Goalkeeper Jackson Smith has completed a permanent transfer to Walsall for an undisclosed fee, bringing a close to his 13-year association with Wolves.
The 21-year-old rose through the academy ranks at Compton Park after first joining at the age of just eight.
Smith, who made the step up to the first-team last season, departs for the Saddlers after spending the second half of the 2022/23 campaign on loan at the League Two outfit.
He was given his senior bow in May, keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw at Crawley Town, while the stopper also spent time at non-league Frickley Athletic and Kettering Town during his time at Wolves.
Pathways manager, Steve Davis, has spoken of the importance of Smith competing for a position at first-team level and believes now is the perfect time for the goalkeeper to challenge for a number one spot elsewhere.
“It’s an important time for Jackson at the age of 21,” Davis said. “He needs to be challenging himself and playing regularly in first-team football. Hopefully Walsall can give him the opportunity to go and do that.
“He needs to start testing himself at first-team level and learning what it’s like to be around that environment. I think the loan he had last season at Walsall certainly would’ve helped him and gave him an introduction to what it’s like at that level.
“Jackson’s a big character and very confident, so I think that will hold him in good stead going forward. At 21, he’s still young and finding out what he’s about.”
Davis, who worked with Smith at under-18 level, admits it’s a rewarding feeling seeing a local player progress through the ranks and into a first-team environment nearby, while noting that a combined experience of first-team training at Compton Park and a variety of loans has given Smith the best possible platform to succeed.
“We’ve always had good relationships with local clubs – Walsall being one of those. We wish Jackson well and we want him to do well locally, being a local boy.
“The mixture of loans and experience training with our first-team has definitely helped him to learn about what it’s like at the very top level and training with top keepers. Like with Louie (Moulden), it’s important to have a variety of experiences and I think Jacko’s had that, which will set him up nicely for his career going forwards.
“We all wish him well at the football club and we all want him to do well. He’s been a really good servant to us and hopefully he’s had lots of good experiences along the way.”