Referees Were a Pushover

Today we are talking violence. Violence against officials. Recently I have started watching the Soprano’s on DVD and have a long way to go before I complete the set. I am already asking myself ‘will Tony Soprano be able to redeem himself in future episodes, for the violence he has committed?’ Does anyone ever get a chance to redeem themselves? Alan Buckley’s 3 Striped Adidas Shirt tells us a story….

Most football fans of today will be aware of Paolo Di Canio’s push on referee Paul Alcock in Sheffield Wednesday’s game against Arsenal in 1998 when the hot-head sent the official flying. It was shown endlessly on TV at the time and is available on YouTube for everyone to watch. It created such a stir that Di Canio was suspended for 11 games with a £10,000 fine for his trouble. Di Canio wasn’t alone, there are other examples that spring to mind… Newcastle’s David Batty was handed a 6 match ban for pushing David Ellery after being red carded, Emmanuel Petit a 3 game ban for pushing Paul Durkin and Birmingham’s Gary Poole was suspended for 4 games for a push on Richard Poulain.

Over 30 years ago, however, long before all games were filmed, Walsall’s own bad boy Jeff King landed up in hot-water after he committed the cardinal sin of pushing over referee Ray Lewis, who landed on his backside similar to the much publicised treatment of Paul Adcock by Di Canio.  It was on December 30th 1978 at Oxford United’s Manor Ground. Walsall had been awarded a throw-in, but King was fuming that, in his opinion, the ref had missed a foul by an Oxford player seconds before and sent Lewis flying. When Mr Lewis recovered his composure, he promptly sent the player off. He could have walked earlier in the game when he swung a blow at United’s winger Ray Graydon -I wonder whatever happened to him?- and the Saddlers went on to lose the game 2-1.

Ray Lewis went on to be a top referee, becoming a FIFA official. He was in charge at what became known as the ‘Hillsborough Disaster game’ in 1989 in that ill-fated FA Cup Semi Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and took charge of the 1991 League Cup Final between Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester United. He later became Chairman of the FA Referees Committee. As for bad boy King, he received a one match ban for his totting up offences and received a further lengthy ban when he was suspended for 5 games and fined two weeks wages by Walsall. Jeff King figured in a total of 59 games in his two years at Walsall and scored 6 goals.

The moral to this story is that violence doesn’t pay. A kiss on the cheek is preferable to a Glasgow kiss on the mouth. A nice smile is preferable to a Chelsea smile. A… no, I have ran out of other examples, but hopefully you get the point.


Saddlers on Tour – Germany 1966

Did you know that every time England wins a major football tournament that Walsall tour the country of the beaten finalists a couple of months before? Neither did I until Alan Buckley’s 3 Striped Adidas Shirt contacted me with that snippet of information. It seems that long before Auf Wiedersehen, Pet hit our screens, Walsall had already done the lads on the tour to Germany thing. Here are the details…

Walsall FC made history in 1966 by going on their first ever tour abroad when they visited Germany for two matches in early June. The first game was played at Wuppertal on June 1st which the Saddlers won 2-0 in front of 4,380 fans. Harry Middleton and George Kirby were on target. The second game took place on June 5th and an injury-hit Walsall lost 0-1 to Opel Russelheim with Gaspert netting the winner for the Germans in the 25th minute. The attendance for this friendly was 2,060.

Also in 1966 Walsall took part in an international youth tournament in Dortmund. Eight teams were divided into two preliminary sections. In their section Walsall finished in second place, behind the eventual tournament winners on goal average.  They won two matches and drew with the leaders, without conceding a goal. They then won the play off for third place. After being voted the best team in the tournament they played a match against a team representative of the other teams in the tournament which resulted in a draw.

Saddlers on Tour – Sudan (yes, Sudan!) 1970

‘They’ said you should keep your writing topical. If your team are in the depths of a relegation battle then write about teams that survived against all the odds, ‘they’ said. If the football world is talking about a particular subject in football then relate it back to your team, ‘they’ said. I took ‘their’ advice and told them were to shove it. We don’t chase the zeitgeist here, we pay no attention to ‘the man’. Today, with still two months to go of the season we are talking end of season tours.

Alan Buckley’s 3 Striped Adidas Shirt supplies the facts:

At the end of the 1969-70 season, Walsall embarked on a short tour of Sudan. The domestic season finished on April 24, with a 1-0 win at the Shay Stadium against Halifax Town. Just two days later the touring party flew out to Sudan and were based in the city of Omdurman, which is the second largest city in Sudan and Khartoum State. The Saddlers played in three games but failed to score in the heat, losing 0-1 twice and playing out a goal less draw. The results and match details were as follows….

April 29th, 1970.  El Halal 1 Walsall 0 Att 23,000.

