David Kelly’s 30 Goals in 1987/88

I will hand you over to Alan Buckley’s 3 Striped Adidas Shirt for another sepia-tinged trip to nostalgia land…

With over half of the current season gone and our crop of strikers nowhere near double figures I thought it would be nice to wallow back in time to the wonderful season where a striker scored 30 goals. I refer to David Kelly of course, whose goals were instrumental into firing The Saddlers into the Second Division at the end of the 1987-8 season via five Play Off games which included a trio of Final games against Bristol City. ‘Ned’, just 21 at the start of that campaign, was already a proven scorer and had scouts watching at seemingly every match he played in this season.

He played in 5 of the club’s 6 games in August without finding the net once but that changed in early September netting in the 2-2 draw against Sunderland. Two more goals came that month and in October after opening the scoring in the 4-0 win at Doncaster he scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Port Vale. November saw him score twice  at Aldershot  to earn Saddlers a 2-0 victory and a goal came in the Sherpa Van win against Cardiff. The holiday period saw David in sparkling form, notching a brace in the 3-2 win against Grimsby on Boxing Day and a hat trick in the 5-2 thrashing of Rotherham on Jan 2nd.  Further goals in successive games against Wigan and York completed an excellent January.

Then followed a barren seven game spell before a double against Southend secured a 2-0 win however he saved his best for the final couple of months of his Walsall career. A superb hat trick at Mansfield then vital goals in the games against Doncaster and Notts County on home soil helped get The Saddlers into the Play Offs. He got a brace at Meadow Lane in the Semi Final 1st leg against Notts County and another double in the Final 1st Leg at Ashton Gate. With Bristol City winning 2-0 in the return at Fellows Park a Final Replay was needed on May 30th and in this his last match before his £600,000 transfer to West Ham he sealed promotion with another hat trick in a 4-0 win which meant he had reached 30 goals in all competitions for his club. He also broke into the Republic Of Ireland team in this season which included a hat trick on his debut against Israel.

Oh to have a similar striker at Walsall now.


Carlisle v Walsall In- depth Tactical Analysis

‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you’.

Not my words, the words of our nation’s favourite racist poet, Rudyard Kipling. After Andy Butler’s howler gifted Carlisle the opening goal I turned to my companion at today’s game and said the mark of a man is how they bounce back after making a mistake. Andy Butler proved himself to be a man today.

Butler was determined to atone for his error today by becoming Walsall’s main attacking threat. He had a header cleared off the line, hit the post with a left-footed shot and finally won the penalty which Nicholls converted to give us a point. The insatiable desire that he showed to win the ball as he raced to close down a clearance is the reason why we won a penalty and we were able to draw the game.

In-between all of Butler’s efforts Carlisle had a number of good chances with Jimmy Walker pulling off a great save low down to his left to deny former Saddler, Jordan Cook, late on in the game. Despite all of Carlisle’s chances we deserved a draw and could have sneaked it at the end as we finished the game on the attack after forcing a few corners.

Apart from Butler and Walker, there are a few other individuals that deserve a mention. Taundry put in a very good shift, playing on both wings and then in the centre when Peterlin came off, he was everywhere today even filling in at right-back on many occasions when Beevers advanced. Nicholls, once again, ran himself into the ground and bravely stepped up to take the penalty after his last spot-kick against Dagenham was so bloody awful.

Sadly, I feel that I must mention the negativity of the vocal majority of the Walsall fans and in particular their disgraceful treatment of Ryan Jarvis who came on as sub today and had a very good game, doing a lot more in his brief appearance than the increasingly petulant John Macken. As soon as Jarvis came onto the pitch he was greeted by a chorus of boos and lots of mindless abuse. How can these people label themselves supporters? Taundry didn’t escape these ‘supporters’ wrath either, he only made two mistakes all game and they were greeted with derision.

I refuse to end this piece on a note of negativity though so I will return to Andy Butler, our most dedicated player since Adrian Viveash, who proved by his efforts to make amends for his earlier error that his ‘is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more- [he is] a [true Saddler], my Son!’

Walsall Footballer in Bad Taste in Music Shocker

Footballers and music do not always go hand in hand. When I was growing up and reading football interviews in Shoot and Match magazine in the 1980’s a typical footballer would responsd to the question of ‘Who is your favourite music artist?’ with ‘George Benson, Phil Collins or Luther Vandross.’ There is an excellent article about this subject here.

To counter balance all that bad taste, in the Express and Star a few months ago, Dean Smith admitted to a love of the Stone Roses.

However, the final word must go to a current Walsall player as R&B slow jams is not a genre I am familiar with but it seems that Alex Nicholls is. Read all about it here.


