Vice-captain insists players remain grounded after flying start...
SITTING at top spot in League One with over a third of the campaign gone, vice-captain Paul Downing is keen to prove a point.
The 24-year old defender has featured in all but one game this season for Dean Smith’s side and ahead of a busy winter schedule, Downing is eager to maintain our early season form.
Not many outside the Banks’s were tipping the Saddlers to be soaring at the summit of the division at this stage of the season but Downing in happy to overturn popular opinion.
“After we started the season so well people were saying ‘well let’s see where they are into October November time and after fifteen games’,” said Downing. “We’ve done that now so the next target has got to be in and around January, after the Christmas period, to still be in amongst it.
“We’ll keep setting targets every couple of months and that way we’re not getting too carried away.
“Confidence is still high. We’ve got to keep doing the right things, working hard on the training pitch and always improving.
“The competition for places is fierce and the players that do get picked have got to keep putting in performances because we’ve shown we can be consistent so far.“
Downing has been the cornerstone of some impressive defensive displays this season and has maintained his place in Dean Smith’s starting line up as part of a back three or back four. The frequent changes in personnel and formation are something that the former West Bromwich Albion trainee has attributed to our success, particularly in front of goal.
“The change in systems has surprised a few people this season and I’m sure the gaffer will be looking to keep things fresh,” he added. “As the season progresses the rotation amongst the squad will be a big factor in how well we do.
“When we see the stats after games, we’ve getting more shots off and more crosses into the box.
“Maybe the formation is helping with that. We’re getting bodies in the box which sometimes we lacked last season.
“I think we’ve got a better end product than last year but I think the main reason is that we’re scoring goals from all areas.
“We relied on Bradders [Tom Bradshaw] last season and he’s gone a few games without scoring but other players have stepped up.
“That’s a big reason as to why we’ve gone to places this season and scored three and four goals. When you do that, you’re more often than not going to get the points.”
The Saddlers have a quartet of players away on international duty this week meaning our highly anticipated trip to Shrewsbury Town will have to wait a few more weeks.
With no fixture this weekend, Manager Dean Smith has given the players a few days, something that Downing is grateful for despite potentially being knocked off top spot by the chasing pack.
“The break has come at a good time,” he commented. “We’re sixteen games in, played a lot of football and we’ve got a lot of football to come.
“It’s important now that we rest up, see a few different faces for a few days and come back ready to collect more points.
“It’s a great credit to the quality in our squad. To have four internationals is very unusual. Certainly in my four years at the club this will be the first time we’ve had to postpone a game.
“Being top you want to try and stay there for a few weeks.
“Obviously other teams can over take us this weekend so I think it would have been best if we could have kept playing. It’s not ideal but we have to try and make the best of it.”