Sean O'Driscoll: Walsall name new head coach to replace Dean Smith

Sean O'Driscoll
Sean O'Driscoll replaces Dean Smith, who left Walsall to become Brentford boss in November

League One side Walsall have appointed former Liverpool assistant manager Sean O'Driscoll as their new head coach.

The 58-year-old former Bournemouth, Doncaster Rovers, Crawley Town, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City manager has signed an 18-month deal.

O'Driscoll, who won promotion with both Bournemouth and Doncaster, replaces Dean Smith, who left the Saddlers to join Brentford in November.

"It's an exciting project," he said. "I'm relishing the opportunity."

Sean O'Driscoll's record in league management
AFC Bournemouth (Aug 2000-Sept 2006) P 327 W 118 D 99 L 110
Doncaster Rovers (Sept 2006-Sept 2011) P 268 W 97 D 72 L 99
Crawley Town (May-July 2012)
Nottingham Forest (July-Dec 2012) P 26 W 10 D 9 L 7
Bristol City (Jan-Nov 2013) P 44 W 11 D 13 L 20

Walsall are now third in League One, a place higher than when Smith and his assistant Richard O'Kelly departed on 30 November.

They have since spent three matches under the joint caretaker management team of physio Jon Whitney, goalkeeping coach Neil Cutler and the vastly experienced John Ward, who will all remain on the Bescot backroom team.

Whitney is promoted to the role of first team & performance coach, Cutler becomes coach, with a focus on the goalkeepers, and the much-travelled Ward retains his role as performance development coach, with the primary aim of nurturing the Saddlers' young professionals.

O'Driscoll was appointed assistant manager by Liverpool in the summer but left Anfield in October after Brendan Rodgers was sacked, prior to Jurgen Klopp's arrival.

O'Driscoll on his new club

"I've watched Walsall a lot over the last two or three seasons. I've always enjoyed coming here," new Saddlers boss O'Driscoll told BBC WM.

"I know Dean Smith and Richard O'Kelly well. We share the same philosophy. I know the things they've tried to instil. It's taken a long time but the club is now reaping the rewards. That was the attraction.

"I spent some time with them on the training ground about a month ago and you could see the players are committed to it, that they're a group of players who want to be successful.

"Walsall have gained the sort of reputation that can take years to bring to fruition and can be destroyed in seconds. I've no intention of doing that.

"You're not going to improve it by suddenly reversing everything they've been doing. That would cause chaos. But can we take it to the next level? That's to win the games we've been drawing and draw the games we've lost and see where that takes us at the end of the season."

Saddlers chairman on O'Driscoll's appointment

Walsall chairman Jeff Bonser believes O'Driscoll will continue the club's philosophy of producing young players and playing attractive football.

"Sean ticks all the boxes in terms of the identity, blueprint and ethos that we work towards," he said.

"We believe in his ability to advance the football club, enhance our growing reputation as a progressive, forward-thinking organisation in what we hope will be an exciting new chapter at the club."

O'Driscoll's career - as player and manager

As a player, Wolverhampton-born O'Driscoll played for two league clubs, Fulham and Bournemouth, where he made a then club record 423 league appearances before joining the coaching staff at Dean Court.

He took over as Bournemouth manager from Mel Machin in August 2000, leading them to promotion in the Third Division play-offs in May 2003.

After joining Doncaster in 2006, O'Driscoll led them into the Championship, beating Leeds 1-0 in the 2008 League One play-off final.

A short spell at Crawley followed before he left to return to Nottingham Forest, where he had previously been assistant to Steve Cotterill, in July 2012. He was sacked after just five months following a 4-2 Boxing Day win over Leeds, with the club a point off the Championship top six.

His last managerial job was at Bristol City, but he was unable to save them from relegation to League One and lasted just 10 months before being replaced by Cotterill, who he himself had replaced at Forest.

He was appointed England Under-19s coach in September 2014, a job he did for nine months until becoming Rodgers' assistant at Liverpool.