Midfield man ready to hit the ground running...SADDLERS’ midfielder, Sam Mantom, is already looking forward to what is going to be his first full season with the club.
“For the first time ever I am preparing for a season where I expect to get regular first-team football,” said the local youngster who rejoined the club on loan from West Bromwich Albion in November before making the move permanent at the turn of the year. “I’ve been with Albion for the last five or six years, so I am looking forward to sampling what pre-season is like here.
“I expect Jon Whitney to really put us through our paces, but that can only be a good thing in preparation for what is going to be a competitive season.
“I want to return in the best possible shape, so I’ve been keeping myself ticking over with regular runs in the wind and rain. I want to be able to hit the ground running and push on from where I left off last season.
“Pre-season is going to be the start of a big season for me. I couldn’t have asked for more last year; I wasn’t involved at Albion, so I was grateful for the opportunity to come back to Walsall and then to sign permanently was a great step forward in my career.
“We played some really good stuff and had a strong second half of the season, something that we’re looking to build on.
“It’s important that we have the nucleus of the side already signed up. A few of the lads who were around this time last year have said that there was a big turn-over of players last pre-season, which doesn’t help preparations.
“This time, though, the majority of us will already know each other and what we’re about. There’ll be a few new faces in certain areas, but nothing on the scale of last year so we’ll be able to knuckle down and really focus on the task of building on what we achieved.”
With the likes of Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest coming to Banks’s Stadium in pre-season, Mantom can’t wait for the action to start.
“It’s always nice to be able to pit your wits against clubs from higher levels,” he added. “I just enjoy being out there and involved in the action, so I am counting down the days to our first game!
“We’ll be giving it our best shot in the friendlies and hopefully we’ll have some momentum to take into the League matches.
“There are some exciting games to look forward to next season; everyone is talking about Wolves, but there are other local derbies too which are going to be keenly-contested.
“We want to show what we can do regardless of the opposition and be up there challenging at the right end of the table again.
“Having Richard O’Kelly back to work alongside the Gaffer is another positive move, and there really is plenty to get excited about for the new season.”