Whitney pleased with squad rebuild and ready for season opener...JON Whitney has heaped praise on his players for giving him a selection headache on the eve of the new Sky Bet League One campaign.
The Saddlers host newly promoted AFC Wimbledon for the first time in the clubs history on Saturday (3.00pm kick-off) and the Walsall boss is pleased with his squads pre-season preparations.
“The application and work ethic of the whole group has been the most pleasing aspect,” said Whitney.”It’s nice for us to look when we pick the team and think actually we’ve got a bit of a problem, because there’s so many players pushing for a starting place.
“That’s great for me. It’s a nice problem to have when you have a fully fit squad to select from.
“We’re carrying a few more players this year because of the new loan regulations but we’ve got a squad that are ready for it and they’ve been fantastic over the last six weeks.
“They’ve gelled together and done everything we’ve asked of them and hopefully it puts us in good stead for the start of the season.
“I’m ready for it - let’s bring it on!”
The Dons arrive in the West Midlands having reached the third tier of English football for the first time since their inception in 2002.
Their 2-0 play-off final victory over Plymouth Argyle back in May propelled Neal Ardley’s men into League One after a five year stay in the basement division of the Football League and Whitney is all too aware of the threat that promoted teams pose.
“Over the last couple of years there’s been a good record of teams who have come up from League Two pushing on again,” he explained. “Burton were a good example of that last season.
“Wimbledon have lost a few players and signed a few like ourselves and they’ll be a force to be reckoned with like many teams in this division will be.
“There are no givens this year.
“I think our home form will be important but then we need to achieve the sort of away performances we saw last season as well.”
Since our play-off disappointment in May, Whitney has overseen the arrival of 12 new faces, and is set to name a number of them in the first matchday squad of the season on Saturday.
When asked what the characteristics of his side will be, the Saddlers Boss was quick to answer.
“I want to see a smile on the faces of my players – and not just when we’re winning.
“When questions are being asked of them I want them to grow even taller and rise to the challenge.
“I want us to be driven, passionate and have a desire about being a footballer.
“Does it mean more to us than it does to our opponent?
“If it does then we have a chance of doing something special.”