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Walsall F.C

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Walsall F.C

Walsall Football Club
Full name Walsall Football Club
Nickname(s) The Saddlers
Founded 1888
Ground Bescot Stadium, Walsall
Ground Capacity 11,300
Chairman Jeff Bonser
Manager Dean Smith
League League One
2012–13 League One, 9th
Website Club home page
Home colours
Away colours
Third colours
Current season

Walsall Football Club are an English association football club based in Walsall, West Midlands. They currently play in League One, the third tier in the English football league system. The club was founded in 1888 as Walsall Town Swifts, an amalgamation of Walsall Town F.C. and Walsall Swifts F.C. The club was one of the founder members of the Second Division in 1892, but have spent their entire existence outside English football's top division; their highest league finish was sixth in Division Two in 1898–99.

Walsall moved into their Bescot Stadium in 1990, having previously played at nearby Fellows Park. Their opening game was a friendly fixture against local rivals Aston Villa, with Villa winning 4–0. The ground is now known as Banks's Stadium for sponsorship purposes.[1] The team play in a red and white kit and their club crest features a swift. The club's nickname, The Saddlers, reflects Walsall's status as a traditional centre for saddle manufacture.


Formation and early years

Walsall were formed as Walsall Town Swifts in 1888 when Walsall Town F.C. and Walsall Swifts F.C. amalgamated.[2] Walsall Town had been founded in 1877 and Walsall Swifts in 1879.[2] Walsall Town Swifts' first match was a draw against Aston Villa. Two players from this early era received international caps; they remain the only Walsall players to be so honoured. In 1882, Alf Jones won the first two of his three caps (against Scotland and Wales) while with Walsall Swifts, and in 1889 Albert Aldridge received the second of his two caps while playing for Walsall Town Swifts. The club were first admitted to the Football League in 1892, as founder members of the new Second Division, but in 1894–95 finished 14th out of 16 teams and failed to be re-elected to the Football League. In 1896 they changed their name to Walsall F.C.[2] and joined the Midland League. A year later, they returned to the Second Division, three teams having failed re-election in 1896. The team finished in sixth place in 1898–99, but once again failed re-election two years later, dropping back into the Midland League. A move to the Birmingham League followed in 1903, and in 1910, the club were elected to the Southern League. With the expansion of the Football League after World War I, Walsall became a founding member of the Third Division North in 1921.

Walsall's highest "home" attendance was set in 1930, when they played in of front of 74,600 fans against Aston Villa in the FA Cup Fourth Round. Although a home match for Walsall, the tie was played at their opponents' Villa Park ground, and it remains the highest attendance that Walsall have ever played in front of.

In 1933, Walsall won 2–0 in the FA Cup against Arsenal at Fellows Park. Arsenal went on to win the First Division that season, and the cup defeat to Third Division North side Walsall is still regarded as one of the greatest upsets in FA Cup history.

Post-war era

In 1958, following a reorganisation of the Football League, Walsall became founder members of the Fourth Division. Under the management of Bill Moore, the club achieved successive promotions, scoring 102 goals on their way to winning Division Four in 1959–60 and finishing as Division Three runners-up in 1960–61 to reach the second tier of English football for the first time since the early 1900s. Players such as Bill 'Chopper' Guttridge, Tony Richards and Colin Taylor were intrinsically important to the success of the side. After just two seasons in the Second Division, the club were relegated back to Division Three in 1962–63, and remained there until a further demotion to the Fourth Division, in 1978–79.

The club has always had a rich history of producing players who go on to play at the top level. Allan Clarke went on to win the League Championship under Don Revie at Leeds United after beginning life at Fellows Park. Bert Williams and Phil Parkes both became England goalkeepers in the years after they progressed from their roots in Walsall. David Kelly had a long career at the top level after leaving Walsall in 1988, representing the Republic of Ireland at the very highest level of international football. More recently, Michael Ricketts represented England after blossoming at Bolton Wanderers. In recent years, Matty Fryatt and Ishmel Demontagnac have both represented England age-groups.


The 1980s were a period of considerable activity for Walsall. In 1983–84 they defeated First Division club Arsenal in the League Cup at Highbury, and advanced to the semi-final, where an estimated 10,000 Saddlers saw a 2–2 draw against Liverpool at Anfield, but Walsall lost the second leg 2–0 and the tie 4–2 on aggregate. This cup run saw Walsall famously only 90 minutes away from playing in Europe, which was once the name of a Fanzine, unfortunately no longer running. Walsall narrowly missed out on promotion to the Second Division in the same season.

In 1986 plans were announced to move Walsall to Birmingham, to groundshare with Birmingham City. The town rallied behind Barrie Blower, who led a campaign to save the club. Walsall were subsequently bought by millionaire entrepreneur and racehorse owner Terry Ramsden and with his money came high profile signings and the attention of the national media. In 1986–87, under new manager Tommy Coakley, Walsall narrowly missed the play-offs, but made considerable progress in the FA Cup as they defeated First Division Charlton Athletic and Birmingham City and took Watford to two replays in the fifth round.

