Walsall’s injury-troubled defender Stephen Roberts has stepped up his rehabilitation programme after a successful back operation, the club revealed this week.
The former Welsh international and Doncaster Rovers player had become the forgotten man of Bescot, having not pulled on a Saddlers’ shirt since the away game at Huddersfield on December 6 last year.
Roberts, 29, looked a good central defender in the early part of the season, and the microdisectomy surgery to decompress a troublesome nerve in one of his spinal discs could see him making a welcome return to action soon.
Physio Jon Whitney said: “Stephen’s rehab is going well. After surgery (three weeks ago) he rested up for a fortnight before starting his rehabilitaiton course.
“We have been working on his core strength and fitness, and he has responded well. We’ve been doing a number of one-on-one sesssions and, under my guidance, he has been undertaking an all-over conditioning programme.
“We are building up to running and we’re aiming for Stephen to return to full training with the rest of the lads at some point during our pre-season schedule.”
Meanwhile chief executive Roy Whalley has confirmed that the Saddlers must run an even tighter ship through the continuing financial troubles in the game.
He explained: “At the moment we are operating on sponsorships we conducted last summer when the world seemed a happier place.
“It is not like that now, and it is going to be hard work. Where companies are making staff redundant they can’t really be seen to be spending a lot on sponsorship of football. It will make it a more difficult scenario.”
But Whalley believes Walsall have an advantage over their rivals because they were able to sign a two-year sponsorship deal with the NHS last month, which sees ‘Walsall Hospice’ on the front of the players’ shirts.
He expects some clubs may even fail to find a sponsor.
n Season ticket holders who have renewed for the 2009/10 campaign will have until 4pm on Monday, July 13, to claim their own seats for the friendly with Wolves on Tuesday July 21, and until 4pm on Friday, July 17, to claim their seats for the West Brom friendly on Saturday, July 25. The West Bromwich Building Society stand will not be available to Walsall supporters at either game.
The Saddlers have added another match to their pre-season schedule.
They visit Blue Square Premier side Mansfield Town at Field Mill on Tuesday, July 28 (7.30pm).