benning is adamant the club can get back to winning ways after last weekend’s defeat to Colchester United, but is fully aware of the threat Paul Dickov’s side possess.
“I watched them beat Liverpool last weekend and they deserved to win, so we know they will be in our faces and we have to combat their style of play," he went on. "Last weekend was disappointing for ourselves, but confidence is always high here and we will be going into this game like any other knowing we stand a chance of getting a win if we reach the standards that we have set ourselves."