Walsall earned promotion through the old Division Three play-offs in 1988, beating Bristol City in a replayed final at Fellows Park, 13,007 where there to see it. 1988–89 saw the club relegated from Division Two and Ramsden's business empire collapsed alongside the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Walsall were minutes from being taken over by Japanese administrators and folded, but survived, again through the actions of Barrie Blower and local businessmen.

Further relegation followed at the end of 1989–90 as Walsall were consigned to Division Four.


The club moved to the Bescot Stadium in 1990. At the time it was a state-of-the-art arena, and was only the second new Football League ground since the 1950s. A Morrisons supermarket was built on the site of the old Fellows Park ground. The arrival at Bescot Stadium saw some stability brought back to the club after two successive relegations. Ex-Wolves star Kenny Hibbitt managed the club for four years, setting the groundwork for a golden era for the club that would follow soon after his dismissal in September 1994.

New manager Chris Nicholl led the club to promotion in his first season, building the nucleus of a strong and under-rated team. Two seasons of stability followed, before Nicholl resigned in 1997.

Ex-Ajax and Danish international Jan Sorensen took the helm after departure. Whilst 'The Saddlers' finished 19th in Division Two that season, the club reached the 4th Round of the League Cup (beating Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United along the way), as well as rampaging through the early rounds of the FA Cup. Lincoln United were dispatched in the first round, whilst league newcomers Macclesfield Town (who until then had been unbeaten at home in all competitions) were beaten 7–0. Peterborough United, who themselves have a rich cup pedigree, were beaten on a bitterly cold Tuesday evening to set up a tie away at Manchester United. Walsall lost 5–1. Sorensen's tenure was marked by the signing of two of the finest players ever to pull on a Walsall shirt. Ivorian-born striker Roger Boli started the season in superb form, becoming a marked man for much of the season which dampened his predatory instincts. However, Boli's fellow Frenchman, Jean Francois 'Jeff' Peron was a shining light in an otherwise poor league. Despite being 32 when arriving in England, Peron's reputation grew, and Bescot increasingly became the home for scouts from the Premiership and Division One. Though he only scored one goal in his solitary season for the Saddlers, he is best remembered for his mesmerising ability with the ball at his feet and the exceptional performance which tore Macclesfield Town to pieces in the aforementioned FA Cup tie.

In 1998–99, ex-Aston Villa winger Ray Graydon took over as manager and led the club to a runners-up spot in Division Two.[3] They were relegated on the final day of the following season, despite derby wins over local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion earlier in the campaign.


However, the Saddlers returned to the second-tier of English Football at the first attempt, defeating Reading 3–2, after extra time, in a thrilling play-off final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.[4] After a promising start to the season, the form began to slip away over the winter period. However, the signings of Fitzroy Simpson and Don Goodman added much needed steel to the side and spurred them on to reach Division One once again.

Despite all the success he had delivered, it soon became clear that Ray Graydon had reached the end of the road at the club. In a controversial decision that brought with it the wrath of fans and the national media, owner Jeff Bonser dismissed Graydon after an abject performance live on Sky TV against local rivals, West Bromwich Albion. His replacement, ex-Wolves manager Colin Lee polarised supporters, but ultimately proved to be a success. The style of football improved, and Lee's signings improved the team dramatically. Relegation was avoided thanks to vital away wins against Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, and the new spirit in the squad was typified by a vital last-gasp equaliser away at fellow strugglers Grimsby Town (who also beat the drop).

The next two seasons were a mixed bag. Lee improved the club immeasurably off the field, allowing it to fulfil part of the huge potential it has. On the pitch some rather dull performances were dotted in between some inspiring football. Again, relegation was avoided in the 2002–03 season because of the signing of key players, such as ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Vinny Samways who returned from a six-year spell in Spain to help the Walsall cause. Samways slotted into a side which many believe was the most talented Walsall team since the clubs golden era under Bill Moore in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

2003–04 proved to be one of the most remarkable seasons in the club's history. Up until the New Year Walsall were flying. West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest were both destroyed 4–1, as new-signing, the ex-England and Arsenal star, Paul Merson seemed to be repeating some of the magic that had led Portsmouth to promotion the previous season. Following a Boxing Day victory at Cardiff City, the club sat just four points off a place in the play-offs. It wasn't to last though.

2004 saw a spectacular slump in form. The New Year began with a disappointing FA Cup Third Round defeat away at Millwall, which saw Jimmy Walker dismissed for throwing a punch at Dennis Wise. Walker's replacement Andy Petterson slotted in for a home debut against fellow-strugglers Coventry City. The Saddlers capitulated, losing 6–1. The following weeks saw costly defeats, and it took until 13 March for the club to win their first league game of 2004. The cause was not helped by a recurrence in Paul Merson's well publicised addiction to alcohol and gambling, and though he travelled to a clinic in the United States with the best will of the club and its fans, it is indubitable that his absence took away the talismanic influence of one of the most influential players in recent footballing history.

Colin Lee was sacked after a shambolic display at Gillingham, though the reason given for his dismissal was his decision to speak to Plymouth Argyle about their vacant manager's position. Lee had been disillusioned by club owner Jeff Bonser, who had blocked the funds needed for the signing of players who proceeded to be a success at other clubs in the League.

