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Williams: "It gives everyone in the academy a lift"

24 August 2022


Williams: "It gives everyone in the academy a lift"

24 August 2022

Walsall Academy Manager Rob Williams is delighted and proud to see Ronan Maher earn a professional contract.

The 17-year-old has been with the Saddlers since the age of 11, coming through the age groups and after an impressive season as a first-year scholar in 2021/22, he joined up with the first team group for pre-season training in the summer and managed to work his way into the squad before going on to make his senior debut on the opening day of the season against Hartlepool United.

Williams has known Maher for a long time and saw his potential from a young age.  

He feels the teenager has deserved to be rewarded with a professional contract and sees it as a huge boost for the academy.

“The big one for us is it gives everyone in the academy a lift,” Williams said.

“Our primary role and responsibility is to help the Club find some professional footballers and develop some players that come through our own programme so to get one through so early in terms of his second year as a scholar and early in terms of myself being here for four months, it’s a massive win for us and above all else, the boy deserves it.

“There’s always been something about Ronan, I’ve known him for a long time even when he was a nine-year-old at a different club and he always had that precocious talent, there was always something about him, he always had that edge to him, he always had that edge to him and he’s gone on and fulfilled that potential that he’s got.

“Hopefully what it does is inspires and aspires others to want to follow that and that’s the important part. It might give others a nudge that says there’s a real opportunity and a real pathway.

“The biggest thing about a club of our size is there’s a genuine pathway where players, if they have the potential and show the right characteristics, they can go and progress into the first team and the manager has made it really clear that if they’re good enough, then they will get the opportunity.

“Hopefully, it’s the start of many to come, it will be the start of many to come – it’s a long old journey. There will be bumps in the road along the way but those bumps sometimes are the things that make them into the players that they are.”

There has been plenty going on across all age groups within the academy with fixtures against a variety of different clubs and Williams is pleased to be back in the swing of things.

“It’s a really busy time, not that there’s not a busy time,” he commented.

“Everyone is now back in; they’ve had their breaks over the summer. In recent weeks we’ve had a range of fixtures and the games programme is really important.

“We try and expose the kids to category one opposition, what would be deemed higher level opposition but we also play grassroots opposition to vary the games programme and mix up the experience of the players so they deal with winning, they deal with losing, they deal with being expected to win or expected to lose.

“Over recent weeks, we’ve played West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, Stoke City and Nottingham Forest, what would be deemed bigger programmes than us but we’ve also played a number of grassroots teams, again which provides that mixed platform for players to be exposed to which is part of the journey and it’s part of that bumpy road to becoming a footballer and across the board, they’ve really acquitted themselves well, put in some really good performances and competed against what would be deemed bigger category programmes than ourselves so I think the future is really bright.”

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