Walsall boss Dean Smith wants first-choice keeper


Walsall manager Dean Smith is on the lookout for a regular first-choice keeper again after a season of short-term loan signings.

Smith started the campaign with David Grof as number one and Walsall legend Jimmy Walker as his back-up.

But Grof's loss of form led to Walsall making loan signings and although all four did well, Smith does not want to risk going down the same route.

"I've got a list of keepers I'll be speaking speak to," Smith told BBC WM.

"At the start of the season, I was hoping that Wacker and Groffy would be the two for us, but it didn't work out that way, which sometimes happens in football.

"Fortunately, our recruitment has been really good in terms of the keepers we've been able to bring in; Karl Darlow, Aaron McCarey, Ian McLoughlin and Sam Johnstone."

Smith's initial decision to replace Grof with Darlow, from Nottingham Forest, twice backfired when he was recalled by his parent club, ending the campaign as first-choice at the City Ground.

But Wolves youngster McCarey proved a more than able stand-in during his two loan spells, as did MK Dons' McLoughlin and Manchester United youngster Johnstone.

The six separate loan deals Smith arranged, and the seven different keepers he had in his matchday squad over the course of the campaign, had little or no effect on the stability of his team.

Walsall bounced back from their 16-match winless autumn decline to be transformed from likely relegation candidates into League One play-off contenders.

It also allowed Smith to offload 39-year-old Walker, whose contract was cancelled in February, and Hungarian Grof, who went on trial at French Ligue 2 side Clermont following his release by Walsall in March.

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