Lee was replaced on a temporary basis by Merson, who was assisted by Simon Osborn. Despite the rallying cries of the ex-England international Merson, and the backing of the town, Walsall won only one more game that season, and were relegated, agonisingly by a single goal. On the final day of the season, Rotherham United were visitors at the Bescot Stadium. If Walsall won and Stoke City beat Gillingham in their home tie, Walsall would have stayed up. The Saddlers beat Rotherham United 3–2, and many fans invaded the pitch upon the final whistle, believing that they had avoided relegation, but as news of a 0–0 draw at Stoke City filtered into the ground, the worst was confirmed. Walsall's relegation left many Saddlers' fans asking themselves just what had gone wrong.

Merson was immediately appointed as full-time manager of the club in May 2004. Almost as soon as he arrived, rumours started to circulate that he would soon be sacked, polarising Walsall fans who were either behind him or against him. However, despite the question mark which hung over his tactical astuteness, he brought on and developed a number of young players who look set to have a big future in the game. Among those introduced to regular first-team football by Merson, the brightest light is Matty Fryatt, who was the top scorer at the 2005 European Under-19 Championship where he represented England. His strike rate at Walsall was better than the majority of Strikers in both the Championship and League One. Paul Merson vowed not to stand in his way should a 'big club' come in for him, and it came as no surprise when in January 2006 Fryatt left the club, signing for Leicester City in a deal worth £350,000.

Merson's reign as Walsall manager came to an end on 6 February 2006, sacked by Chief Executive Roy Whalley after refusing to resign. Two days earlier Walsall had lost 5–0 for the third time in Merson's reign, providing an interesting[according to whom?] symmetry to his spell in charge, his first game was a 5–0 defeat away at Norwich City, whilst his final game resulted in a 5 goal reverse at Brentford.

Long-serving Youth Team manager Mick Halsall was put in caretaker control of the club, but ruled himself out of any long-term ambitions for the job. Former Walsall player David Kelly was the bookies' favourite for the job, but ex-manager Chris Nicholl put his name into the running hours after news broke of Merson's dismissal.

On 17 February, whilst speaking to a local news broadcast, Jeff Bonser seemed to suggest that he would be keen to see Merson return to Bescot Stadium as a player, stating "a fit Paul Merson is an asset to any side". However, Merson would seem to be keener on following personal business interests at this time, taking a break from football until the summer. The practicalities of a former manager returning of a player have been tested before, most notably when Andy Hessenthaler resigned as manager of Gillingham in 2004, but remained as a player. However, Merson holds a much higher profile in football than Hessenthaler, and some speculated that it would have undermined caretaker manager Mick Halsall, and any future manager that would be appointed.

Despite all the speculation, there was general shock when, on 22 February 2006, former Birmingham City captain Kevan Broadhurst was appointed as Paul Merson's replacement. Broadhurst had been occasionally linked to the job during the vacancy, but was not considered by bookmakers nor fans to have a serious chance for the job. Broadhurst had a brief loan spell at Fellows Park in Walsall's 1979–80 promotion season. His initial contract was until May 2006 – with the brief to secure Walsall's League One position. Mick Halsall, a former team mate of Broadhurst's, remained with the first team with a view to assisting Broadhurst until the end of the season, when he would return to his original post as Head of Youth.

Walsall were relegated on 22 April 2006 after losing 3–1 to Huddersfield Town. Rotherham United's 1–1 draw with Scunthorpe United saw an unassailable gap of seven points formed. Broadhurst was sacked the next day. Player coach Mark Kinsella was put in charge for the final two matches of the season, with Halsall reverting to duties with the reserve and youth teams. On 3 May, the team appointed their fifth manager of the season in former Scunthorpe manager Richard Money. Money stated his ambition to get Walsall back into the Championship.

Richard Money's reign started with a bang. The signings of Martin Butler and Michael Dobson along with other signings gave the club potency to get promoted out of League Two. Walsall lost just once in the first 20 league games, including maximum points from their first seven home ties. An impressive start to the season was maintained throughout, and despite a mini-blip in February (including defeats to promotion rivals Hartlepool United and Lincoln City), Walsall remained in the top three for almost the entire season. Walsall were promoted into League One on 14 April after beating Notts County 2–1 away from home. On the final day of the season, Walsall drew 1–1 with Swindon Town at the County Ground thanks to a last-minute goal by Dean Keates in front of 3,419 travelling fans. With Hartlepool United losing their match against play-off chasing Bristol Rovers, Walsall were awarded the League Two title.[5][6]

On 24 April 2007 Walsall announced a 'new change' with major alterations: a new kit sponsor revealing that Banks's would no longer be Walsall F.C.'s official sponsor for the 2007–08 season, and that Easy Fit Conservatories would be the new kit sponsor, a new kit manufacturer which is to be Mann Brothers (previously Nike), and the biggest change, the club badge which was reformed back to the original round design and club swift which has been designed to look more modern. These changes marked an exciting time for Walsall F.C. as they got ready for League One Football in 2007–08.