Walsall- Parkes, Harrison, Evans, Bennett, Jones, Atthey, Watson, Trevis, Woodward, Seal, Baker.

Subs- Gregg, Wesson.

May 1st, 1970.  El Merreikh 0 Walsall 0 Att 18,000

Walsall- Parkes, Gregg, Evans, Harrison, Jones, Atthey, Watson, Trevis, Woodward, Baker, Gough.

Subs – Mc Ewan, Wesson.

May 4th, 1970.  El Merreikh 1 Walsall 0.

Walsall – Wesson , Gregg, Evans, Harrison, Jones, Atthey, Watson, Trevis, Woodward, Mc Ewan, Gough.

Subs – Baker, Seal.

In all matches the substitutes played and Walsall returned home on May 5th.

Can anyone provide any more information? Despite frenetic research (looking at BOTH of my Walsall books and doing a Google search); I have uncovered no more facts than those supplied above. Why did we go there?  Put your comments below…

Kick Homophobia Out Of Football

On the 1st March, Walsall centre-half, Manny Smith, was fined £1,200 for making homophobic comments on Twitter. The tweets were directed at the openly gay Walsall supporter, Kevin Paddock. Kevin now tells his story of those events and what it is like to be a gay football fan: 

In 1991 my father asked me if I would like to go to the “footie” to watch Walsall v Middlesbrough in a friendly. Unknowingly would I realise that saying ‘yes’ would have a major bearing on my life.

Once you fall in love with the beautiful game, it’s hard to lose that love – or so I thought….

Around 8 years ago I made the toughest decision of my life. I decided to come out, that I was gay – to my family and friends.To reveal your sexuality is one of the hardest things you will have to face as a gay man or woman.

A few people I know have been left homeless since coming out and become the black sheep of the family. This is something that was always in the back of my mind. How would my family react?

Luckily for me my family and friends were supportive and made life easier.

As a lot of people may know, it was me that was on the receiving end of the abuse from Manny Smith and Jamie Paterson.

Let me confirm that the club and both players have been fantastic since the incident and I cannot fault the club for their support – especially from Daniel Mole.

To receive personal abuse from anyone is hurtful but to receive it from “your idols” is even harder to take. Why should someone who I pay to watch (and pay a portion towards their earnings) be allowed to comment on my sexual preference when they don’t know me? I don’t allow my family or friends to use the Q word towards me so I’m not going to allow a professional footballer use that term.

When I met Manny in the presence of West Midlands Police, at first I thought he was going to be an ignorant footballer who hadn’t realised what harm had been done, but as I got talking to Manny I could see in his eyes that he was genuinely upset and annoyed at himself for saying what he did. He informed me that if he knowingly knew I was an openly gay man he wouldn’t have said what he did. I think that is easier said than done.

Why is there such a stigma surrounding football and homosexuality??

On a Saturday afternoon I find myself hiding behind who I am.

When I am around fellow supporters in the pub or at the stadium, the doubt is always in the back of my mind, not knowing their reaction to my sexuality. This is not down to how my fellow fans are towards me nor how I am as a person but it’s purely down to the stigma within the footballing world.

How many gay footballers are there at the 92 football league clubs?

We don’t know. But what we do know is that 1 in 4 men are gay, so amongst the 1900+ professional footballers, at least one of them has to be gay.

Now I don’t care what footballer is or isn’t gay but the point is there needs to be a stance and allow the freedom of one professional footballer to reveal he is gay to stop the stigma. Gareth Thomas (Welsh Rugby Star) recently came out as gay and it has had no comebacks, and that’s in a sport that is deemed more ‘manly’ than Football.

If only the FA had acted sooner to promote “The Kick It Out Campaign” I feel we wouldn’t be in this position today.

I am now assisting The Justin Campaign, to kick homophobia out of football. For readers that aren’t aware, Justin Fashanu, was the brother of former Wimbledon striker John Fashanu. Justin was the first openly gay footballer and due to the abuse he received, he hung himself. This story adds to the problems surrounding homosexuality in football.

This season the FA have joined up with The Justin Fashanu campaign to kick homophobia out of football. This campaign has unanimously been agreed by all clubs in the football league, including Walsall.

I can safely say that if the club and Manny hadn’t have responded the way they have to the situation, then I probably wouldn’t have attended another Walsall game for a long time. My love for football and Walsall FC has hit an all-time low, however the apology and the support from the club has given me belief that everyone is trying to stamp this stigma out of the beautiful game.

Kick homophobia out of football.

