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Football League

Dean Smith handed Walsall job for the season

Walsall have appointed caretaker boss Dean Smith as manager until the end of the season.

Smith took the reins from Chris Hutchings following his dismissal at the start of January and guided the Saddlers to valuable away draws at Tranmere and Bristol Rovers prior to last Saturday's 4-2 defeat at home to high-flying Huddersfield.

The 39-year-old, who was at the midlands outfit as head of youth, has been preferred to over 90 other applicants for the role and is charged with the task of keeping Walsall in npower League One.

Smith faces a tall order with the club currently propping up the table, seven points and a healthy goal difference away from safety, but chief executive Stefan Gamble believes the former Saddlers skipper is the right man for the job and has also promised funds to spend in the January window.

"We are really pleased to have Dean on board on a full-time basis," he said.

"The rest of the board and I have been very impressed with how he has conducted himself since taking over the first-team reins and we are confident in his abilities as a manager.

"He has all the relevant qualifications, including his UEFA Pro License, and he fits the bill in terms of what we are looking for which is a young, fresh and hungry coach."

Gamble continued: "We had a large number of applicants for the role, over 90 in total. There were some excellent candidates but, as a board, we believe Dean's attributes reflect the modern and innovative approach to football management we are seeking.

"There are 22 games left this season and we have everything to play for. Funds are available to Dean should he wish to make changes to his squad during the January transfer window."

As a player, Smith rose through the ranks at Walsall and went on to become the club's youngest ever captain at the age of 19.

The central defender made over 150 appearances between 1989 and 1994 before being sold to Hereford and then Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale.

He started his coaching career in a youth-team role at Orient before quickly becoming assistant manager at Brisbane Road in 2005, a position he held until January 2009.

Smith joined Walsall as head of youth as recently as July 2009, and speaking of today's appointment he said: "It is an honour to be given the job on a full-time basis.

"I've really enjoyed the last couple of weeks and I am fully focused on the task at hand. It is a fantastic opportunity for me and it is one which I'm relishing."