High expectations were met as the club performed strongly in 2007–08, a season that included a run of 17 league matches without defeat. However, a January transfer window that culminated in the sales of important first team players Daniel Fox and Scott Dann (both to Coventry City) caused a drop in form throughout 2008. The club's play-off challenge was ended after a run of poor results in March leading to Richard Money resigning as manager in April. Jimmy Mullen took over as caretaker manager before being given the job on a permanent basis after the club finished in 12th place.

Walsall officially opened their new training ground in Troy Deeney's first half goal proving enough in a 1–0 win.

2009–10, Hutchings's first full season as Walsall manager, started with a 1–0 win at Brighton & Hove Albion. The season was again inconsistent. At the start of December, Walsall were 7th and only a point outside the play-offs. This was followed by four consecutive match postponements due to the Big Freeze of winter 2009. On 16 January 2010, Walsall played their first match since 19 December. The start of 2010 brought a slump in form. Walsall didn't win until 9 February, a 1–0 away win at Bristol Rovers. The highlight of the season came later in February when Walsall won 2–1 away at Elland Road inflicting Leeds United's first home defeat for 13 months. By the beginning of April, Walsall were 13th with only one win in seven league games. The last eight games brought a striking change in form. Walsall's only defeat came away at Huddersfield Town after conceding two goals in added time. Walsall won their final game 2–1 at home to MK Dons to seal at top 10 finish – their highest since being relegated in 2003. Clayton Ince announced his retirement at the end of the season, while Troy Deeney was the top scorer with 14 goals.

2010 – Present day

The 2010–11 season started with a 2–1 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons, however, Walsall recorded their first win the next weekend by winning 2–1 at Brentford. The next weekend saw Walsall gain back-to-back wins for the first time since February by beating Plymouth Argyle 2–1 – the winner coming from on-loan striker Reuben Reid. A run of 6 league defeats in 7 games followed, placing Walsall rock-bottom of the table and setting themselves up for a relegation battle.

Poor form continued into the New Year, but manager Chris Hutchings vowed to fight on. However, on 3 January 2011, after a 4–1 defeat against Peterborough United, Hutchings was sacked. Head of Youth, and ex-Walsall player, Dean Smith was placed in temporary charge. On 21 January he was announced as permanent manager of the club until the end of the season.[7]

On 29 January 2011, Walsall recorded their best league result since 1986 by beating Bristol Rovers 6–1. This was Smith's first win in charge, and sparked an upturn in form seeing Walsall gain ground on their relegation rivals. A 1–0 win over promotion chasing Southampton on 1 March saw Walsall climb out of the relegation zone for the first time since October. A points haul of 8 in April was enough to ensure Walsall were one point clear of the drop zone going into the final set of fixtures. Despite losing 3–1 to Southampton, and accumulating only 48 points, Walsall survived relegation by 1 point ahead of Dagenham & Redbridge. Had it not been for Plymouth Argyle entering administration and being docked ten points as a result, however, Walsall would have occupied the last relegation place.

The 2011–2012 season once again saw Walsall flirt with relegation from League One. However, a 1–1 draw at home to Huddersfield Town on 28 April 2012 guaranteed Walsall's survival in League One at the expense of Wycombe, Chesterfield, Exeter and Rochdale, who were all relegated.

The 2012–13 season began with a 3–0 home defeat to Doncaster on 18 August 2012, though Walsall gradually began to improve after their initial setback, reaching 5th place in the League One table after a 2–1 win over Portsmouth at Fratton Park on 15 September 2012. However, a winless run of sixteen games followed from early October until 22 December 2012, when the Saddlers defeated Colchester 1–0 at home. Following this, the club began to prosper in the New Year, only being beaten three times in 24 games until the end of the season and emerging as a serious contender for the play-offs. Even though Walsall lost on the final day of the season (27 April 2013) 2–0 to Crewe, they finished 9th in the table, which marks a significant improvement following two seasons of relegation battles.

