Walsall Football Club
Walsall FC is one of England’s oldest football clubs. The small West-Midlands side are notorious for the passion – and sometimes violence – of their fans. Recent years have been up and down for Walsall, as they have yo-yo’d between Divisions One and Two.
Walsall Football Club came into existence in 1888 as the amalgamation of Walsall Town and Walsall Swifts football clubs. They entered the Football League as founder members of Division Two in 1982. The club’s early days were unremarkable, although they did manage to pull off an astonishing victory over the all-conquering Arsenal side of the day when they took them on in the FA Cup of 1933.
It would not be until the mid-century, however, that Walsall would get into their stride. In 1958, they were moved down into the newly-formed Fourth Division, but the next season they topped the league, and nearly went on to repeat the trick in Division Three in 1961. Just knocked off the top spot, the Walsall team of the day, managed by the legendary Bill Moore, nonetheless picked up the runners-up position and were promoted.
Once into Division Two, however, Walsall’s luck ran out. They were sent back into Division Three the very next season, and languished there over the next decade, with financial sponsorship slipping away until the club faced oblivion at the beginning of the 1970s. Luckily though, the unpopular Ken Wheldon invested in the club to secure himself a position as chairman.
This did the trick in the short term as, by the 1980s, the club had begun to get itself back on track with some modest successes in the early rounds of the FA Cup during the 1970s. Indeed, the club made the League Cup semi-final in 1984, and two years later, the purchase of the club by entrepeneur Terry Ramsden signalled a new era for the club.
The Ramsden era
Ramsden poured his fortunes into Walsall, investing in new players from around the world, and a new managerial team, fronted by Tommy Coaxley. The new team leapt into Division Two in 1987, but were immediately relegated again in the following two seasons consecutively.
Despite the construction of the new Bescot Stadium for opening in 1990, Ramsden’s investment had not proved the solution to Walsall’s poor performances and, to compound the problem, his entire business empire collapsed in 1989. The club looked certain to go into receivership this time, and it would not be until 1992 that local businessman Barrie Blower would rescue the club from bankruptcy once more.
Surviving the modern footballing world
The leagues were rebranded the next year, so that Walsall’s division became Division Three. From here, they looked towards promotion, and a period of stability, under new manager Kenny Hibbitt.
By the time Hibbitt left, the club had suitably improved and, in the first season of new manager Chris Nicholl’s reign, they gained promotion into Division Two. Two stable seasons under Nicholl followed, as Walsall consolidated their position as a small but successful club.
Under former Danish international Jan Sorensen, Walsall started to play some flashier football, and a string of victories followed his appointment. However, Sorensen did not stay at Walsall for long, and after accruing a bit of media interest, Rob Graydon was appointed in 1998. Graydon’s was immediately successful, as he took Walsall to promotion as runners up in the league.
Walsall’s first season in Division One ended in tragedy as their relegation was determined on the last day of the season. However, the next year they were promoted right back again, and this relegation/promotion see-saw signalled the beginning of a recurring pattern that would dog Walsall for years to come.
Graydon was sacked in the second season of the new millennium, and his replacement, Colin Lee, took Walsall to promotion from Division Two with room to spare. To top things off, in Lee’s first game, they managed to defeat Premiership side Charlton Athletic in a memorable FA Cup tie.
Back in Division One, despite the signing of high-profile former international Paul Merson as boss, Walsall began to flounder again. They could not manage to improve on the standard and, predictably, were dragged back to Division Two at the end of the season, with the very last match consigning them to relegation.
The next two seasons repeated the promotion/relegation dance, with the beginning of the 2006-7 season finding Walsall back in Division Two under the direction of Richard Money. That season was full of tense but ultimately successful battles for the club, and they managed to make it to the top spot by just one point at the end of the season, after a draw for Walsall and a disastrous final match for runners-up Hartlepool.
Walsall also changed the name of their home ground from Bescot Stadium to Banks’s Stadium in honour of a new sponsorship deal that would generate more revenue for the club. With a degree of financial stability now, it is hoped that the same will be true of their league status!
- (Old) Division Four – Winners (1959-60), Runners-up (1979-80)
- (Old) Division Three – Runners-up (1960-61)
- Football League Division Three – Runners-up (1994-95)
- Football League Division Two – Runners-up (1998-99)
- Football League Two – Winners (2006-2007)
- Record Attendance – 25,453 (v Newcastle United, 1961-62)
- Biggest Victory – 10-0 (vs Darwen, Division Two, 4 March 1899)
- Biggest Defeat – 0-12 (vs Birmingham City, Division Two, 17 December 1892)
- Most League Appearances – Colin Harrison (467) 1964/1982.
- Most League Goals – Colin Taylor (184, 1958-1973 (3 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 Received – £600,000 (for David Kelly from West Ham United, July 1988)
- Transfer Fee Paid – £175,000 (for Alan Buckley from Birmingham City, June 1979)
Walsall’s stadium is approachable by road on the M6 – turn off at Junction 9. There is plenty of well-signposted parking around the ground.
Bescot Stadium has its own railway station adjacent to the ground, with trains running from Birmingham New Street and Stafford regularly.
There are also regular bus services covering the local area that run on match days. The number 405 runs every fifteen minutes or so on most match days and stops outside the stadium.
There is an unofficial page with more detailed travel information.
Information about pricing and admissions policy can be found on the club’s ticket page. Tickets can be bought online or at the club’s ticket office – see contact information below, or by telephone. For ticket information and bookings call 0871 663 0111 or 0871 663 0222.