Summer signing Conor Wilkinson is intent upon making up for time spent injured this season as he looks to fire Walsall up the table, speaking in an interview with the Express & Star on Thursday.
26 year-old Conor Wilkinson joined The Saddlers last summer on a two-year deal, after it was agreed that he would move to the Bescot Stadium upon the expiry of his contract at Leyton Orient. During his time with The O’s, the strapping six-foot-three Republic of Ireland youth international would score 20 goals in 74 total appearances in a two-year spell with the club.
The Millwall academy graduate has proven that he possesses the ability to score goals at Sky Bet League Two level, and it is goals that Walsall boss Matt Taylor has been expecting from his number nine this season. Due to niggling hamstring problems however, Wilkinson has only been able to appear in 14 out of 22 league games for The Saddlers so far this campaign.
And yet even in this limited amount of playing time, Wilkinson has still been able to find the net four times this season, whilst chipping in with a further two assists. Feelings of frustration mixed with excitement must only have grown stronger on New Year’s Day, as the big man was able to net twice in a 3-3 draw against Newport County, which included him rescuing a point for The Saddlers with a 95th minute equaliser in his return from injury.
Now that he is available once again, Wilkinson has voiced his determination to maintain his fitness after admitting that he has learnt from his ‘mistakes’ in relation to managing his fitness levels. Stating in an interview with the Express & Star, Wilkinson said: “It’s tough to take – you come to a club and you want to impress straight away, and I’ve had the same injury three times.
“It’s probably down to myself, maybe I’ve not man-managed it. I’ve probably done a bit too much or I haven’t done as much as I should have. I’ve learned from my mistakes. Last year, I played 42 out of 46, so it is quite tough to come to a new place, as like I say you want to impress, and I haven’t played half the amount of games I should have this season.”
Confident that he now knows what it takes to maintain his availability to the team, Wilkinson has vowed that as well as himself, the team as a whole will be giving it everything for the remainder of the season in an attempt to keep the club in play-off contention, adding: “The gaffer has toughened us – for a reason and a purpose.
“We are going to be working our socks off and learning from our mistakes, rightly so because we probably throw away too many points. If we turn those points into three points we will be flying up the table and be where we want to be.
“That is what separates the men from the boys. So, if we can turn the points into three points, we can be more than good.” Walsall’s next match is on Saturday, as Wilkinson and the team travel to relegation-threatened Stevenage in Sky Bet League Two.
This season is Walsall boss Matty Taylor’s first full season in management, and Conor Wilkinson was one of the first arrivals of his new regime. Wilkinson arrived with the expectation of spearheading The Saddler’s frontline and was handed the number nine shirt.
However, his fleeting availability has meant that on loan Barnsley striker George Miller has been tasked with filling the void, and has done so very respectively after netting seven times in 17 league games this season.
If Wilkinson can start maintaining his fitness levels and be consistently available to Matty Taylor, a strike force of himself and Miller could become one of the most potent in Sky Bet League Two, and could propel The Saddlers into the play-off places come the end of the season. As although the club currently sit in 13th place, they remain just six points outside of 7th placed Newport County, and if the club has a successful January transfer window, they’ll be confident that the play-off places is where this group of players can be.