Here is the second part of the post on Walsall Kits. This part is Background History’
In the late-nineteenth century the West Midlands was a hotbed of association football and the industrial town of Walsall boasted two clubs. Walsall Town were formed in 1874 by middle-class members of Walsall Cricket Club and were originally known simply as Walsall FC. Their first recorded “colours” (worn against Rushall Rovers) were white shirts and blue caps and it is likely that most of the team wore their cricket whites. Weeks later, when they playedthe first game of their regular season against Wednesbury Athletic, the team were kitted out in navy and white jerseys. At the club’s AGM in September 1879 it was announced that new colours of plain white shirts with the town coat of arms and a blue armband would be worn in future.
Victoria Swifts were formed a year later as became known as Walsall Victoria Swifts in 1876. A working-class team, their membership was primarily made up of young men employed in saddlers workshops. They originally wore amber and black jerseys supplied by TM Humphries & Co of Walsall, switching to maroon jerseys around 1879. Mike Bradbury has established that the only store selling football jerseys at the time did not have this colour in stock and he believes the players used maroon dye (readily available in the tanneries where they were employed) to make themselves a distinctive playing kit.
From 1881 the clubs played on adjacent pitches off Chuckery Lane and in 1888 they amalgamated to become Walsall Town Swifts, adopting red and white as their new colours. The club joined the Football Alliance in 1889 and became founder members of Division Two in 1892 when the Alliance was incorporated into the Football League. In 1893 they became simply Walsall FC although they continued to be known as “The Swifts” and this theme features in the badges worn from the late 1970s onwards.
Re-elected after their first season, the Swifts were less fortunate in 1895 when they were voted out after finishing 14th out of 16. After a season in the Midland League, they were elected back into Division Two but, after six mediocre seasons, they were again voted out in 1901 and returned to the Midland League. Perhaps to improve their performances, the club changed to light blue shirts trimmed in navy with white knickers.
Struggling financially, the club moved down to the Birmingham League in 1903 and having reduced their outgoings, managed to survive with an undistinguished twenty-year career at this level. For a short period, a white swift was worn in the centre of the team shirts.
In 1920 the club adopted the claret and blue of neighbours Aston Villa and immediately their fortunes changed. Despite a modest fifth place finish in the Birmingham & District League, they were invited to join the new Third Division Northern Section in 1921.
Because of their central location, Walsall competed in both the Northern and Southern sections of the Third Division during the period between the wars. In 1933, while playing in Division Three (North), the club gained their greatest ever FA Cup win, beating Arsenal, then Division One champions by 2-0. Performances in the League did not improve, however, and the club had to apply for re-election in both 1938 and 1939.
After the Second World War Walsall made a promising start, finishing fifth and third in 1947 and 1948 respectively in Division Three (South). In 1949 they reverted to red shirts only to finish in the re-election zone for the next four seasons. Lucky to survive, the club’s fortunes took an upward turn at the end of the decade. Successive promotions in 1960 and 1961 took them all the way to the Second Division. In 1963 Walsall were relegated back into the Third Division where they stayed for the next 25 years, apart from one season spent in Division Four (1979-80).
In 1965 the club adopted white shirts and red shorts, an unusual combination at the time. These were worn with a crest at first but for the 1966-67 season a large “WFC” was worn across the chest instead. In 1972-73 the lettering was written in small diagonal script on the left breast and for 1976-77, the last season before red shirts were reintroduced, the swift motif was revived.
In 1977 Walsall reverted to red shirts and added green as an accent colour. The crest worn in the first season in these new colours was difficult to make out because of the lack of contrast but the addition of white in the 1979 version alleviated this problem.
Green was dropped in favour of blue in 1982 and then in 1985, theclub reverted to simple red and white strips. The crest was amended to appear in red and white during this period.
In 1988, playing in all-white once again, Walsall were promoted to the Second Division via the play-offs in their centenary season (for which the crest was appropriately modified). They then suffered successiverelegations that took them to Division Four in 1990.
Five years later the club was promoted again having adopted a new badge that combined the familiar swift theme with an animal hide, marking the town’s association with tanning and saddle making – they are also now known as “The Saddlers.”
In 1999, Walsall were in Nationwide Division One (the old Division Two) but were relegated the following season. During this decade, black was introduced to the strip for the first time and a sponsorship deal with local brewery, Banks, kept them afloat.
In 2001 the club returned to Nationwide Division One after beating Reading 3-2 in the play-off final but were relegated in 2004 and again in 2006 to return to the lowest division, now known as League Two.
The following season, having adopted another new version of the swift crest, they finished as champions and returned to League One.
To mark the club’s 125th anniversary, a special crest was introduced and the home kit was designed to evoke memories of the early 1960s and the League Cup semi-final reached in 1983-84.