Walsall's Dean Keates keen on Stoke test
Boss Dean Keates believes Walsall’s friendly with Stoke will prove ideal preparation for the new season.
The Saddlers take on Gary Rowett’s side at the Banks’s Stadium on Saturday in what is their first outing since being relegated from the Premier League, writes Joseph Masi.
That match kicks off a hectic run of friendly fixtures which sees Keates’ side play Villa on Tuesday and Dutch giants Ajax on Thursday.
And the manager believes it’s vital his players test themselves against top-quality opposition before the new League One season gets underway.
“The Stoke game is going to be a good test for us,” Keates said.
“It’s their first game of pre-season.
“And for the Stoke players it’s their first chance to impress their new manager in a match setting.
“It’s going to be a test for us. It’s important for us we get more minutes into the players and we’re probably going to spend more time without the ball.
“That will help us work on shape and some of the other things we have been working on in training throughout the week.
“It’s an opportunity to look at a few things and correct a few things.
“But we also want to look at things with the ball, because when we have got it, we want to keep it and be positive with it.”
Walsall’s slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Rushall Olympic in their first friendly of the summer.
But despite the loss, Keates felt their were positives in the performance.
And he was delighted with youngsters Luke Little and Sam Leivesley who stepped in to make their first-team bow.
“In a perfect world I’d have had a 22 man squad and I could have played a different 11 in each half,” Keates added.
“But I had a chat with (academy coach) Graham Biggs and said I needed a right-back.
“Luke came in and was outstanding. He did really well in the first-half.
“And I felt young Sammy came on for the last 25 minutes and he did well as well.
“Full credit to those two lads, they have done themselves no harm whatsoever.”