Walsall Academy Manager Rob Williams praised first team players Jack Earing and Rollin Menayese after their involvement in Tuesday’s Birmingham Senior Cup tie against Tividale.
A young Saddlers side fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Tividale’s first team but there were plenty of encouraging things to take from the match.
Earing played for the first time since suffering his knee injury in January as he edges closer to a return to the first team while Menayese got 90 minutes under his belt following his return to first team action earlier this month.
Williams was pleased with the way both senior pros applied themselves when coming to play with the scholars.
“I said to Mat Sadler the next day that it is tough for them because it is seen as a step down and I fully understand that,” Williams explained.
“Having experienced lots of those occasions before, not here but having those moments when senior players step down, a lot of the time they may not want to be there, not really do it and go through the motions.
“Last year we had Liam Gordon, Oisin McEntee, Taylor Allen, Danny Cashman and Timmy Abraham when they were here and they all did it properly.
“Jack and Rollin were excellent on Tuesday night in terms of the way they did it, the way they engaged with the group and the way they spoke to the boys.
“I’m sure they will go away having got from it what they wanted which was really important for them. Both are in different places with Jack needing minutes and Rollin playing a full game but for us, they were really positive for the group because they came and done it properly.”
Despite the narrow defeat, Williams feels the scholars who played will benefit from the experience.
We came away with loads of positives,” he said.
“I say all the time, look beyond the result and you have to look beyond the result. The week before, Darlaston beat West Brom in the same competition so you can’t read too much into it but the experience for our boys to play against men on a tough pitch on a Tuesday evening with a crowd clearly in favour of Tividale so that experience in itself – incredible.
“To have a couple of first team players in the group, the value that brings is really high for the players.
“Primarily, we took 16/17-year-old kids with a couple of second years and a couple of pros so it was really tough but the experience will stand them in really good stead moving forward.”