The Saddlers face Chesterfield in the FA Cup second round...Walsall coach John Ward is eyeing a place in the FA Cup third round and a plum draw against one of the Premier League big boys.
The 64-year-old will take caretaker charge of the Saddlers this weekend, along with coaches Jon Whitney and Neil Cutler, for our second round trip to Chesterfield.
And Ward, who joined Walsall as Professional Development Coach in September, is well aware of the potential rewards of reaching round three.
“I’ve always looked at the FA Cup second round and gone ‘what if?’” said Ward.
“What if you win and get Liverpool? What if you get Manchester United?
“The teams that do win on Saturday will be looking at the third round draw with real interest and excitement in the hope they get a draw like that.
“We’re away from home on Saturday which probably makes it a little bit tougher.
“But we go there on the back of a really good away performance on Tuesday and that’s something we’ve got to try to reproduce this weekend.
“The reward comes after that - the trip to Old Trafford or whatever, which is what we all dream about - but that won’t happen if we go out of the cup.
“We’ve got to make sure the importance of the game is stressed to the team, not that they’ll probably need it, but say ‘come on, this is what you may get if you do well’.”
Walsall came from behind to beat local-rivals Shrewsbury 3-1 on Tuesday night – a day after Dean Smith left to take charge of Brentford.
And Ward was encouraged by the positive manner in which the players, staff and supporters responded to his departure.
“The display and result against Shrewsbury was very pleasing, and the way the team went about it on and off the pitch was very evident to everybody,” he commented.
“We had nearly 1,500 people there supporting us and they gave us a big lift.
“Everybody connected with the football club over that 48 hours, from Monday when Dean left to the game on Tuesday, reacted extremely positively and we got a fantastic result.
“But that said, it stops there and we start again as we’ve got another big game coming this weekend.
“We’re expecting another good following and a big display from the team.”
Chesterfield are also without a manager following Dean Saunders’ exit last Saturday.
But Ward believes the Spireites, who have academy manager Mark Smith in temporary control, shouldn’t be underestimated.
“They will be looking to impress people,” Ward added.
“They’ve put someone in charge so they’ve got some stability at the moment, which is a good thing for them.
“Those players at Chesterfield – similar to the players here – will be looking to impressive whoever is watching, whether it’s the person in charge or the person coming in.”
Striker Tom Bradshaw limped out of the Shrewsbury win with an ankle injury and will miss the game this weekend.
Sam Mantom is fit after recovering from a high ankle strain and was named on the bench on Tuesday.
Isaiah Osbourne is a long-term absentee.