MARK Cooper can empathise with the difficult job Dean Smith has in producing winning football on a tight budget at Walsall, and as a result the Swindon Town boss has a lot of respect for his Saddlers counterpart.

Smith has just passed his three-year anniversary in charge of the Midlands outfit, where he has won 51 and lost 48 of his 162 games as manager.

In that time, Walsall have steadily risen up the League One ladder and currently sit sixth in the table, a position Cooper and his own meagre wage kitty covet.

“He’s done well,” said Cooper. “When jobs come up in and around the Championship he gets mentioned for them now and rightly so. He’s done a brilliant job there. They’re not flush with money, they’ve got a lot of competition around the Midlands and they play football the right way.

“If you look at (Leyton) Orient, they’ve done the same thing. Russell (Slade) has had the chance to build his own squad and that’s vitally important, especially with the way we’re going with youth an enthusiasm.

“We have to make sure we sign the right characters and make sure whoever we bring in is the right type.

“You look at Wolves, Brentford, Peterborough and Preston and they have an awful lot more money but it doesn’t guarantee you anything. All it does is guarantees you have a good, experienced squad that has a lot of money. Then it’s on the coach or manager to make sure they win because the pressure’s on when you’ve got that.

“We fully respect Walsall. They’ve done every so well to get in the play-offs with what they’ve got.

“The manager’s been there for three years and he’s managed to mould his own squad, get the right characters in and he’s doing a very good job.

“However you look at it, it’s a very difficult job for us to do tomorrow night.”

  • TOWN boss Mark Cooper is fully aware of the threat posed by Walsall’s Febian Brandy, having scouted the player with a view to signing him over the summer.

Brandy, who scored a hat-trick in the Saddlers’ 5-1 win at Notts County, is currently back on loan at his former club after leaving the Banks’s Stadium to join Sheffield United in the summer.

Cooper looked into the possibility of bringing the livewire striker to Wiltshire during the last transfer window, but any hopes were extinguished by the Blades making an approach for the 24-year-old.

However, the Swindon manager now has an in-depth knowledge of Brandy’s game.

He said: “He is somebody that we looked at in the summer and I think he’s a good player. We’ve got a bit of pace at the back - Jamie Reckord is quick, Nathan Thompson is quick and Raphael Branco is quick, so we’ve got pace in the right areas.

“He went to Sheffield United but he was one of a number of players that we were interested in.”