Dean Smith and the Youth Recruitment Policy at Walsall FC
Here's to hopefully the first of many articles and i would like to start with a bit of an unnoticed topic that i feel needs highlighting for the excellent work Dean Smith is doing down at the Saddlers, not just in terms of results which has seen Walsall sit at 9th League one currently and has brought much needed stability to the club both on the pitch and off it. Before taking as manager over at Walsall, they were in dire straights, staring down the barrel of relegation to League two back in 2011, Dean took Walsall from bottom of League 1, 9 points adrift from safety, he kept the saddlers up by one point to finish 20th in the 2010/11 season.
As Dean Smith had been Head of Youth Development at Walsall from July 2009, he would work with and see first hand the potential in the crop of talent at Walsall at Youth level. in the 2011/12 and current season, Dean Smith has looked to imprint his philosophy of bringing through youth players in to the first team, whilst also taking released youth players from other midlands clubs especially. He has combined experienced heads like Richard Taundry, Andy Butler and twins James and Adam Chambers with a wealth of players coming through the Walsall youth system like Will Grigg, Malvind Benning, George Bowerman, Jamie Paterson and recent deputised Ben George, these lads have brought youthful exuberance and given a local feel to the club instead of past years where any exciting local talent was quickly looked as profit material to support the finances of the club, most recent example being Troy Deeney who was sold to Watford.
Smith hasn't just blended a mix of hardened experienced pro's with talented local lads, he has exploited the loan market expertly with the raw, explosive talent of Febian Brandy and has looked to quash his goalkeeping crisis with the loan signing of young Wolves stopper Aaron McCarey. Dean Smith and his scouting staff have also brought in young released players like Sam Mantom and James Baxendale from local rivals West Bromwich Albion, Ashley Hemmings from Wolves and Ex Leeds Paul Downing. These young players have flourished so far under Dean Smiths management and the confidence shown in them has certainly given them the lift they needed to get their careers back on track and treat the Walsall faithful to some exciting displays this season. Special praise is being heaped signings Sam Mantom, Febian Brandy who have instilled themselves as key players for the first team with Mantom's technical ability in his eye for a pass as well as execution of the pass in the centre of midfield and Brandy's lightening pace that has frightened many full backs in League one so far this season.
To conclude, Dean Smith has worked with an extremely tight budget to imprint his own philosophy of football and belief in youth into this walsall side by bringing in very gifted young players and retaining experienced heads in key positions in defence and centrally in the midfield to give the young players the freedom to express themselves and develop their game in the best possible way, through first team football. The future is looking bright for Walsall and long may that continue with Dean Smith at the helm as the Walsall faithful deserve this after some troublesome times lately. Hopefully more League 1 and 2 teams can look to develop their squads similarly to Walsall instead of looking to simply exist by selling whatever playing asset they can get big money for and look to utilise the obvious youth talent we have here in England. There are far too many superbly talented young players released by Premier League and Championship clubs that have never been able to show their talent other than in under 18 and reserves games and effectively end up having their talent wasted when they could be flourishing in competitive quality football of the lower professional leagues.
I hope my message for the need to maximise the talent we have here in England instead of the over reliance on importing talent, including the example of the positive situation down at Walsall, was able to come across in this article to those who have read this.
Thanks for reading, Jack Clayton
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