Brentford v Walsall In- depth Tactical Analysis

The Gilbert Alsop had a rare Friday night out drinking and managed to consume an estimated eight pints of Murphy’s on an empty stomach. There is only one man who could have got me out of bed Saturday morning, and that was Jimmy Walker. It was Wacka’s day today or Wackaday, if you are a fan of Timmy Mallett, of which, I am not. I went there wanting a clean sheet and that is what I got, thanks in part, to Wacka, but thanks mainly to our skipper Andy Butler.

I love these winter afternoons when the sun is shining and I had a spring in my step (despite the Murphy’s) as I strolled out of South Ealing tube station and down the road towards Griffin Park, a true old-fashioned lower league ground that generates a good atmosphere. I got my Balti pie and then stood on the terraces to watch the Walsall players warm up in their ‘Wacka 530’ t-shirts.

Walker- Beevers – Smith – Butler – Sadler was the usual back 5. Chambers and Peterlin in the centre of midfield. Taundry on the right, Paterson on the left. Macken and Nicholls up front. There is not a lot wrong with this line-up and if we had the addition of another forward and a creative central midfielder then we have the makings of a good team. The back line is very impressive, and so it proved today.

Brentford are a physically big team, bigger in my opinion than Stevenage but our centre-halves coped very well with this, in particular Butler. As always our game plan was to soak up the pressure and hit them on the break, which almost worked as we created some good chances for ourselves as Macken should have scored on the stroke of half-time and Nicholls had a couple of good chances late on. Brentford’s main threat came from corners as they packed the box with their big men and put pressure on our goal by constantly dropping the ball into the six yard box.

Today was all about Wacka though. If the pressure that we felt from the corners showed why Jimmy didn’t/ couldn’t make it at the highest level, as he is not tall enough to come for crosses, then a couple of saves he did make showed why he is loved by every Walsall fan. In the first-half he leapt to his left to keep out Clayton Donaldson. In the second-half he denied the same man again, when he went through one on one, diving to his right to take the ball. This save was greeted by the fans on the terrace as though we had just scored the winner. All throughout the game we sang about Jimmy Walker, even Olly Lancashire and George Bowerman were on the terrace, and it was fitting that we earned a clean sheet.

At the end of the game Jimmy turned to the Walsall fans and applauded us all before coming over and shaking hands and hugging members of the crowd whilst we cheered and chanted his name. I admit to having a lump in my throat (no more, mind) when he left the field. Today showed that there is room for sentiment in football and I, for one, definitely believe that is a good thing, as like the Murphy’s, I’m not bitter.

Walsall Fans Enjoy Post- Match Celebrations with Jimmy Walker

Jimmy Walker – Walsall’s Living Legend

Jimmy Walker breaks our all-time appearance record tomorrow against Brentford. On the 14th February 2009 Wacka came back to the Bescot with Colchester United and I wrote the following article for the sadly now defunct and much missed Walsall site, Ninety Minutes from Europe.

Jimmy Walker – The Returning Hero

As this Saturday is Valentine’s Day, you should spend it with someone you really love. Go to Bescot and watch the return of Jimmy Walker.
The phrase ‘living legend’ is often overused in a game full of clichés such as football, but there can surely be no other words to describe a man that gave so much happiness and prevented so much heartbreak for many Walsall fans.
I am sure everybody has their own favourite memory of Wacka; the flying save against Bury that secured a 0-0 draw and got us promoted in 1995, the frequent penalty saves, running 60 yards to slap Dennis Wise, the triple save against West Ham in the F.A. Cup and the countless away games when he seemed to be the only Walsall player on the pitch.
As a frequent away traveller during Walker’s time at Walsall, it was those games that provided my personal highlights of him, and it was his last away game that particularly stood out for me. We were playing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, the penultimate fixture of the 03/04 season. Palace were looking for promotion, Walsall looking to survive. It was obvious from the start that we were playing for the draw.
Wave after wave of Palace attack was thwarted by Walker diving across his goal and making world- class saves. I could see the Palace fans already celebrating a goal before Jimmy would stretch out a hand to tip the ball wide. It was the football equivalent of Rorke’s Drift, as Jimmy appeared to be taking on the entire Palace team on his own. Going into the last few minutes it looked as though we would hang on for an underserved draw, until Tommy Black dived for a penalty. Walker’s work was still not done as he dived to his right to save Andy Johnson’s penalty, only for Johnson to score from the rebound.

This marvellous display was typical of Jimmy, particularly away from home in his last few seasons at the club. He was always outstanding but often ended up on the losing side.Between seeing off Trevor Wood for the number one spot and until his first season in League One in 1999/2000, Walker was a good goalkeeper. From the moment Walker replaced Emberson at half- time against Reading in November 2000, and until his very last game against Rotherham in May 2004, he was an absolutely exceptional goalkeeper. There has surely not been a more consistent player for Walsall over the years.