A timeline of Walsall's history

  • 1888 – Founded as Walsall Town Swifts
  • 1896 – Beat Wolverhampton Wanderers to win the Birmingham Senior Cup, and also Aston Villa in the Birmingham Charity Cup final.
  • 1896 – Move into the new Hillary Street Ground, which will later become known as Fellows Park, Walsall's home, on and off, until 1990.
  • 1933 – Beat Arsenal in the FA Cup – a result still regarded as one of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all-time.
  • 1972 – Club rescued from financial oblivion by new owner Ken Wheldon.
  • 1975 – Defeat Manchester United and Newcastle United in the FA Cup on the way to the fifth round. The winning goal against Newcastle is scored by striker George Andrews.
  • 1978 – Defeat Leicester City in the FA Cup on the way to the fifth round.
  • 1979 – Sign striker Alan Buckley back from Birmingham City for a club record £175,000. He becomes player-manager soon after.
  • 1984 – Walsall reach the League Cup semi-finals, defeating Arsenal in the fourth round, but manager Alan Buckley is sacked for failing to guide the club into the Second Division.
  • 1986 – Racecourse owner Terry Ramsden buys the club.
  • 1988 – Promotion to the Second Division is achieved.
  • 1989 – Relegation to Third Division after just one season in the Second.
  • 1990 – A second successive relegation sees Walsall relegated to the Fourth Division, and they moved into their new Bescot Stadium a few hundred yards from Fellows Park.
  • 1992 – Jeff Bonser buys the club, which again was minutes away from entering receivership – players were told to find new clubs, and staff to clear their desks before Bonser's last-minute save. He appoints ex-Wolves boss Kenny Hibbitt as manager. They remain members of the Fourth Division which is rebranded Division Three on the creation of the Premier League.
  • 1994 – Chris Nicholl is appointed manager.
  • 1995 – Walsall take Premier League club Leeds United to a replay in the third round of the FA Cup. They also win promotion to Division Two.
  • 1997 – Chris Nicholl resigns as manager to be succeeded by Jan Sorensen.
  • 1998 – Walsall reach the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they lost 5–1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Jan Sorensen sacked at the end of the season and is succeeded by Ray Graydon.
  • 1999 – Walsall win promotion to Division One.
  • 2000 – Walsall are relegated to Division Two, being pipped to survival by local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
  • 2001 – Walsall climb back to Division One at the first attempt, winning the Division Two play-offs.
  • 2002 – Ray Graydon is sacked as manager and replaced by Colin Lee.
  • 2003 – Walsall sign 35-year-old former Arsenal and England midfielder Paul Merson and beat West Bromwich Albion on the first day of the new league season.
  • 2004 – Walsall are relegated from Division One shortly after the dismissal of Colin Lee as manager. Paul Merson takes over as player-manager. They become members of the newly named League One (formerly Division Two) after a reorganisation of the Football League.
  • 2005 – Paul Merson is sacked after just over a year as manager and is replaced by Kevan Broadhurst.
  • 2006 – Walsall are relegated to League Two and Kevin Broadhurst is sacked as manager to be replaced by Richard Money.
  • 2007 – Walsall win the League Two title and are promoted to League One.
  • 2008 – Walsall achieve a top half finish in League One, Scott Dann is sold for £1,000,000 to Coventry City in January, but Richard Money resigns at the end of the season and is replaced by Jimmy Mullen.
  • 2009 – Walsall survive in League One after Jimmy Mullen was sacked as manager and Chris Hutchings replaces him.
  • 2011 – Chris Hutchings is sacked as Walsall manager along with assistant Martin O'Connor and chief scout David Hamilton.
  • 2011 – Walsall appoint head of youth Dean Smith as caretaker manager.
  • 2011 – In March, Walsall announce its landlords, Suffolk Life, have decided to sell the Banks's Stadium.[8] Owner Jeff Bonser is then criticised for misleading fans regarding the lease that Walsall hold on the Banks's Stadium.[9]
  • 2011 – Relegation to League Two avoided by one point.
  • 2012 – Relegation to League Two avoid on penultimate day of the season.
  • 2013 – Walsall finish 9th in League One, a major improvement on the past two seasons.

2010 supporter protests

During April and May 2010, a number of fans began protesting against club owner Jeff Bonser. The protest group, named 'Unity', staged themed peaceful protests during the last four home games of the 2009–10 season aimed at raising awareness of the financial situation Walsall F.C. finds itself in. Themes used included the use of Cyprus flags and the colour yellow. The protests centred around the ownership of the Bescot Stadium site, on which the club pay a yearly rent circa £360,000. The rent is paid to a Self Invested Personal Pension (Source: Yearly accounts), of which one of the trustees is club owner Jeff Bonser, a situation which some fans[10][11] feel damages the club.

In April 2010, season ticket holders Neil Ravenscroft and Darren Rhodes were given indefinite bans from Bescot Stadium for their involvement, or perceived involvement in the Unity protests. Another fan, Wayne Swift, was also banned for his part in the protest.

At the final game of the 2009–10 season, against MK Dons on 8 May, a large banner which read 'FREEDOM OF SPEECH' was unfurled during the half time interval as an ironic protest against the club's harsh and unfair treatment of protesting fans. The owner of the banner was then forcefully ejected by stewards.[12] The banner was removed by stewards after a few minutes, and the person who unfurled the banner was ejected from the ground and banned. On 19 May 2010, When Saturday Comes, the popular football magazine and website, published an article written by the owner of the 'freedom of speech' banner, explaining the events which surrounded the unfurling of the banner.[13]

Football supporters' websites the Football Supporters' Federation and TwoHundredPercent have heavily criticised the club for their stance on the protests and the treatment of those taking part.[14][15]

A crowd of 1,793 watched the Saddlers lose 2–1 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to Chesterfield on the 31 August 2010, the lowest gate in 20 years at the Bescot Stadium as Walsall fans boycott games in protest to Jeff Bonser.

