Newly appointed First Team Coach on making a permanent return…AS PART of the announcement that saw Jon Whitney installed as the clubs First Team Manager, it was revealed that Dean Holden would assume the role of First Team Coach, following on from the three-month stint he enjoyed at the Banks’s last season.
Upon his initial return, Holden, 36, spoke about the unique culture at the club and how the ‘special atmosphere’ attracted him back to the West Midlands.
The former Defender was drafted in to bolster Whitney’s backroom staff back in March and has now been handed a permanent role as plans are put in place for the forthcoming campaign.
“Obviously I’m very excited by it and very grateful to the Chairman and the Board for giving me the opportunity," said Holden. “I really enjoyed my time here last season and was welcomed back by the fans, the players and I think most importantly the backroom staff.
“That was the main thing that stuck with me. The way the staff are all on board and have a real work ethic amongst them.
“We’re all hungry for success and it’s a great working environment that’s been created here.
“That’s why Walsall are different to any other club. Yes, development is key but we know we have to win football matches as well.
“There are some good teams coming up from League 2 and down from the Championship and I’m already getting excited for the fixtures to come out in less than three weeks time.”
A tough tackling centre-half in his day, Holden made 34 appearances for the Saddlers during a two-year spell at the club.
Nearing the end of his playing career, he expressed a desire to go into coaching and was granted the opportunity to join one his former employers, Oldham Athletic, initially as a First Team Coach. Within three months he was promoted to caretaker manager following the departure of Lee Johnson and soon found himself in the hot seat.
Following a brief spell as the Latics First Team Manager, Holden returned to the Banks’s and instantly felt back at home, helping with first team matters alongside Neil Cutler and John Ward.
“Between myself, Cuts [Neil Cutler] and John Ward, we all muck in and help out.,” he added. “I approach the game from a very tactical point of view and try to implement ideas out on the training pitch.
“We had a great season last year and unfortunately it just unravelled at the end. But we’re working hard to improve our squad and we’re talking to players who can come in and make us better.
“We’ve got to be clever in recruitment. Hopefully the players we’ve offered contracts to will stay and we can bring a few in as well.
“But we have to remember that the club have a great reputation for developing young players. It’s our big thing and it’s something I’m keen on as well.”
With less than a month until the players check-in for pre-season, Holden is looking ahead to his first summer as part of the coaching staff and has highlighted the importance of a good pre-season.
“For me, it’s the biggest part of a season,” he explained. “It gives you a chance to get to know the players who will be coming in and the existing squad a little better.
“Once you make that connection with them off the pitch, its so much easier to work with them and develop that understanding between player and coach.
“Every player needs managing differently. Some you have to be quite direct with and others need challenging in the way you speak to them.
“It’s a period of time when it can enable you to be a better coach for the rest of the season and create that team spirit which we know is massive.
“Also for us as staff, we get time to get together and go through a few things.
“I’m just excited to get out on pitch and to see and be part of the individual development of our players.
“It’s going to be a big challenge this season, but one I'm up for and I know the rest of the staff are as well.”