For those of you who have to take the missus out this Saturday for Valentine’s Day, take her to Bescot to ensure Jimmy gets the reception that any returning hero deserves.

The same sentiment applies for tomorrow’s game. Please get to Brentford if you can. Jimmy deserves it. Thanks for all those wondeful memories and I hope there are, at least, a few more to come.

Walsall Against Fascism

After watching Paulo Di Canio get all the plaudits at the weekend for guiding Swindon to victory over Wigan in the FA Cup, I couldn’t help but feel a little sick in the stomach as I heard the ITV panel laugh along with him after being interviewed after the game.

Paulo is best remembered by many for his scissor kick goal against Chelsea, pushing the referee over against Sheffield Wednesday or not scoring against Everton when the goalkeeper was lying injured. He is also a bit of a loose cannon, unconventional, and prone to wild gesticulations. The ITV panel saw him as funny, lovable and eccentric.To me, he is simply a fascist.

It seems football ability and a cult following can forgive a multitude of sins. The same way the media adore Paulo Di Canio is the same way that Liverpool fans adore Kenny Daglish. The cult of Kenny. The man can do no wrong. If a member of his team uses racist language against another player then he thinks it is a good thing that his team go out wearing the face of the offender on their T-shirts. One week it is a ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of Football’ t-shirt, the next week it is a Luis Suarez t-shirt. What would have happened if Suarez had used racist language towards Glen Johnson in a training match? Would they have all worn t-shirts the next day in training? I hope not, but I suspect that in the cult of Kenny, if Kenny says it is ok, then it must be ok. 

Read more about Paulo the Fascist at this excellent blog:


The Giant Killing That Never Was

The FA Cup 3rd round starts tonight and sadly Walsall were knocked out of the competition in December. It isn’t always like this though as ‘Alan Buckley’s 3 Striped Adidas Shirt’ gives us a trip down memory lane….

Walsall had many FA Cup scalps in the 1970’s including the likes of Newcastle United, Leicester City and, not forgetting, Manchester United. We also had some brave, narrow defeats at grounds like St Andrews and Goodison Park but the FA Cup tie that Saddlers fans tend to want to forget about is the 4th round tie at Arsenal’s Highbury on February 18th, 1978.

The Gunners were packed with international players like Pat Jennings, David O’Leary, Graham Rix, Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton and England Striker Malcolm McDonald whilst The Saddlers side included the likes of Alun Evans and Mick Bates,(who had both lined up against Arsenal in cup finals for their former clubs), Colin Harrison, Alf Wood plus the goal threat of Alan Buckley.

I remember getting of the coach near the ground to be surrounded by scores of other coaches from Walsall. There was never any estimates from the club of how many Saddlers fans were present, but there were thousands that day, all smelling giant killing blood. Clutching my £1.50 unreserved ticket for the seated Gillespie Road stand I was in good company as there were so many noisy Saddlers fans already assembled. The 15p programme contained details of our 1933 success over Arsenal to get us in the mood for the game.

The game kicked off with Saddlers kitted out in light blue & white striped shirts and black shorts and it was clear from the off that Arsenal were in no mood to take this game lightly, having lost out in the League Cup semi-finals to Liverpool just four days previously. They bombarded Mick Kearns’s goal. Former Wolves star Alan Sunderland went close early doors with two smart headers and Kearns was forced into a string of fine saves before the floodgates opened on 27 mins when Stapleton finished off a fine move.

Within eight minutes the hosts had doubled their lead when O’Leary glanced on a Rix corner for McDonald to chest over the line and when Arsenal’s third arrived on the 40 minutes mark we feared a rout. Walsall had been over-awed by the occasion it seemed and showed little as an attacking force in that first-half. However six minutes into the second-half Walsall pulled one back with a well taken goal from ace goalscorer Alan Buckley to give Arsenal the jitters as Dave Mackay’s travelling army made themselves heard willing their heroes to grab another. Saddlers almost did just that on 76 minutes as winger Miah Dennehy found himself just needing to fire past Jennings but he tamely shot at him instead. Had that have gone in it really would have been game on but Stapleton struck again in the final minute to give the Gunners a 4-1 win and the 43,736 crowd could see the enormity of the task that faced Little Walsall on this occasion. Alun Evans had a good game in midfield and Colin Harrison was terrific at the back. Saddlers were far from disgraced and could hold their heads up at the final whistle.

