Carl Rushworth has put his early season form down to the warm welcome he’s had at Walsall.
The 20-year-old’s time on loan with the Saddlers led to a call-up to England under-21s last month, which he says is thanks to the backing of his manager, Matthew Taylor, and the Walsall supporters.
“From the start of the season, the supporters liked how I play the game, it’s been good to have their backing and feedback. When I got the call-up to England under-21s, it was really nice to have them saying that I deserved it. It’s given me confidence knowing that they’re behind me.
“That’s been boosted by the gaffer and my teammates having faith in me to play my way. I don’t have to change that to get into the team, which is a big positive as it means I can relax and be positive going into each game.
“I am really enjoying my time here. The idea of me going out on loan was to experience men’s football at a professional level, where I have to come out for crosses against people who want to stop me doing that.
“I knew that side of the game was something I would have to deal with when I arrived here, and I feel I have dealt with it well so far. As the weeks go by I am getting exposed to those situations more and I can only improve as a result. That was the plan that Brighton had in place for me when they sent me out and it’s good to learn this side of the game.”
It isn’t just Saddlers supporters who are driving Rushworth on either.
“I enjoy the stick from opposition fans be fair. I would rather it be loud and that I get stick rather than it be quiet. If it’s quiet, especially for a goalkeeper, it’s easy to start getting inside your own head if you make a mistake. But if you’re getting shouted at every 30 seconds, it almost distracts you from that and you have to concentrate on the game, you don’t have the time to overthink.
“I played against Bradford City recently – it’s a big game because of the size of the fanbase, but also because it’s about 20 minutes away from my family home, so my family were there in with 16,000 supporters who want me to make a mistake – it’s the most fans I’ve ever played in front of.”
The Saddlers have been on a positive run recently.
“Things have been going well for us, especially for the last two months,” Rushworth continued. “The team has gelled really well and it’s shown in our performances and results. That’s an aspect we were struggling with at the start of the season; we were playing well, but we were conceding late or couldn’t find the goal that we needed.”