In a week of celebration here are 125 reasons to be proud to be a Saddler, writes Walsall blogger Mark Jones.
1. This season – It perfectly encapsulates the roller-coaster ride that comes with being a Saddler.
It’s been good and bad, there’s been fantastic highs and extreme lows, pessimism followed by optimism.
And, just when we were least expecting it, the very welcome development of a Walsall team well worth watching who play some superb football. It is very much on boys.
2. Alan Buckley – Legend as a player, legend as a manager.
3. Andy Rammell – The ultimate No 9, my all-time favourite player of all time.
4. Sir Ray Graydon – Without question our greatest ever manager.
5. Martin O’Connor – Walsall boy, midfield dynamo and he kept coming back.
6. Super Jimmy Walker – The ultimate No 1.
7. Adrian Viveash – A proper central defensive hard-man. If I’d been any good as a footballer I’d have wanted to be like Ada.
8. Gilbert Alsop – The first Walsall legend. When I was a kid he’d be walking his dog past where we played football and he always said hello.
9. Walsall 2 Arsenal 0 1933 – Forget kids in parkas, this was THE greatest giantkilling.
10. Colin Taylor and Tony Richards – My dad’s heroes.
11. Bill ‘Chopper’ Gutteridge RIP – Sad news on our anniversary.
12. Ken Hodgkinson – Met him by chance in the 1980s, a thoroughly nice bloke.
13. Bill Moore – Double Promotion winning manager 1959-60-61.
14. Taking over Shrewsbury since 1961.
15. George Kirby and Allan Clarke – A front two I wish I’d seen
16. Ronnie Allen, Doug Fraser, Dave Mackay, Tommy Coakley, Kenny Hibbitt – Managers who weren’t always great but had their moments.
17. Bert Williams, Phil Parkes, Mark Wallington, Mick Kearns, Ron Green, Fred Barber, Clayton Ince – Some of our other great goalkeepers and Big Mick’s never gone away.
18. The Reverend Peter Hart – Captain for the Milk Cup Run 1984 and throughout the 1980s.
19. Colin Harrison, Nick Atthey, Stan Bennett – Loyal servants of the 1960s and 1970s
20. Bernie Wright and George Andrews – Feared Forwards of my early days as a Saddler.
21. Brian Caswell and Alan Birch – Local boys made good.
22. Walsall 3 Manchester United 2 in 1975 – My first taste of the Saddlers making the big time.
23. Walsall 1 Newcastle 0 in 1975 – Fellows Park bursting at the seams, a proper 1970s mud-bath and a top division side put to the sword.
24. Fellows Park – The sights, sounds and smells of a proper football ground with its own kind of savage beauty.
Floodlight nights were the best, would love to relieve the experience if it were possible.
25. Birmingham 2 Walsall 1 in 1975 – My first away match, over 40,000 at St Andrews and no segregation. Awesome.
26. Alun Evans and Mick Bates – The 1970s midfield duo.
27 Walsall 1 Leicester 0 in 1978 – Evo’s last-minute winner.
28. Don Penn, Ian Paul, David Edwards, Martin Goldsmith, Stuart Ryder – Lads who could have made it big but for cruel injuries.
29. Kenny Mower and Mark Rees – Local boys who blazed a trail, cult figures.
30. Easter Monday in 1980 Walsall 2 Tranmere 0 – Going up for the first time in my lifetime.
31. Staying up at Sheffield United 1981 – Mental.
32. Arsenal 4 Walsall 1 in 1978 – As an 11-year-old hearing your dad shouting abuse at a former Wolves player does tend have a profound effect on your outlook on life.
33. Arsenal 1 Walsall 2 in 1983 – It took them 45 years to gain revenge and, five years later, we turned them over again.
34. Ally Brown, Richard O’Kelly and Kevin Summerfield – League Cup goal-scoring heroes.
35. Rotherham 2 Walsall 4 in 1984 – Totally and utterly dominant. Fact: the mighty Saddlers have never lost a major cup quarter-final.
36. THAT night at Anfield.
37. Coventry 0 Walsall 3 in 1984 – Who were the top flight team? We had even given them a goal start in the first leg.
38. Quality football throughout the 1980s – when there wasn’t much else to celebrate.
39. Preece- Shakespeare- Childs-Handysides – Young, short but possibly the most skilful midfield ever.
40. David Preece RIP
41. Ian Handysides RIP
42. Anton Reid RIP
43. Matt Gadsby RIP
44. John Whitney – A fantastic servant, much more than Ginger Mourinho’s Physio.
45. Micky Halsall – A great servant to the club.
46. Jukey – I worked on his house once while Ken Hodgkinson was working for him – and his legacy of first class scouts and a fine youth development team.
