Dean Keates insists he wouldn’t have quit Wrexham’s promotion challenge for any other club than Walsall.

Keates has signed a three-and-a-half year deal at his hometown club, replacing Jon Whitney who was sacked last Monday after two years in charge following a run of four defeats in the last five games which left the Saddlers six points above the relegation zone. It was no surprise to see Keates, who is building a reputation as a promising young manager after turning Wrexham into promotion contenders, linked with Walsall.

The 39-year-old began his career at the Saddlers where he won promotion three times during two successful spells and although he was under contract at Wrexham until the summer of 2020, the board allowed him to hold talks with his former club following an approach and a compensation package has been agreed. Although Wrexham are among the frontrunners in the National League and pushing for a top-seven finish with nine games to go when Keates was appointed Walsall boss, he admits it was an opportunity he could not turn down.

“People ask why? There are nine games left,” said Keates, talking for the first time about why he left Wrexham. “That was something I asked myself.

“I know it is not ideal timing but it is football. But it was the opportunity to jump two levels and test myself higher, and go to the club who it was.

“People might just think I am saying this but if it wasn’t Walsall, I wouldn’t have gone. If it wasn’t my hometown club I would have stayed.

“It was something I had to think about, and would I get this opportunity again? They would not wait until the end of the season.

“I couldn’t let this opportunity slip by. With it being my home town club, that completely pulled me but I leave with a heavy heart.”

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