Matthew Preston on his first team breakthrough...Young centre-back, Matt Preston, has forced his way into Jon Whitney’s reckoning in recent weeks.
The 21-year old has featured in the last 7 games for the Saddlers, recording back-to-back clean sheets against Southend and Sheffield United in the process.
Despite enjoying his longest run of successive games since joining the club as a youngster, the Birmingham-born defender remembers the tougher times in his development.
“At the end of my youth team, just before I became a professional, I noticed that I was getting a stiff back a lot of the time and it was putting me off – I couldn’t stand up straight." he explains. “I played three games with it and I thought this can’t be right, so I ended up getting a scan.
“It turned out that I had a fractured spine, and I’d been playing games with it - I just thought forget it, who cares, just carry on.
“That put me out for almost a season, but I think it was a blessing in disguise because I wasn’t the biggest of people. I was quite skinny.
“During that time I bulked up and hit the gym and got stronger so I think it may have been a blessing.
“People get down when they get injured and it can get difficult.
“I guess when you get older it’s a different case, but for young players I feel like it can benefit them in the long run.”
Jon Whitney has shown faith in the tough tackling Preston ahead of a busy December schedule.
Described by his boss as “the quickest and strongest player we have”, Preston will be hoping he can continue his fine form as the Saddler’s prepare to play Fleetwood Town this weekend.
“I feel it’s been a good spell for me, confidence wise as well as playing,” he added. “I feel like whenever I want to play I want to put my own sort of stamp on the game.
"I feel like I’m doing that at the minute, which is positive.
“Before when I played it felt like I was just filling in for other players who were out. Now I think I’m in the side on merit.
“If we can keep picking up points heading into the New Year – that’ll be a big momentum boost. Then we can hopefully get as many good results as we possibly can.”