47. Lee Sinnott, Mark Taylor, Clive Platt, Julian Bennett and Manny Smith – proof that we produce great talent even though they move on.
48. Nicky Cross, David Kelly and Trevor Christie’s moustache – A fine front three.
49. Defeating Ken Wheldon – genuine fan power.
50. The beating heart of the fans past, present and future: ISSA, SWAG, the Saddlers Action Supporters, Unity and the Trust – I salute you all.
All the fanzines too– SaddleSore, Blazing Saddlers, One Step Beyond, Chasing the Dream, 90 Minutes From Europe, that other one from 2005ish and yes even Moving Swiftly On.
I wrote for all of the first five and loved doing it.
51. 1987 Charlton 1 Walsall 2 (Part 1)
52. 1987 Walsall 1 Blues 0 – Paul Jones’s corner in a game where defeat to Wheldon’s team was simply never an option.
53. The 4-4 at Watford FA Cup 1987 – Possibly THE most astonishing game ever, a real ding dong.
54. PLAY OFFS 1988 – Do it the hard way.
55. PLAY OFFS 1988 – DK’s tekkers at Notts County
56. PLAY OFFS 1988 – A record 7 goals for DK
57. PLAY OFFS 1988 – An odd penalty shoot out win.
58. PLAY OFFS 1988 – May 30th Walsall 4 Bristol City 0. A hat trick for Ned, one for Phil Hawker and at last we had finally done it.
59. Oo Stuart Rimmer – What could he have done in a better Walsall team?
60. Colin Methven – You never beat Big Colin 1990 until 1993.
61. Rod McDonald and Charlie Ntamark – When times were hard they brightened things up a little.
62. Dean Smith the player – Five good years then he was sacrificed to finance a promotion team.
63. Oo arr Chris Marsh – Stepovers, long-service and some pretty tasty stories.
64. Chris Nicholl – The boss who achieved what was asked of him and liked us so much he moved here.
65. May 1995 Promotion at last. Scarborough away followed by Bury away in two days. The five long bottom division years somehow made the celebrations at Gigg Lane even sweeter.
66. Kyle Lightbourne – 75 goals in three seasons and a cool dude. Welcome back Kyle.
67. Kevin Wilson – Top top quality.
68. Scott Houghton, Charlie Palmer and Wayne Evans – Stars of 95.
69. Derek Statham and Colin Gibson and Neil Pointon – Vintage left-backs who served us well.
70. Tony Barras, Andy Tilson, Richard Green – Hard as nails. Colin Brazier too.
71. Ian Ian Roper – A pure defender.
72. Dean Keates – Local hero, 17 years a professional and still going strong.
73. Visits to Blackpool – Always a riot. A MOC-inspired win in the sunshine in 96 when they’d already awarded themselves promotion springs to mind.
74. Big Fat Jan and the Cup Runs season – Andy Watson’s goals; Forest, Sheff U (them again), revenge over Fat Barry (twice) and Boli’s goal at Old Trafford.
75. Roger Boli – A player who genuinely had you thinking ‘what’s he going to do today’ when you walked into the ground, in a good way … while it lasted.
76. Jeff Peron – Beautiful to watch.
77. THAT goal against Sarfend (August 97) Jeff crosses to Roger, he’s still got a lot to do though….
78. Pedro Matias and Jorge Leitao – Our two finest overseas stars. Happy days.
79. Aranalde, Padula, Bukran, Siggi Eyjolfsson, Darko Mavrak etc – Other notable imports who had their moments.
80. Paul Hall and Fitzroy Simpson – From the Jamaican World Cup team at France 98 to the Graydon Dream Team circa 2001.
81. Darren Wrack – Proper winger, goalscorer and all-round entertainer.
82. Wracky’s goal at Bournemouth (April 1999) – Possibly the best goal I have seen. Go on Daza.
83. Lincoln away April 1998, Manc City bottled it, we waited forever for Wracky to score, defending like Trojans.
We left Sincil Bank working out we needed just two points from three games – even Walsall couldn’t blow it from there.
84. May 1st 1999 Walsall 3 Oldham 1 – Promotion Day, when everything fell into place. Near Perfection.
85. Party like its 1998-99 – I could relive the 1998-99 Season in its entirety over and over again.
86. Beating Albion, Stoke and Forest lots of times.
87. 28th August 1999 – A little local skirmish settled by Tony Barrass, Rambo and a phenomenal challenge from Wacka.
