Sunderland are the division's 'giants' says Walsall boss ahead of League One clash

Walsall manager Dean Keates.
Walsall manager Dean Keates.

Walsall manager Dean Keates is relishing the chance to face Sunderland on Saturday afternoon and insists his side will be ready for the challenge.

The Saddlers made an impressive start to the season which saw them climb as high as fifth in League One at the start of October.

But a run of just one win in six league games has seen Keates' side drop to 11th in League One after 18 games.

After finishing 19th last campaign, Keates has enjoyed being the division's underdogs and hopes his side can spring another surprise against the Black Cats at the Bescot Stadium.

“We have been labelled as the underdog from the first day of the season so this week is no different for us,” Keates told the club's website.

“We are coming up against the giants in the division (Sunderland) if we are being honest.

“In the last seven or eight years, they have been in the Premier League but they are now in League One and they are here for a reason and we have to make sure we are ready for them.

“We have got to keep going about our own business and we are accountable for us."

Keates is well aware of Sunderland's impressive form in recent weeks, which has seen the Black Cats win five of their last six league games.

Even so, Keates believes Jack Ross' side are beatable.

“We don’t need to worry about anybody else. We will go about our business and make sure that we are ready for the weekend and we will go from there," he added.

“Sunderland have suffered back-to-back relegations but they are on the front foot at the moment and they are going to be the favourites to win the division, and rightly so because of the size of the club and the budget that they have.

“It is going to be a test for us but it is one that we are looking forward to.

“They’re a good team and they are a massive club.

“Like I have said, they are in this division for a reason, it’ll be a big test for us as a football club but one we are certainly looking forward to.”