Smith's Saddlers face Ling's Robins this evening...Saddlers boss Dean Smith is delighted to see his close friend Martin Ling back in management with Swindon Town.
Ling, who recently worked as a scout for Walsall, was appointed Robins boss at the start of the month, replacing Mark Cooper.
It is the 49-year-old’s first managerial role since leaving Torquay in April 2013 – three months after he stepped away from the game because of depression.
And Smith, who was assistant-boss to Ling at Leyton Orient, is pleased to see him back in the dugout.
“He’s one of my closest friends in the game,” said Smith, who will face Ling for the first time as an opposing manager when Walsall visit Swindon this evening.
“I spent four years playing with him at Orient, then five years there as a coach, first as youth team manager and then his assistant manager.
"In our first year together we got promoted to League One.
“He’s been very open about the trouble he’s had off the pitch with depression. It’s great that he’s out of that now.
"In all walks of life, people suffer from depression but end up going back to work.
“I went to watch Swindon against Scunthorpe recently, I waited for him after for a chat and he looks to be in a good place.
"After what little part I played in his recovery, it's just nice to see him back in football which is where he belongs.
“But we'll both be looking to get one over on each other tonight.”
Smith’s Saddlers and Ling’s Robins could both do with three points this evening – but for very different reasons.
Third-placed Walsall can climb back into the automatic promotion places with victory, while a win for third-bottom Swindon could lift them out of the relegation zone.
“It’ll be a tough game,” admitted Smith.
“Martin won’t be happy with the defeat they had against Fleetwood (5-1) but against Scunthorpe (the week before) they played well and got a deserved win.
“But we’ve got to perform how we did against Sheffield United, and if we do that, then hopefully we’ll have too much for them.”
Walsall are still unbeaten away from home this season – and Smith is hoping for more away day success.
“We certainly want to maintain that record,” he added.
“Away from home, we’ve been a threat on the counter, a threat when we control the game with the football and a threat whatever system or style we play.
“For an opposition manager, it’s probably hard to plan against us.
“To be at this stage of the season without a defeat away from home is very good.”
Walsall will be without Sam Mantom (ankle) and Isaiah Osbourne (knee) for tonight’s match.