Experienced defender revelling in player-coach role...EXPERIENCED defender, Dean Holden, is delighted to have penned a new deal here at Banks’s Stadium that will see the likeable 34 year-old continue to combine a playing and coaching role.
Whilst injury scuppered his participation on the pitch last term, it was in his role of Development Coach, working with the players in the age 18-21 bracket, where he really impressed as he took his first steps into the coaching side of the game.
That progress has continued in recent weeks with him achieving his ‘A’ Licence whilst also returning to full fitness in readiness to play his part on the field when required.
“Even though it was the first season in my career where I didn’t play, I really enjoyed it last season,” admitted the former Bolton Wanderers youngster who joined The Saddlers from Rochdale in 2012. “I was given a fantastic insight into the coaching side of the game and I thrived on it, to be honest.
“It was hard work and really opened my eyes to the different aspects of the game that need to be focussed on, but it was a great experience that has left me wanting more.
“I’ve been on my ‘A’ Licence recently; it takes plenty of dedication and expense, but it’s something that I am committed to. I didn’t want to just roll off the pitch and straight into a coaching job, I want to learn and build up my knowledge.
“Just after the season had finished I went to Spain with the Gaffer and Richard O’Kelly where we went to see different training centres and experience a different culture – it was such a great trip.
“The knowledge and sheer enthusiasm of people like the Gaffer, Richard, Jon Whitney and Neil Cutler can only help me. They are proper football people and students of the game who are always looking to develop and improve, just like me.
“They have created a great environment here with a real passion for football. It’s a fantastic position for me to be in and I intend to make the most of it.”
Holden is also back to full fitness and raring for pre-season training to get underway.
“I feel as fit as a fiddle,” he beamed. “I worked really hard towards the end of last season with Jon Whitney. The rehab that he did with me was the best of my career and it means that I am ready to hit the ground running when pre-season training starts.
“The Gaffer knows that he can rely on me to step in and do a job when required. I appreciate that I won’t necessarily be required every game, but I am professional and will keep myself ticking over and in the best possible shape.
“It’s important to have that in the squad and hopefully I can continue to help the younger lads around me.
“There is a real determined attitude and desire to work hard here. We have a lot of quality in the squad and some good young lads waiting in the wings to step up and start making their mark.
“If I was a young lad making my way in the game here at Walsall I would be rubbing my hands together because everything is there for them to progress if they want it badly enough.”
So, how does Holden see the new season shaping up?
“I’m always confident and optimistic,” he added. “There is a solid base already in place here and I trust the Gaffer and Richard to identify and bring in the type of players that we need to be able to push on.
“We’ve got a tour to Devon planned for the middle of July and that will be important for any new recruits to get to know the lads and settle in.
“The existing players are all following a fitness plan over the weeks ahead so that we can hit the ground running when we return to training and give us that edge which could prove vital.
“It’s going to be a really good division next season and like everyone else, I am eagerly awaiting the fixtures being released.
“The quality in League One has been high over the past few years and that will continue to be the case next season. It’s going to be an exciting challenge for us and one that I am looking forward to both in a playing and coaching sense.”