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Pre-match: Riley keen to cement his place

6 October 2023

Club News

Pre-match: Riley keen to cement his place

6 October 2023

Walsall defender Joe Riley has been enjoying playing as a right-back in the last two games and is determined to nail down his position in the team.

The 26-year-old has started the last two matches as the Saddlers have collected four points against Bradford City and MK Dons.

His start at Bradford was his first since August and he admitted that his period out of the starting XI was tough but he’s been pleased to have earnt his spot through hard work and he is aiming to continue impressing Head Coach Mat Sadler to keep his place.

“The gaffer’s got tough choices to make, we’ve got a really good squad here, a lot of good players whether that be right-back, midfield or right wing-back when we play a five,” Riley said.

“It’s been a frustrating period; I’m not going to lie. If it wasn’t, I’m not a professional football player with aspirations of playing higher so what I’ve done is I’ve come in early mornings, I’ve done my gym work and I’ve done everything that I can.

“I’ve controlled everything I can control; I’ve worked hard and I know the gaffer’s seen that so I know that when the chance was there, I was going to be ready to take that.

“Obviously, due to injuries, we’ve changed to a back four which if you ask me, it suits me a lot more. If I’m in midfield, great but if not, right-back is a position I thoroughly enjoy.

“It’s somewhere I grew up playing from aged 10 until about 21 really so I played there for a long part of my career, it’s only the last few years that I’ve settled into midfield.

“I’m enjoying right-back, I still think I can improve but I think I’ve defended well and I’ve put the foundations down so hopefully I can build on that now and give better performances for the team.”

Riley will be hoping to be involved again tomorrow when Sadler’s men visit bottom club Sutton United.

He is expecting to come up against some familiar faces and is well aware of the threats within Matt Gray’s team.  

“It’s easy to look at the table and say they’re struggling but like anyone in this league, it’s always going to be a tough game,” Riley commented.

“I know a couple of their players and I’ve played Sutton over the years and they’re a big physical side.

“I know a lad who plays for them and he’s an athlete. They’re always quick, they’re always strong and they’re going to have dangerous players, just like all the teams in the league so if we can defend as we have done, get more shots off and create these chances when we go forward, I’d like to believe we are going to go there full of confidence with the idea that we are going to win with that belief.

“It’s going to be a tough game but hopefully we can put our mark on the game and build on what we’ve done this week.”

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