Walsall v Pompey: Insider – Keates’ job is to keep Saddlers up

Anton Walkes. Picture: Joe Pepler/ PinPep

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The timing of Walsall getting a new manager came as a bit of a surprise.

There were other opportunities in the season when fans thought they might have sacked Jon Whitney, so I think supporters thought he’d stay until the end of the season.

New Walsall boo Dean Keates

New Walsall boo Dean Keates

However, there it was a disastrous performance in the 3-0 loss to Rochdale and then they got beat in the derby to Shrewsbury.

From that point, the board felt they had a better chance of staying up without Whitney than with him for the first time.

They made the move and brought in Dean Keates, who is a club legend.

He won two promotions with the Saddlers as a player and is loved by the fans.

Keates did really well with Wrexham – they were fourth the National League when he left.

The Welsh side kept 20 clean sheets in the league before he departed, which is a club record.

He was the man all fans wanted and Walsall went out and got him.

It’s the first time the club paid compensation for a manger under the current chairman, who has been here since 1991.

Keates was in charge for his first game against Wigan but he watched from the stands.

It’ll be the first time he’ll be in the dugout against Pompey.

Everyone is behind him and thinks he’s the right manfor the job.

The fears of relegation are really starting to creep in.

I’ve always said they’ll be alright but it’s a little bit too close for comfort.

Walsall haven’t been in the relegation zone this season and the aim was to finish in the top half.

They flirted with it at times but never quite got there.

After a really good 3-0 win at Southend, I don’t know what’s happened since then.

Rochdale was a distaster, against Shrewsbury they were second best, but then there’s no shame losing to Shrewsbury.

I’ve always said they had enough but they haven’t won or scored in their past three games.

However, I fully expect them to have enough and for Keates to come in and have an effect.

He’s made it clear the only aim is to stay up and I think he’ll make some changes in the summer.

In terms of players, Luke Leahy at left-back has had a good season and registered plenty of assists.

Erhun Oztumer is the main man for the Saddlers, while Julien Ngoy scored for Belgium under-21s earlier this week and is on loan from Stoke.

He’s got a five-year deal at the Potters and is really promising.

George Dobson is also a complete midfielder and can do everything.