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Walsall appoint Hutchings as boss

Chris Hutchings
Hutchings holds a Uefa Pro Licence as a coach

Walsall have appointed former player Chris Hutchings as their new manager.

The 51-year-old, who has signed an 18-month contract, made 40 league appearances for the Saddlers during the 1990/91 season under Kenny Hibbitt.

Hutchings has previously had spells in charge of Bradford and Wigan in the Premier League.

He will be assisted by another former Saddler Martin O'Connor, who enjoyed three spells as a player at the Banks's Stadium and was club captain.

O'Connor has also agreed a deal until the summer of 2010.

Hutchings replaces Jimmy Mullen, who was sacked earlier this month after only six months in charge.

And he told BBC WM he was relishing his return to management with one of his former clubs.

"It's a great challenge for me," he said. "I played for this club and I've got an affinity for it. It's a great honour to be given this opportunity.

"I've been very successful and had numerous promotions, got to the Premier League and survived there, got to the Carling Cup final (with Wigan) and the Carling Cup semi-final this season with Derby.

"With Martin working alongside me we have got to get into Walsall and bring the same success here."

Steve Marshall - BBC Sport
Hutchings takes over with Walsall 13th in the League One table but he insisted he would not be looking to settle for a mid-table finish.

"This season we've got to look to get in the play-offs," he said. "We're halfway in the table, not down the bottom, so it goes to show we've got a decent squad of players.

"We need the injuries to clear up, not have too many suspensions and now we've got to get the best out of the players. That will be our target and I don't think that's too far away."

O'Connor made 179 appearances for the Saddlers during a playing career that also took in spells at Crystal Palace, Peterborough and Birmingham.

But having cut his managerial teeth with a brief spell in charge of Halesowen Town, he admitted he was delighted to be back at his spiritual home.

"People know I have an affinity for the club and it's great to be back at a club I think is going places, especially with the manager that is in place," he said.

"I'm born and bred in Walsall and still have a lot of friends that come to the games.

"It is like a homecoming but it's about Martin O'Connor the coach now rather than Martin O'Connor the player.

"I can't be out on the pitch now but I will do my work Monday to Friday and shout on a Saturday like I did when I played. Hopefully we can prepare the team during the week to perform on a Saturday.

"We have got to get this club buzzing and then hopefully people will come through the turnstiles and support the club like I know they can do."

The appointment of Hutchings as manager is the fifth chairman Jeff Bonser has made since Colin Lee left the club in April 2004, since when the Saddlers have suffered two relegations and a promotion.

But Bonser is adamant that with their connections to the club, Hutchings and O'Connor are the right pair to take Walsall forward.

"When Jimmy Mullen left the club it wasn't in my mind to get local people, it was to get the right people," said Bonser.

"I've known them both for a long time. I've liked Chris's commitment from day one and I think it's the right time in Martin's career to be a first-team coach with a league club.

"It's been a busy week but in my opinion, and in the board's opinion, Chris has emerged as the best candidate for the job. Coupled with Martin, I think they can take the club forward."

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see also
Mullen sacked as Walsall manager
10 Jan 09 |  Walsall

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