Sheffield United boss Nigel Adkins says Walsall’s impressive start to this campaign is a reward for keeping faith in manager Dean Smith.
Adkins, who takes his side to the Banks’s Stadium today, believes that stability at Walsall, garnered from having the former Sheffield Wednesday defender at the helm for what is now his sixth season.
The Saddlers are currently third in League One, two points off leaders Gillingham who are ahead of Coventry on goal difference and have lost just twice in this campaign so far.
And aside from that, United’s record against Walsall makes grim reading too, with the Blades having failed to win any of the last six meetings between the two sides.
At a time when clubs take little time to push the panic button and offload managers - United themselves have had five managers plus two ‘caretaker’ spells for Chris Morgan in the time Smith has been in charge at Walsall - Adkins points to his oppositing number’s longevity as proof that sticking by a boss can eventually bring about success.
“Walsall are good, they have done very well,” said Adkins. “They’ve got a manager who has been there several years now and that’s given them an opportunity to build. They’ve got some good players there and there’s a stability among the group because it’s been there a while.
“It’s a game we are looking forward to, there’s lots of positives and we are looking to climb the table.”
United suffered something of a setback in their promotion push last weekend with Southend coming away from Barmall Lane with a 2-2 draw.
However, United’s performance was better than in previous league games and they were unfortunate, having come from 2-0 down, not to win the game with Chris Basham, Billy Sharp and Jose Baxter all hitting the woodwork.
Adkins added that the mood in the camp shows a team up for the challenge of facing one of the division’s in-form teams. He said: “There’s lots of positives and, drawing on my experience in the game, I think I can say we’ve trained very well.”
George Long is expected to keep his place in goal, after an assured display in difficult weather conditions at the Lane last week.
“I see George every day in training,” Adkins pointed out. “He’s an exceptional goalkeeper with many attributes. You have to do it in the arena. He had a really good game last time out. People will talk about the first goal, should he have caught or punched it? he made a decision and it was an excellent punch that went 25 or 30 yards. Their lad scored a goal in off the post.”