Jon Whitney will take a positive approach to the Checkatrade Trophy this season ahead of our first game in the competition against West Bromwich Albion tomorrow (7.45pm kick-off).
Our first Group E game sees The Baggies’ under-21s make the short journey to the Banks’s Stadium at the start of the competition in which The Saddlers reached the final in 2015, going on to feature at Wembley Stadium.
Games against Coventry City (Tuesday 3rd October) and Shrewsbury Town (Tuesday 7th November) follow this one as The Saddlers look to advance to the knock-out stages.
Whitney is likely to give playing time to some of those younger players on the fringes of the first-team squad at present but will field a strong squad in line with competition rules, and the manager is anticipating a tough test against Albion.
And Whitney is looking for a strong performance from his side on Tuesday evening, wanting his players to play with purpose during the game.
“It’s a positive approach from us and we’ve got players who need minutes,” said Whitney.
“We have to keep to the rules and regulations around players we need to play, but we won’t take it lightly.
“We’ve got a good connection with West Brom so it’s a good test for our young players to see where they’re at against their young players.
“West Brom’s first team play on Wednesday so it’ll be a young team from them but it’ll also probably be some of my young players, and some of them have good first-team experience.
“We’re expecting a strong performance.
“The team I pick will have a chance to impress going into next week’s game, so that’s my message to them - make sure you have a purpose when you play, and try to impress the coaches and myself to try to get into the squad for next week at Oxford United.
“West Brom try to really develop a work ethic and attitude - Tony Pulis is really big on that and we’re the same.
“It’ll be a tough game but hopefully we’ll have too much for them.”
While several players will be pushing for a start against West Brom and looking to impress the manager, one defender who will not be able to play for The Saddlers tomorrow evening is Callum Cockerill-Mollett.
The young left-back suffered a knee injury while on international duty with Republic of Ireland’s U19s, and was brought off on a stretcher during their friendly against the Czech Republic at the start of the month.
The extent of the 18-year-old’s injury is now clearer following several checks on it in the last couple of weeks.
“Callum Cockerill-Mollett has a knee injury from his international duty,” said Whitney.
“The longest timeframe is three months and shortest is six weeks, so it depends.
“He’s got a fractured kneecap, which is a strange one, but it’s something to we have to treat conservatively and see how he reacts to treatment.
“We’ll go by the signs and symptoms but you’re looking at three months back before he’s playing football.”