88. May 2000 Ipswich 2 Walsall 0 – Going down with dignity and defiance.
89. Ian Brightwell and Brett Angell – Putting the pro into promotion.
90. Don Goodman with his hair…and goals.
91. PLAY OFFS 2001 – Walsall 4 Stoke 2 – Pedro’s greatest game, Stokies leaving us so soon and all hail Sir Ray.
92. PLAY OFFS 2001 – Walsall 4 Stoke 2 – Shhhhh!
93. PLAY OFFS 2001 – May 27th: Soaking in the anticipation and atmosphere of a day out at a proper Final
94. PLAY OFFS 2001 – The Don equalises , retribution for Rougier and an inspired triple substitution.
95. PLAY OFFS 2001 – BYFIELD! Tony Barras wanting to play on with concussion and sulking because he wasn’t allowed. The final whistle.
96. PLAY OFFS 2001 – Tom Bennett lifting the Trophy at the Millennium Stadium.
97. PLAY OFFS 2001 – Ray Graydon celebrating with his people.
98. Darren Byfield – He scored that goal and a decade later he helped keep us up.
99. January 2002 Charlton 1 Walsall 2 (Part 2) – A kind of wake, a tribute to 442 and a fighting spirit that would soon be laid to rest … with a screamer from Jorge and a Wacka penalty save.
100. Staying up at Sheff U 2002 – Jorgey Jorgey Leitao.
101. Merse – Forget the managerial nonsense, what a talent.
102. Vinny Samways, Paul Ritchie, Gary O’Neill and Mark Kinsella – A different class of player, albeit only seen fleetingly.
103. Super Matty Fryatt – Genuine goalscorer.
104. Dicky Dosh – Grumpy but great.
105. Clayton Ince – Big Bad and from Trinidad. Clean Sheets galore.
106. March 2007 – Wracky scoring late on at Milton Keynes Dons for a mossive point.
107. April 2007 – Kevin Harper and Trevor Benjamin at Notts County.
108. 2006-07 – The return of Dean Keates driving us to the title.
109. The 93rd minute at Swindon May 5th 2007. CHAMPIONEES!
110. Michael Dobson – Title winning captain.
111. Anthony Gerrard – Who needs Steve?
112. Scott Dann and Daniel Fox – Great while it lasted.
113. Michael Ricketts and Martin Butler – both showing a lot of bottle to come back for a second time.
114. Troy Deeney – Prepared to put in a shift and to prepared to try and put things right. Got a feeling he’ll be back one day.
115. Tommy Mooney , Jabo Ibehre , Julian Gray and Steve Jones – glimpses of quality in a sea of mediocrity.
116. Walsall FC Sierra Leone and the Flemish Saddlers – Love these guys for their commitment, glad to have them as part of the family.
117. Ledesma and Flo – Proof that classy players always feel at home in Walsall and they always like to come back.
118. All our loan keepers this season – Karl, Aaron, Ian and Sam – getting better every time.
119. Andy Butler – Captain Fantastic
120. Dean Smith the Manager aka The Ginger Mourinho – the Great Escape January to May 2011 and the Great Revival December 2012 to (fingers crossed) May 2013.
121. O Febian Brandy, Will Grigg, Jamie Paterson, Nicky Featherstone, James Baxendale and Ben Purkiss, Andy Taylor and Craig Westcarr, Adam and James Chambers, Sam Mantom and Paul Downing.
He’s Dean and he’s Holden and he’s N0 5, George Bowerman, Mal Benning and all the ones for the future – sexy football.
122. 19 December 1998 – Walsall 1 Stoke 0. Neil Pointon’s cross for Andy Rammell’s phenomenal diving header to seal the win and my new-born son’s middle name was sorted.
123. My boys – When you are a football-supporting parent there is always a moment of immense pride when you realise that you’ve passed it onto your children and they are hooked in just the same way as you were.
I’m proud to say I’m the father of three Saddlers supporting sons.
124. Friends – As a Saddler I’ve made friends for life (Daz, Al, Evo, Steve, Stubbsy, Ross) who I’ve travelled the country with.
Countless others who might now get the hump cos I haven’t named them personally. You get to see people who you only know through football and people whose names you will never know.
Last Saturday two of the people stood by me (Asps and Belg) were people I stood with at Fellows Park over three decades ago.
Yet we are all part of the Walsall family. I just hope I’ve not forgotten anyone important. And clearly I have left some players and managers out on purpose).
125. So forget what the record books tell you, what the pundits say or the sneers of fans of other clubs, they are only jealous.
Walsall FC are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.