After the spectacle surrounding Elijah Adebayo, Walsall fans were hoping for a quiet end to the transfer window. However rumours started swirling about the future of defender Zak Jules. Once again, it has left fans discussing what is best to do, for the club, and the player himself. So what should they do? Although the rumours seem like an agent trying to drum up some interest (or force a contract renewal), rather than concrete interest, like the Adebayo story, we will look at a few of the issues that come in to play.
Walsall have no lost a game with Jules playing at left-back. He has cemented that role, and made it his own, with the partnership of Scarr and Clarke the preferred option. Since Clarkes injury, Mat Sadler has formed a solid partnership with Scarr, meaning that Jules has kept playing on the left. His performances are better at left-back, and the results don’t lie.
Then there is the small matter of limited options at left-back. We have seen a lot of players fill in there this season, and it seems to be an injury crocked position. Nurse has returned to parent club Bristol City, and that leaves one other option alongside Jules, and that is Callum Cockerill-Mollett. Cockerill-Mollett has fitness concerns, and has not shown enough to be starting at Left-back consistently. That means that Jules has to stay, or be immediately replaced.
Jules is part of a settled defence, which is important when pushing for the play-offs. More results like the weekend, will make the side look more like play-off candidates. For that, they need Jules. The recent run of three defeats in a row, all came when Jules was out injured. further showing why he is needed.
Consistency and Cover
After a stuttering first 12 months, Jules has finally found a consistent spot in this Walsall team. He has equalled last seasons total of 17 league games played, however this season, he has started more of those 17, rather than being brought on as a substitute. He has improved the more he has played, and you get the impression that the increase in playing time has developed his game.
Walsall know that Jules is still developing, and keeping him makes sense, he may not be the most experienced player, but at 23, he is starting to settle, and find a home, and place to pay consistently. He has grown into the left-back role, and has shown an increased ability in the role. Darrell Clarke will want to keep him around. He has got over last seasons woes, come back a better player, and also can play in the middle. He offers cover in a couple of different areas which Clarke seems to like in his players.
Jules is out of contract in the summer, and the talks of contract extensions will grow the more that the season goes on. But ultimately Jules will have to decide where he sees his future.
After spending a season fighting to get into the side, it would seem a shame to see him move on, to potentially be back in the same position, where he has to work to get into the side. Staying another season, and remaining first choice would be wise, however it depends on the potential pay increase that awaits.
The story about Jules seems to mirror that of McDonald last season. The timing, and the ‘amount of interest’ both seem to indicate an agent looking for a new club, or to force the club to speed along contract talks. However time will tell.