Ownership of Bescot (Banks's) Stadium & 2011 criticism of Jeff Bonser

For many years since Walsall F.C moved to the Bescot Stadium (now known as the Banks's Stadium), there has been a bone of contention between fans and majority shareholder Jeff Bonser over who is the beneficiary of the rent that Walsall F.C pay to use Bescot Stadium, a ground they paid to build.[10][11]

In December 2009, Jeff Bonser gave an interview to the Birmingham Mail in which he is quoted as saying "I can say quite categorically that Walsall FC has never paid a penny into my pension fund".[16]

In March 2011, the official Walsall F.C website announced that it had been "informed by its landlord Suffolk Life Annuities Limited of their intention to sell their freehold interest in the Banks's Stadium site".[8] However, following an article in the Express & Star by Nick Mashiter,[17] Matt Scott, an investigative football journalist at the Guardian picked up the story and began to investigate. On 18 March, Scott questioned the accuracy of the statement made by Walsall F.C [18] and then confirmed the misleading nature of the club's statement on 22 March, saying "Walsall do indeed pay rent to Bonser's pension, as is consistent with the arrangements for self-invested personal pensions. So in fact, the landlord in all but title is none other than Bonser himself. One mystery solved, then (if a mystery it ever was).".[19]

On 30 March, leading football finance journalist David Conn of the Guardian Newspaper investigated the story still further after he was granted an interview by Bonser.[20] In the article, Bonser contradicts his previous December 2009 statement in which he claimed "Walsall FC has never paid a penny into my pension fund" [16] by admitting that Walsall F.C does indeed pay rent to a Self Invested Pension Fund owned by him and his brother Robert Bonser. Bonser claims that the Pension Fund invested large amounts of money in Bescot Stadium, however some, if not all, of this investment was in the form of interest free loans which the club have been paying back as well as the annual rent.

Between 2008 and 2011, there were murmurings of Council ownership of the Bescot Stadium site. It was reported in the Express and Star Newspaper on 6 June 2008, that Walsall were attempting to sell the stadium to Walsall Council, and renting it back from them to secure the club's financial future. The Council, however, stated they did not have the funds to purchase the ground.

During the Spring of 2011, former Britney Spears record producer, Steve Jenkins, tried to drum up support for the council to buy the land [21][22]

On 11 July 2011, at a full Council meeting, the motion to investigate the possibility of Council ownership of Bescot Stadium was defeated by 28 votes to 24. Mike Bird spoke against the proposal, stating that the cost of simply investigating the purchase would run to "£50,000 or £60,000", and that repayments would be greater than the rent Walsall F.C currently pay, and thus wasn't a viable proposition. This formally ended the Council's interest in buying the Stadium from Jeff Bonser's Pension Fund.

Walsall in film and television

  • In the film Fever Pitch, the day Arsenal were beaten by Walsall in the League Cup Fourth Round in 1984 is mentioned by Mark Strong as Steve during a game of pool with Colin Firth as Paul.
  • 1970s BBC comedy television series Ripping Yarns: "I didn't come here on a free transfer from Walsall ...."
  • Sky Sports Soccer AM have given Walsall F.C the nickname "Warsaw" due to the similarity when pronouncing Walsall and Warsaw. The presenters of Soccer AM often refer to Walsall F.C as "our friends from Poland".
  • 25 April 2012: During the 2012 Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Chelsea at the Camp Nou, the Sky Sports commentators mentioned Walsall F.C to highlight the contrasting highs and lows of then Chelsea caretaker manager Robert Di Matteo. It was mentioned that 3 years ago to the very day, on 25 April 2009, Di Matteo was in charge of an MK Dons side that lost 1–0 to Walsall, contrasting with his Chelsea team's 3–2 aggregate win over the then European Champions.


Walsall have rivalries with neighbouring Birmingham and Black Country teams Aston Villa, Birmingham, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers (though these teams are often more concerned with their rivalry against each other, rather than against Walsall), and a slightly further afield rivalry with Shrewsbury Town, which is to many, Walsall's main historical two-way Derby game as the clubs clashed frequently in the 1970s and 80s.

The Saddlers then have less heated, but more 'reciprocal' rivalries against Coventry, Port Vale and Crewe Alexandra.


The Chuckery

Main article: The Chuckery

This multi-purpose sports ground was situated in a district near to the Walsall Arboretum. It comprised some 12 soccer pitches and four good-sized cricket squares. It was the first ever home ground for Walsall F.C. from 1888 until 1893.

West Bromwich Road

Main article: West Bromwich Road

The new ground in West Bromwich Road, which had a capacity of just over 4,500, proved to be a lucky omen for The Saddlers between 1893 and 1896.

Fellows Park

Main article: Fellows Park

Fellows Park was a former football stadium in Walsall, England. It was the home ground of Walsall F.C. from 1896 until 1990, when the team moved to the Bescot Stadium.

Bescot Stadium

Main article: Bescot Stadium

The Bescot Stadium (currently known as Banks's Stadium for sponsorship purposes), situated in Bescot, Walsall, England, is the home ground of Walsall Football Club. It was built in 1990 at a cost of £4.5m, replacing the club's previous ground, Fellows Park, which was located a quarter of a mile away. The ground was opened by Sir Stanley Matthews.


Current squad

As of 2 August 2013.

Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
1 England GK Richard O'Donnell
2 England DF Ben Purkiss
3 England DF Andy Taylor
4 England DF Andy Butler (captain)
5 England DF Dean Holden
6 England MF Nicky Featherstone
7 England MF Adam Chambers
8 England MF Sam Mantom
9 Slovakia FW Milan Lalkovič (on loan from Chelsea)
10 England FW Craig Westcarr
11 England FW Ashley Hemmings
12 England DF Paul Downing
13 England GK Shane Lewis
No. Position Player
14 England DF Malvind Benning
15 England DF James Chambers
16 England MF James Baxendale
17 England MF Reece Flanagan
18 England DF Ben George
20 England DF Matt Preston
21 England MF Kieron Morris
22 England GK Liam Roberts
23 England MF Danny Griffiths
24 England FW Troy Hewitt
25 Saint Kitts and Nevis MF Romaine Sawyers
26 Northern Ireland MF James McQuilkin
27 England MF Julian Gray

Out on loan

Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
19 England FW Jake Heath (at Worcester City until 20 September 2013)[23]

Youth and Reserves

For the reserve and youth squads, see Walsall F.C. Youth and Reserves.

Former players

For details on former players, see Category:Walsall F.C. players.

Players of the Year

Name Season
Northern Ireland Will Grigg 2012–13
England Andy Butler 2011–12
England Andy Butler 2010–11
England Troy Deeney 2009–10
Trinidad and Tobago Clayton Ince 2008–09
Republic of Ireland Anthony Gerrard 2007–08
England Dean Keates 2006–07
Republic of Ireland Anthony Gerrard 2005–06
England Matty Fryatt 2004–05
Scotland Paul Ritchie 2003–04
England Ian Roper 2002–03
England Jimmy Walker 2001–02
Portugal Jorge Leitão 2000–01
Argentina Gino Padula 1999–00
England Jimmy Walker 1998–99
France Jeff Peron 1997–98
England Adrian Viveash 1996–97
England Adrian Viveash 1995–96
Northern Ireland Kevin Wilson 1994–95

Top goal scorers (season)

Player Goals Season
Northern Ireland Will Grigg 20 2012–13
England Alex Nicholls and Republic of Ireland Jon Macken 10 2011–12
England Julian Gray 10 2010–11
England Troy Deeney 14 2009–10
England Michael Ricketts and England Troy Deeney 12 2008–09
England Tommy Mooney 12 2007–08
England Dean Keates 13 2006–07
England Matty Fryatt 14 2005–06
England Matty Fryatt 15 2004–05
Portugal Jorge Leitão 9 2003–04
Brazil Júnior 16 2002–03
Portugal Jorge Leitão 10 2001–02
Portugal Jorge Leitão 21 2000–01
England Michael Ricketts 11 1999–2000
England Andy Rammell 20 1998–99
France Roger Boli 24 1997–98
Bermuda Kyle Lightbourne 20 1996–97
Bermuda Kyle Lightbourne and England Kevin Wilson 15 1995–96
Bermuda Kyle Lightbourne 23 1994–95
England Dean Peer 8 1993–94
England Wayne Clarke 21 1992–93
England Rod McDonald 18 1991–92
England Stuart Rimmer 13 1990–91
England Stuart Rimmer 10 1989–90
England Stuart Rimmer 8 1988–89
Republic of Ireland David Kelly 20 1987–88
Republic of Ireland David Kelly 23 1986–87
England Nicky Cross 21 1985–86

Club officials

Board officials

Name Role
England Barry Blower MBE President
England Jeff Bonser Chairman
England Stefan Gamble Chief Executive
England Clive Welch Director
England Nigel Bond Director
England Peter Gilman Director
England Richard Tisdale Director
England Roy Whalley Director
England Leigh Pomlett Director [24]
England Mick Kearns Ambassador

First team staff

Name Role
England Dean Smith Manager [25]
England Richard O'Kelly Assistant Manager/First team coach
England Neil Cutler Goalkeeping Coach
England James Troup Head of Performance Analysis
England Tom Bradley Kit Man
England Dean Holden Pro Development Coach

Youth Team Staff

Name Role
England Neil Woods Academy Manager [26]
England Graham Biggs Head of Academy Coaching
England Paul Larvin Lead Coach for Youth Development Phase
England Adam Davy Lead Coach for Foundation Phase/ Community Manager

Medical staff

Name Role
Dr Ricky Shamji Club Doctor
England Jon Whitney Senior Physiotherapist
England Dean Harris Sports Science
England Hannah Price Sport therapist

Managerial history

Only competitive matches are counted. Wins, losses and draws are results at the final whistle; the results of penalty shoot-outs are not counted.[27]

