Boss pens new 12-month rolling contract with the club...SADDLERS Manager, Dean Smith, has put pen-to-paper on a new 12-month rolling contract.
The 44-year old masterminded our first ever visit to Wembley last season, reaching the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and has enjoyed a blistering start to the new campaign, guiding the club to the summit of League One after 12 games.
Smith has spent almost five years in charge at the Banks’s, making him the fourth longest serving manager in English football’s top-four divisions.
“I’m really pleased to have signed a new deal,” said Smith. “My current deal was up at the end of the season so I’m glad it’s been sorted.”
A former Walsall defender, Smith first took charge in January 2011 when named as caretaker manager following Chris Hutchings’ departure. He was given the job on a permanent basis at the end of the month and eight days later secured his first victory – a 6-1 mauling of Bristol Rovers.
Having secured survival that season, Smith set about forming a philosophy that promoted youth development and an attractive brand of football.
He has helped nurture the talents of nine academy graduates currently in the senior squad, including the trio of Rico Henry, Liam Kinsella and Reece Flanagan, who starred in Saturday's win over Burton Albion.
The likes of Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic) and Jamie Paterson (Nottingham Forest/ Huddersfield Town) can also bare testimony to his managerial credentials having began their careers under his guidance at the Banks’s.
‘Ginger Mourinho’, as he’s affectionately become known by the Saddlers faithful, has been fundamental to the success of the club both on and off the pitch, implementing a clear infrastructure for all age groups.
The club's vision and identity has been transformed to beyond recognisable since Smith's appointment and was recently praised by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho following a Capital One Cup tie.
“I’m happy with how we are developing as a club,” he added. “Now I’m looking forward to continuing the progress we’ve made.”
“I’ve enjoyed my time in charge so far and I’m still learning everyday.
“I feel like I’m getting better as a manager and I just want to keep developing.”
Smith's playing career began with The Saddlers where he spent five years between 1989 and 1994. During that time he became one of the youngest-ever players to captain the club.
He has also represented - and skippered - the likes of Hereford United, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale during a successful 15-year playing career as a commanding central defender.
After hanging up his boots, he undertook his coaching qualifications and enjoyed a spell as assistant manager at Leyton Orient under Martin Ling before arriving at the Banks's Stadium in 2009.
Guiding the club to League One safety in 2010/11, he continued to develop the team during the following campaign and in 2012/13 he oversaw a challenge for the play-offs that went right up to the penultimate game of the season.
The 2013/14 campaign saw the club challenging for a top six spot for most of the season before ultimately falling away and ending up in 13th place on the final day - the lowest position we had been in all season.
The 2014/15 Wembley appearance, the club's first in 127 years, became the focal point in what was a memorable campaign in charge for Smith and his management team. Despite losing 2-0 to Bristol City, nearly 30,000 Walsall supporters made the trip to the capital to enjoy an occasion that will live long in the memory.
Having managed to retain most of his squad over the summer and added international quality, Smith has guided the Saddlers to top spot after 12 games of the 2015/16 season.