Smith stays serious as seventh place becomes Saddlers' aim

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By MBeardmore | Thursday, April 25, 2013, 12:01

SADDLERS boss Dean Smith says he won't follow Crewe Alexandra counterpart Steve Davis's lead by naming a homegrown XI for Saturday's League One finale – as he's too busy chasing seventh place.

The Alex boss has made headlines this week by promising his line-up against the Saddlers will exclusively feature players off the Railwaymen's renowned youth system production line.

It is a bold move – although most of those players do have first team experience, to varying degrees – but it is not one Smith intends to imitate as he bids to preside over Walsall's highest league finish in almost a decade.

Smith told Advertiser Sport: "Crewe's team is Steve's prerogative and when I get the teamsheet there may be a few surprises.

"But, for me, players deserve to get the shirt week-in, week-out, that's the way I've always run the football team.

"They play all season to earn the right to be in the team and I will be picking the best team I can to win the game.

"Saturday is no different to any other weekend in the season as far as I am concerned, in that we are battling for three points.

"We are certainly capable of fielding a homegrown side – a third of our squad has come through the system, so it's something we could do but, personally, I don't want to.

"The results in midweek mean we can finish anywhere between seventh and 11th – and naturally we want it to be as high as possible. If we win at Crewe, we can't finish any lower than eighth.

"It's been somewhat of an eventful season with a lot of highs and some lows and we are looking forward to the final day.

"In the last couple of games we've conceded last-minute goals – albeit the one against Bury shouldn't have been allowed – but with Swindon winning both of their games it was always going to be tough to get into the play-offs anyway.

"But that shouldn't take away from the fact that it's been a really good season and we want it to finish on a high note.

"Not many people expected us to be in the top half, so to be pushing for the play-offs with two games to go was remarkable and a testament to the players here."

Smith will again be without skipper Andy Butler (toe), who will not be risked with nothing riding on the game but Andy Taylor (hamstring) could be back in contention.

The manager is still in talks with the Walsall players who are out of contract at the end of the season, including top scorer Will Grigg and Febian Brandy.

He revealed: "I will be sitting down with the players next Thursday to have individual chats about what will be happening the following season.

"But I'm pleased as we have the core of a team sorted already with the likes of Andy Butler, Paul Downing, Nicky Featherstone, James Baxendale, Jamie Paterson and others signed up."



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