Walsall boss Darrell Clarke has stressed the importance of integrating the youngsters into his squad ahead of the new season.
19-year defender Tom Leak, first year pros Joe Willis and Sam Perry and academy stars Joe Foulkes and Jayden Campbell have all been involved during the three pre-season matches played so far.
Campbell played his part in creating the opportunity that led to Liam Kinsella’s winner against Shrewsbury Town in the Saddlers’ latest pre-season outing and Clarke wants to ensure the young players in particular are ready for the new campaign and he has been pleased with how they have applied themselves so far.
“That’s what these pre-season games are about,” said Clarke. “Testament to the young boys as well, we made a lot of changes at 60 minutes and a couple at 45 so I think it’s vitally important that young lads are going to have a focus about the group and need to be about the group with the load of games we’re going to have in a nine month period and if we’re successful in the cups, which we want to be, there will be even more games so getting the likes of Foulkesy, Campbell, Perry, Leaky getting minutes with the first team boys is vital.
“That’s why I have had them for the whole of pre-season plan, they’ve got plenty of minutes as part of the group because we’re going to need a squad.
“We’re not going to have the biggest squad so we’ve got to manage minutes and manage bodies and get one or two young boys ready to take an opportunity if and when they get it.”
The victory over Shrewsbury was Walsall’s first of pre-season following a defeat to Crewe Alexandra and a draw against Wolves Under 23s over the past week.
Clarke felt there were a lot of pleasing aspects against Sam Ricketts’ side and is happy with how his team are ticking along.
“I was really pleased,” he commented. “For 60 minutes I thought we played some decent stuff, albeit not being clinical enough in the final third.
“Opportunities were created, we got ourselves in dangerous positions and looking after the transition of the ball so there were a lot of pleasing aspects of it. We’re ticking along and by the looks of it, there were no injuries in the game so that’s always a massive positive as well.”
The Saddlers will take on Burton Albion at home in their next pre-season friendly on Saturday 29th August.