Name Nationality From To P W D L Win% Honours Notes
Harry Hibbs England England 5 August 1944 30 June 1951 230 85 57 88 36.96
Tony McPhee England England 1 July 1951 1 December 1951 21 7 3 11 33.33
Brough Fletcher England England 1 March 1952 1 April 1953 52 9 8 35 17.31
Frank Buckley England England 1 April 1953 1 September 1955 112 24 28 60 21.43
John Love England England 1 September 1955 1 December 1957 113 38 26 49 33.63
Bill Moore England England 1 December 1957 1 November 1964 332 132 68 132 39.76
Alf Wood England England 1964 October 1964 3 1 0 2 33.33
Ray Shaw England England October 1964 1 March 1968 166 67 35 64 40.36
Dick Graham England England 1 March 1968 1 May 1968 13 5 4 4 38.46
Ron Lewin England England 1 July 1968 1 February 1969 28 8 10 10 28.57
Bill Moore England England 1 February 1969 16 October 1972 179 65 52 62 36.31
John Smith England England 1 October 1972 23 March 1973 27 8 5 14 29.63
Ronnie Allen England England 6 June 1973 20 December 1974 23 4 9 10 17.39
Doug Fraser Scotland Scotland 1 January 1974 7 March 1977 151 54 43 54 35.76
Dave Mackay Scotland Scotland 9 March 1977 5 August 1978 61 23 25 13 37.70
Alan Ashman England England 23 August 1978 17 December 1978 18 6 6 6 33.33
Frank Sibley England England 1 March 1979 5 May 1979 15 2 4 9 13.33
Alan Buckley England England 27 June 1979 1 July 1981 93 36 33 24 38.71
Alan Buckley &
Neil Martin
England England
Scotland Scotland
1 July 1981 1 January 1982 18 9 5 4 50.00
Neil Martin Scotland Scotland 1 January 1982 1 May 1982 24 3 8 13 12.50
Alan Buckley England England 1 July 1982 1 August 1986 201 87 48 66 43.28
Tommy Coakley Scotland Scotland 1 August 1986 27 December 1988 141 60 36 45 42.55
John Barnwell Republic of Ireland Ireland 17 January 1989 1 March 1990 54 10 18 26 18.52
Kenny Hibbitt England England 16 May 1990 2 September 1994 201 69 55 77 34.33
Chris Nicholl England England 1 August 1994 21 May 1997 157 71 41 45 45.22
Jan Sørensen Denmark Denmark 25 June 1997 5 May 1998 62 26 13 23 41.94
Ray Graydon England England 5 May 1998 22 January 2002 199 79 49 71 39.70
Colin Lee England England 24 January 2002 16 April 2004 116 38 30 48 32.76
Paul Merson England England 16 April 2004 6 February 2006 94 32 23 39 34.04
Mick Halsall* England England 7 February 2006 22 February 2006 3 0 2 1 &00.00
Kevan Broadhurst England England 22 February 2006 24 April 2006 11 1 4 6 &09.09
Mark Kinsella* Republic of Ireland Ireland 24 April 2006 3 May 2006 1 1 0 0 100.000
Richard Money England England 3 May 2006 22 April 2008 103 44 33 26 42.72 1 League Two
Jimmy Mullen England England 22 April 2008 10 January 2009 29 10 5 14 34.48
Chris Hutchings England England 20 January 2009 4 January 2011 98 31 24 43 31.63
Dean Smith England England 4 January 2011 Present 137 40 55 42 29.20
* Served as caretaker manager.
† Served as caretaker manager before being appointed permanently.

The above statistics include cup games, but not friendlies.

All-time records

  • All time attendance : 25,453 v. Newcastle United. Second Division, 29 August 1961.
  • Attendance at Bescot Stadium : 11,049 v. Rotherham United. First Division, 9 May 2004.
  • League victory : 10–0 vs Darwen. Second Division, 4 March 1899.
  • League defeat : 0–12 vs Small Heath. Second Division, 17 December 1892.
  • Cup victory : 7–0 vs Macclesfield Town (away). FA Cup 2nd Round, 6 December 1997.
  • FA Cup: Fifth round in 1939, 1975, 1978, 1987, 2002 and 2003
  • Most capped player : Mick Kearns (15), Republic of Ireland.
  • Most league appearances : Jimmy Walker (534) 1993–2004, 2010–2012.
  • All time goal scorer : 184. Colin Taylor 1958–1973 (three separate spells); and Tony Richards 1954–1963.
  • League goals in one season : Gilbert Alsop (40). Division Three (North), 1933–34 and 1934–35.
  • Transfer fee paid : £175,000 for Alan Buckley from Birmingham City, 1979.
  • Transfer fee received : £1,000,000 for Scott Dann to Coventry City, January 2008.


Champions 2:

• Old Division Four Champions: 1959–60

• League Two Champions: 2006–07

Runners Up 6:

• Football League Third Division North Cup Runners-Up: 1934–35

• Football League Third Division South Cup Runners-Up: 1945–46

• Old Division Three Runners-Up: 1960–61

• Old Division Four Runners-Up: 1979–80

• Division Three Runners-Up: 1994–95

• Division Two Runner-Up: 1998–99

Play-Off Winners 2:

• Old Division Three Play-Off Winners: 1987–88

• Division Two Play-Off Winners: 2000–01

Birmingham Senior Cup

• Winners 4: 1880–81 (Walsall Swifts), 1896–97, 1897–98, 1993–94

• Runners Up 6: 1883–84, 1884–85, 1885–86 (All Walsall Swifts), 1907–08, 1999–00, 2006–07

Staffordshire Senior Cup

• Winners 4: 1881–82, 1884–85 (Both Walsall Town), 1928–29, 1967–68

Challenge Cup Winners

• 2012–13

League Cup Semi-Finalists

• 1983–84

FA Midland Youth Cup

• 2012–13


External links

  • Saddlers A-Z, player biographies and appearance info – Official Site
  • M6J9 Bescot Conferencing website
  • UpTheSaddlers – Fan site
  • Bescot Banter – Latest news/views
  • Walsall Web-Fans – Latest news/forum

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