On-loan Arsenal centre-half Krystian Bielik is determined to play his part for Walsall after joining in training with the First Team for the first time since joining The Saddlers in January.
Highly-rated defender Bielik completed his move to the Banks’s Stadium on Transfer Deadline Day but suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury, with a problem developing in his knee.
The 20-year-old had already missed the start of the 2017/18 season with a shoulder problem, and the subsequent knee issue has kept the Polish under-19 international sidelined for just over a month.
But Bielik has now linked up with The Saddlers having worked hard with Arsenal’s physios, and was at the Banks’s Stadium for our game against Wigan Athletic in midweek, although he did not make the squad of 18.
With no game for Dean Keates’ side until next Saturday when we host Portsmouth at the Banks’s, Bielik is determined to impress Keates in training and stake a claim for the remaining eight Sky Bet League One games of the season.
“I’m very excited (for the rest of the season) and I’m getting better,” Bielik told Saddlers TV.
“The last few months were not good for me. In the winter transfer window I did my hamstring then my knee - but step-by-step I’m getting better. I’m on my third training session with the lads now and I’m looking forward to playing for Walsall, to get my confidence back and to help the team.
“I just want to play my football and help the team.
“My physiotherapist wanted to finish his job - which was to send me to Walsall fit. He did a great job, I feel better now and I’m focused on training and on the games. I want to deserve a place in the squad and play at my best.
“My body wasn’t ready in the season so far, and now I feel much better. I want to just do my best and forget about the stuff that’s already gone. It’s behind me.
“In every training session I try to do my best to impress the coach. Some people can say “oh, he came from Arsenal so he has to play” but no, I know I have to deserve it from training.
“If the manager puts me in the squad I’ll try to stay there for as long as I can and play the most games the best that I can - and that’s my target for this season.
“Arsenal told me ‘Krys, do your best and finish this season the best that you can.’
“I’ve played just four games (this season), which is not very good for me. We have eight more games now and I will do everything that I can to play all eight games for 90 minutes, and help Walsall.
“I just want to do my best and show my quality, and hopefully in the game you can see this.”
Bielik has been helped to settle in by his new teammates in his first week at Essington - and Bielik already knows one face from his time at Arsenal.
Central midfielder George Dobson was part of Arsenal’s academy until 2015, when he made the move across London to West Ham United, and played with Bielik for The Gunners’ under-21 side.
“The players are very nice here and welcomed me so warmly,” Bielik said.
“They do like joking sometimes - and I understand it! I was maybe a bit stressed before I came to the dressing room but I did know that they would be really nice.
“I’m very happy I’m here - I just want to do my best. I know George Dobson from our time at Arsenal, we had one year together and then he left (for West Ham). But I feel very good and I’m quite confident to be here.”
The young defender is more than up for the fight in the final eight league games of the season - and gave Saddlers fans an overview of how he likes to play the game.
“You know, I like to play from the back,” said Bielik, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Birmingham City.
“Someone me told the Championship and League One are similar physically so I’m ready for this. I like sending passes and chipping to the strikers, switching the ball quickly.
“I like heading, I like to fight and I like tackles! Maybe I don’t look like it but I like to tackle enjoy my football!
“I don’t like kicking the ball all the time - long balls - I just play simple with my passing. And scoring goals, as well!”