B.U.C.K.L.E.Y. An Appreciation

Alan Buckley’s 3- Striped Adidas Shirt has been on the blower and dictated to me his thoughts on just why Alan Buckley is considered with such high regard by many Walsall fans. Enjoy the read with a nice glass of whisky and a fine cigar. Happy New Year!


As a schoolboy in 1973, like all other Walsall supporters at the time, I didn’t bat an eyelid when an unknown reserve Nottingham Forest striker called Alan Buckley was signed on loan by new manager Ronnie Allen. We were told the 22-year-old had scored one goal in 18 senior appearances over five years for the East Midlands club and first impressions were that at five foot six and stocky-looking he was a bit too small to make it. How wrong we were!  He had a quiet debut in the Third Division opener at Wrexham on 23rd August 1973 were The Saddlers went down 0-2 however on his home debut at Fellows Park just four days later against old rivals Shrewsbury Town in the Football League Cup he made everyone sit up and  take notice – he scored a hat trick in a sparkling 6-1 win. It was the first glimpse of the player for many who would go on to become the club’s record goalscorer and player/manager over the next 13 years, punctured only by a short spell at Birmingham City and becoming a real fans idol and a manager who believed in the type of football to get the fans buzzing, leading the club to their only ever semi-final of a major cup competition.

Going back to his first season, Alan scored again in the game at York before the end of August and manager Allen could see the club had a little goal scoring machine on their hands if he could sign the player on a permanent deal. Much to the delight of the supporters who had taken Buckley to their hearts, a transfer fee of around £18,000 was agreed  with Forest. He went on to bag 21 league goals in his debut season to add to his League Cup hat trick and partnered Bernie Wright and George Andrews for this and the next few seasons. He often started moves from deep positions with precise passing and linked up well with his co-forwards, a real live wire and a right handful for defences.

He continued to make further progress in 1974-5, banging in another 21 league goals, one in the League Cup and five in the FA Cup in what was destined to be one of our most memorable FA Cup runs. He notched a couple of goals in the first round at Ashford Town, found the net again at Newport County in the second round, but it was round three that he made the headlines in the national press in a game which really propelled his name as a goal scorer when his double sent Walsall on their way to a famous 3-2 victory over Manchester United in a replay at Fellows Park. Buckley was by now our penalty taker and one of his most important was to beat Alex Stepney from the spot.

Alan Buckley’s terrific goalscoring exploits continued in 1975-6  as he scored no less than 34 league goals including four against Rotherham and hat tricks against Gillingham and Aldershot. By now he was being linked with several top clubs but I remember breathing a sigh of relief each time such speculation was unfounded. The following season wasn’t quite so successful in terms of goals scored – The Buck only  found the net 20 times in Division Three to go with his 3 FA Cup goals. There was a first for Buckley this season. Following an injury at Chester in November of 1976 he was forced to miss four games. He had been ever-present since his arrival up to this point and had made 172 consecutive appearances. An amazing record as he was often kicked from pillar to post by defenders who couldn’t get the better of him.

He was ever-present in 1977-8 and notched another 24 league goals, one in the League Cup and four in the FA Cup which included a hat trick against Swansea. In October of 1978 Walsall did the unthinkable in the eyes of their supporters – they sold their prized asset to Birmingham City for a club record of £175,000. The goals dried up, the team had a dreadful season without him and were relegated to Division Four. Chairman Ken Wheldon pulled off a masterstroke to appease the fans and get the club back to where it belonged by appointing the then 28 year-old Buckley as player manager and paid the same fee to get the popular player back to Fellows Park. Assisted by general manager Bert Johnston, Buckley led The Saddlers back to Division Three in his first season as a manager as runners-up to Huddersfield Town notching 16 league goals and forming a terrific partnership with Don Penn who knocked in 25.

The next two seasons were struggles against relegation and Buckley was joint manager with Neil Martin for a while with Buckley reverting to just a player. Sanity was restored when Bucko became sole manager again when Martin left and although Alan picked himself less as he turned 30 on his day could stick hack it and chipped in with goals. His 200th for Walsall came in a 2-0 win at Plymouth in 1983 and he went on to score 205 goals from 484 goals in all competitions for Walsall before hanging up his boots to concentrate fully on managing. 1985-6 was to be his last in charge at the club. Despite finishing in 6th position that season (play offs were not in force then) new owner Terry Ramsden wanted his own men in and he lost his job. For those of us lucky enough to see Alan Buckley the player and see so many of his wonderful goals in our colours a piece of us died that day he was dismissed as it was clear he would never return to the club and it soured his love of our club for many years. It was a pleasure to see him in action for Walsall Football Club and its doubtful if his fine record of scoring 20 goals or more over five consecutive seasons will ever be beaten.