“ Sports: Football / Sport Topic: Football Clubs & Teams „
Walsall Football Club is my team of choice. They're the local club in the town that I was born in and so really, there could be no other choice. Despite many of my schoolmates opting for the glamour of supporting any of our more succesful neighbouring teams (Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Wolves, West Brom) I resolutely stuck to my local team knowing that if nothing else, I had the moral high ground!
My first experience of the Saddlers was about 22 years ago when my school gave us some free tickets to go and watch them play at their old ground of Fellows Park. It was a typical English League fixture and I seem to recall we were in Division 3 at the time, although I can't for the life of me recall who we were playing. Suffice to say, it was a rubbish game on a cold, wet and windy afternoon, and I remember thinking that it was better watching football from the warmth of the front room sofa!
For some reason, I persisted with Walsall FC and I have to say that we've had more than our fair share of highs and lows. I loved the season when lowly Walsall captured the signing of former Arsenal, Villa and England man, Paul Merson and all be it he was past his best, he came up with some nuggets of vision and creativity that I had never seen at the Bescot Stadium (the replacement for Fellows Park and now called the Banks's Stadium following what I dare say was a three figure sponsorship deal!) before or since. As history will show, Merson hadn't fully conquered his addiction demons and missed some of the season because of them. He later returned as a manager and although the football was entertaining, I don't think he realised the importance of stopping the opposition from scoring!
Managers such as Ray Graydon and Richard Money brought the Saddlers some rare success and I have to say, it was probably my lowest day as a fan when Richard Money left the club as he believed he was neither given the money to improve the squad, nor the option to retain his best players which the board seemed happy to sell to keep the club afloat. Its a tricky situation when I see so many clubs spending money to buy success only to fall in to administration years later. Should the board spend to secure some success or are they right in being cautious and at least guaranteeing we still have a club?
The stadium itself is pretty modern compared to some grounds I've been to although it somehow manages to be the coldest football ground in the country by my reckoning, even on a sunny day! It is easy to get to and is just off the main ring road in Walsall and has good access from junctions 7 or 9 of the M6. There is also a trainline outside the ground offering access form either Walsall or the central Birmingham station at New Street.
On a positive note, the club have experienced real success over the past few years with their youth academy. A steady stream of young players have come through the club and been sold on to bigger clubs to balance the books. England under 21 international and Birmingham defender Scott Dann started at Walsall as did Leicester striker Matty Fryatt. Cardiff defender Anthony Gerrard and former Coventry, Celtic and now Burnley defender Danny Fox played for Walsall in their early careers and were sold on at profit.
Being a Walsall fan is a tough job and there are far more prestigious and succesful clubs out there to support. The day I drove four hours north to watch them play Sunderland was a truly dark day, as we had a man sent off within the first 5 minutes, Sunderland scored then sat back and defended, all on a day where it never stopped raining and it was freezing cold! But would I do it all again? You bet!
There won’t be many teams this season that will cause Walsall to many problems in the league. A team that is filled with fighting spirit and passion that will spear them back into the first division. Ray Graydon has done a wonderful job for Walsall over the past few years gaining them promotion and unfortunately getting relegated back into division two. There is no money at the club so Walsall have to do with what they have got this is why it would be an achievement to get promoted. Walsall are a very attractive team to watch, they play the best they can full of determination to get that taste back for success in this division
Well a season that promised so much has now come to a very flat and disappointing end. Walsall were never going to set Division One alight, but their fans had high hopes of at least obtaining mid table stability in their first season back in this division after the last disasterous short stay 10 years ago. The Saddlers started the season quite well, although a few points were being dropped, wins turning to draws, and draws turning to last minute defeats, we were playing some good stuff (even beating the Wolves on their home patch). Little did we know at this early stage that this was to be the story of our season, playing well but missing good opportunities to take points, finally conceding our place in this division on the final day of the season with a wimper against Ipswich. Putting that disappointment behind us I have a good feeling about the upcoming season in back in Division 2. Although we have lost a good player in Adrian Viveash, nobody can argue that the current team is a lot better than the team that won promotion 2 seasons ago. And with a little shreud dealing in the Bosman era transfer market by Sir Ray Graydon and co, then surley things are starting to look up again. Does promotion await us this season? Only time will tell, but I bet it will be yet another rollercoaster ride again this year.