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THREE Walsall players for Sunderland to watch out for - including a big horrible Geordie striker

Walsall have struggled recently but they’ve been Sunderland’s bogey side this season. With that in mind we should be wary of the threat they pose - and, in particular, there are three stars of their side that can really hurt us if we aren’t careful.

Andy Cook

League One Games/Goals: 34/11

As a die-hard Newcastle United fan (well, someone has to be), Cook will be fired up at the Stadium of Light - and based on his goal tally this season he’s the most likely Walsall player to hit the back of Jon McLaughlin’s net.

He’s not the first League One striker we’ve described as big, burly and aggressive and he certainly won’t be the last, but that’s exactly the challenge that the Geordie presents to the Wearside defence - and with 16 (11 in the League) goals to his name for a side sitting dangerously close to the relegation places, it’s fair to say hope of avoiding the drop likely rest on Cook’s shoulders.

He scored against us in the FA Cup already this season as Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin struggled to contain him in the FA Cup second round, so Jack Ross will be hopeful new recruit Jimmy Dunne will fair better in what will be a physical battle at the back for the Lads.

Zeli Ismail

League One Games/Goals: 24/3

Whilst many teams in League One focus on team ethic rather than individual brilliance, Ismail is Dean Keates’ secret weapon - that one player with that little bit of quality that can unlock defences and turn a game on its head.

Highly rated as a teenager, Ismail climbed through the ranks in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ academy and was touted as the next potential star to emerge from the Midlands, with his former academy manager Chris Evans commenting that he could “see enormous money being spent on Zeli.”

Whilst his huge potential simply hasn’t been reached yet, his ability when he’s in the mood sets him apart from the majority of his team mates and makes him a key man that will have to be kept quiet if we are to stop the supply to top-scorer Andy Cook.

In the return fixture at the Bescott Stadium he certainly showcased his talent as he gave Reece James a difficult afternoon during our 2-2 draw. Hopefully James will be able to use the experience of playing against him for the fourth time this season and keep him at bay.

Liam Kinsella

League One Games/Goals: 22/0

Son of former Charlton Atheltic captain Mark, the 23-year-old is able to operate in midfield or at full back.

Well known by us Lads fans already as the man who scored the screamer that knocked us out of the FA Cup, he is having a standout season for the Saddlers and his performances have caught the attention of clubs further up the pyramid.

Whilst he stayed in the Midlands, approaches were reportedly knocked back during the January transfer window from clubs in the Championship in the hope that holding onto their star players would enable a late push for the play-offs. Unfortunately for Walsall and Kinsella, their form has dipped even further and it’s looking more like a battle to avoid the drop.

Despite that, Kinsella has already shown this season he is a potential Championship player in the making and, with his contract up in six months, he’ll be desperate to impress and will present Lee Cattermole with a stern test in the middle of the park.

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