ST KITTS SAVED SAD­DLERS STAR

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Char­lie Tal­bot-Smith

DE­RIDED by Wal­sall fans last term for his lack of goals, Ro­maine Sawyers has started this sea­son like a man on a mis­sion – and all it took was a sum­mer break to the Caribbean to re­store his con­fi­dence.

The Sad­dlers for­ward has four goals al­ready this sea­son, one short of his to­tal from the en­tirety of last year, as Wal­sall came into this week­end sit­ting pretty at the top of the League One ta­ble.

Strike part­ner Tom Brad­shaw had to do most of the heavy lift­ing last sea­son as Sawyers strug­gled for form.

But af­ter a sum­mer on in­ter­na­tional duty with St Kitts and Ne­vis – where Sawyers scored in his side’s 2-2 draw with El Salvador in 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing – he looks a new man.

“I do feel my good start to the sea­son is a lot to do with my time over there (with St Kitts) and I thank them for that,” he said.

Faith

“Go­ing away was a mas­sive help. The way they treated me was fan­tas­tic and it filled me with con­fi­dence. That good energy from go­ing there trans­lated into good per­for­mances com­ing out of me.

“We are out of qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the World Cup, which is a shame.We were not ex­pected to go through, but our am­bi­tion is to get into the top 100 in the FIFA rank­ings soon.

“We are around the 120-mark (119) at the mo­ment and the squad is get­ting stronger.”

Last year, when fans were call­ing for Sawyers to be dropped, Sad­dlers boss Dean Smith re­mained un­moved.

In­deed the man they call the ‘Ginger Mour­inho’ went out of his way to pub­licly back his man and that faith fi­nally ap­pears to be pay­ing off.

“I was speak­ing to the gaffer in pre­sea­son and he told me he wanted more goals from me,” added the for­mer West Bromwich Al­bion man. “I have hit the ground run­ning, but it’s a case of start­ing as I mean to go on, and this is only a start.

“I have got a great re­la­tion­ship with the gaffer, we have a close bond. It is now about work­ing hard to be­come the player that he be­lieves, and I be­lieve, I can be.

“I al­ways be­lieved I could score goals, the gaffer never stopped be­liev­ing in me and so far this sea­son we have turned it into a re­al­ity.”

The Sad­dlers re­ceived a mas­sive boost when they held onto the highly sought-af­ter Brad­shaw at the start of this week.

The Welsh front man al­ready has five goals this cam­paign and Sawyers is con­fi­dent the duo can fire Wal­sall to suc­cess.

“With the play­ers we have got, we are al­ways go­ing to cre­ate chances,” added the 23-year-old. “So for me it is a case of some­times grit­ting my teeth and go­ing and get­ting on the end of some of these chances, play­ing a bit

fur­ther up the pitch and not al­ways be­ing the play­maker.

“I love play­ing along­side him (Brad­shaw). He is a very im­por­tant player for the whole team and the two of us have a great re­la­tion­ship.

“He stretches the play and that makes space for me to move into, he trusts me to make chances for him and I trust him to stick them away – 20 goals last year is proof of that.

“The gaffer has al­ways said since the start of the sea­son that our goal is to be No.1, you can­not think any­thing else re­ally.

“With the start that we have had we are ob­vi­ously on course, but there are a lot of games to come, we are not stupid enough to think that be­cause we have started well we are def­i­nitely go­ing to win the league.

“But as a team we don’t nor­mally have the best of starts to the sea­son, it nor­mally takes us ten or 15 games to get go­ing, so now we need to make sure we push on and make the most of it.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

SUM­MER LOVE: Wal­sall’s Ro­maine Sawyers has found form af­ter play­ing for St Kitts dur­ing the sum­mer break

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