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Sadler believes Saddlers will benefit from Southampton experience

8 January 2024

Club News

Sadler believes Saddlers will benefit from Southampton experience

8 January 2024

Walsall Head Coach Mat Sadler believes the experience of coming up against the quality of Southampton will serve the team well for the future.

The Saddlers bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup after a 4-0 defeat against the Championship high-flyers but there were plenty of positives to take, particularly after having some good chances to equalise at 1-0.

Sadler is keen to focus on the encouraging aspects from the game as attention now switches firmly on the league.

While it wasn’t quite to be on the day, Sadler is proud of how his players acquitted themselves and believes they will benefit from the lessons learned coming up against such strong opposition.

“You play certain Championship teams and you go into the game thinking ‘if you do this it will really affect them,’ but they’re a very good Championship team, well they’re a Premier League team with the money they’ve still got with them with parachute payments so they’re a top team.

“We were so close because those margins at 1-0 were so fine and that’s what we knew it had to be.

“We knew we had to take our chances when they came on the day, unfortunately we didn’t but I can’t be anything but proud of the effort that they put in.

“You can see that we’re growing as a group and you can see it’s a powerful thing when players, supporters and everyone is together. We’ve got a tunnel vision now on the league and that has to be what it’s about.

“Coming in to the game (on Saturday), you do a lot of thinking about it and for me, the experience stands us in good stead for the big games we’re going to have in the future as a group.

“There are loads of positives from it and now we look forward to a good week on the training pitch and look ahead to Stockport.”

The likes of Ryan Stirk, Ross Tierney, Joe Riley, Aramide Oteh, Harry Williams, Jamille Matt and Oisin McEntee all remained on the sidelines, while Ronan Maher was cup tied and didn’t make the trip to St Mary’s.

The Saddlers were also dealt a blow 24 hours before the match after Freddie Draper was recalled by parent club Lincoln City.

Sadler stressed the club are working hard to strengthen the squad where they need to but was keen to highlight how well the squad has done so far and had some good news on two players who are nearing a return from injury.  

“Ryan and Ross should be back for this coming Saturday which is great,” he revealed.

“We’ve got other ones that we need to come back quickly from the treatment room and we are obviously working extremely hard in the areas that we feel we need to.

“I always say this in January because everyone always asks who’s coming in but most importantly, I’m proud of everyone and every ounce of sweat, energy and desire they’re putting in for the shirt so we’ll do what we need to do but it’s important that the group and everything we are building is recognised because we are a good team, we are a good group and we are building towards something very important for the football club so whatever we do, we’ll make sure we do it extremely carefully and do it for the right reasons.”

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