D3D4 Football is looking at how people, now intoxicated with the football bug, originally fell in love with our national sport. D3D4 Walsall Correspondent Darren Young explains how he became a life long Saddlers fan….
I got into football quite late compared to kids these days; my interest was started by namesake Willie Young’s challenge on Paul Allen in the 1980 Cup Final when I was nine years old and I started playing when I was ten years old and then immediately stood out in the school team, mainly because I was about a foot taller than anyone else. After a season of scoring a hat trick nearly every game and when I don’t think I lost a single heading challenge, I was picked to play for Walsall schoolboys and top scored for them too; and who wore almost the same kit as the Saddlers so I was hooked.
Very soon, I was able to walk to WFC games on my own and after that I got a season ticket at Fellows Park and even went to the odd away game if I could persuade a friend or my Dad to go with me. It never occurred to me to support anyone else. Walsall was my home town and following a big team never entered my mind although in my first season as a supporter, we won at Arsenal and drew at Liverpool, so in a sense they hoodwinked me into thinking that much better things lay ahead.
I’ve also included below a feature from a match day programme that the club did last year where they asked fans for their memories and might add to the above.
Memories of Walsall FC Article
Walsall are my local team – I was born on the Walsall Road – and that was reason enough to put myself through the last thirty odd years.
My Dad’s a supporter but he worked most Saturdays (I go to matches with him these days) so my first game was in 1983, just after my birthday when I’d reached the age where I could walk to matches on my own. It was a fairly unmemorable win versus Port Vale when I can only recall the team colours and the crush of standing in the Hillary Street end.
That midweek we’d lost 3-6 to Oxford and earlier in the season we lost 1-8 at Bolton so I had presumed we were pretty dreadful. Little did I know but I’d picked a great season to start watching football. If I tell a fellow Saddler that was the time I started watching Walsall, they’ll think of Highbury and Anfield and conclude I was a proper glory-hunter but it couldn’t have been further from the truth after that Oxford match. I remember that incredible feeling at school the day after Arsenal were beaten. Mark Rees destroying Rotherham, the comical OG to draw at Liverpool just a week after they’d thrashed a little known team called Benfica 4-1.
My favourite season was 1985/6. Six against Cardiff. Six versus run-away leaders, Reading, another six versus Bristol Rovers. The entertainment under Buckley was incredible. Fittingly we finished sixth but sadly, no play offs in those days.
The game I enjoyed most was Preston in the FA Cup the year after. 16 November 1985. I got a lift to the game with a friend’s Dad and he dropped us off and went to park, arriving about ten minutes after kick-off. ‘Did I miss anything?’ he asked. He did. We were four up and went onto win 7-3.
Best goal has to be Byfield’s at Cardiff. Didn’t enjoy the game; way too tense and we’d been losing for most of it but that was an unbelievable moment and made all of the nail biting worthwhile. That would also make Graydon my favourite manager. He had so little resources and yet won two promotions. I have a lot of time for Richard Money (just what we needed at the time) and Dean Smith (who gave us Wembley and our best team for years).
There have been loads of players I’ve loved but David Kelly will always have that special place in my heart. I still remember vividly the shock of losing to Bristol City, the penalties and queuing for the third match all those years ago, and then Kelly put it all right in a few minutes and made it one big party. I went home with a pair of shorts that night after the players hurled their kit into the crowd. I don’t know who they belonged to exactly, but I always hoped they were David’s. It was also my favourite kit. All white, bit of red. Brilliant.
Favourite WFC XI
words Darren Young