I contacted Lindsay England, founding Director of ‘Just a Ball Game?’ an organisation that tackle homophobia in sport and she gave me this reply to the ‘Manny Smith’ situation:

‘Great that the club took action, and through the correct channels the fine was introduced via the FA. An apology of sorts I suppose is better than none at all but something a little more sincere perhaps was needed. Smith needs to realise that whether he is in the spotlight or not, as a role model his actions can lead- as they did- for others to follow suit and post even more vile, hateful words. And words as we know can cut very deep with others even if we genuinely mean no harm. Making comments when you get frustrated and then regret them later I suppose happens to all of us in our lifetime. But a little self-education perhaps was missing as there is surely much more which could have been said, instead of what was. Saying ‘sorry’ in person was a noble thing to do, but it did seem like the apology was more to do with being caught out and fined than really genuinely meant. Football players and indeed all sports people need to learn very quickly that in the work place or out of it this is not acceptable. The Equalities Act means you can be fired for these types of bullying, and being homophobic is a hate crime and punishable by law.’

‘It would be great to see the FA use the money from the fine to distribute to those of us without any funding, so we can help to make even more of a difference.’

Please support both ‘The Justin Campaign’ and ‘Just a Ball Game?’ to help eradicate homophobia from our national game.

‘V’ Not A Sign Of Victory!

‘You know they don’t give a fu** about anybody else, you know they don’t give a fu** about anybody else’. So sang the Super Furry Animals on their stomping record ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fu**’. Why am I telling you this? Because I like swearing is one answer. The other answer is that on the front cover of this record is a photo of the ultimate cu*t footballer (that is meant to read ‘cult’ by the way, it is just my little joke), Robin Friday. He is giving the V sign to Luton Town goalkeeper to Milija Aleksic while playing for Cardiff City. But it seems that he wasn’t the only one doing this, as Alan Buckley’s 3 Striped Adidas Shirt explains…

I recently mentioned that striker Roy McDonough used to issue ‘V’ signs when he scored his occasional goals before the Hillary Street Enders in his time here. This reminded me of a highly-charged game at Fellows Park on 21st October, 1980, in which two players gave ‘V’ signs to supporters during the game and one gave had such an impact that the crowd were baying for blood at the end of the game. Walsall had enjoyed a great previous season in which Alan Buckley, as player/manager, had guided the team to promotion from the Fourth Division but he and the players were finding life more difficult this term, with some poor early form at Fellows Park. Bucko seemed to be finding it more difficult to be playing as well as managing, but was again top scorer. He found it frustrating that many players were not playing at their best.

Following a lucky 1-0 home win over Newport on the Saturday, the fans anger spilled out when their team went into the interval 0-2 down to Exeter and left the field with chants of  “what a load of rubbish” ringing in their ears. After taunts from a section of the crowd early in the second half, Buckley substituted himself in the 63rd minute, gave a ‘V’ sign to the crowd as he trooped off and was heard shouting to the fans “I’ve finished.” Exeter scored a third goal before Mark Rees pulled one back in the 87th minute and he too felt the need to issue a ‘V’ sign to the fans who had been on the backs of the players all evening.

After the game when he cooled down Alan Buckley issued an apology through the press saying, “The majority of our supporters are super, but there’s a minority who come along to have a go at me. I could be 50 or 60 yards away from incidents, but I was getting so much abuse for what other people are doing. I brought myself off to make the crowd happy, but I shall not be doing that again. I have learned my lesson.” Thankfully peace and harmony was restored after this game with the jeering ceasing and the players behaving like professionals.

It seems that even Alan Buckley cannot escape criticism from the Walsall fans and he is one of our best ever players! There is no pleasing some people. They really don’t give a fu**, do they?

Amendment Alert – I say! Please see the comments section, to find out what this rude gesture meant to Walsall fans.

Red Card Roy McDonough – Roy’s Unwanted Record

Former Saddler Roy McDonough had quite a career, but mainly for all the wrong reasons, as he holds the record for most red cards in a career. 22 to be exact. He also shares the record of the most Football league dismissals, jointly held with Steve Walsh, at a relatively meagre total of 13.

After just two games for Birmingham City, he arrived at Fellows Park in September 1978, a fresh faced striker of just 19 years of age. He was over six foot tall and it was soon evident that he could look after himself on the pitch. He had the odd game at centre half and he made the men he was marking aware of his presence with as much gusto as when he was playing as a striker. Let’s just say, he made ALL his opponents aware that he was around.

He was signed for Walsall by Alan Ashman and he was on target in just his second game in our colours and soon afterwards scored two and hit the bar twice in a 4-1 win over Peterborough. However Big Roy, or Donut as he was often called, somehow never lived up to that early goal scoring record and in the course of two years at Fellows Park hit 15 goals in 82 appearances. Walsall slipped into Division Four at the end of that season, but he enjoyed a better season in the basement, linking up with Alan Buckley and Don Penn. He made 40 full appearances in that promotion and whilst only helping himself to 7 goals always gave his all as Buckley and Penn notched 40 between them.

It was during that 79-80 season when his reputation for being a bad boy developed. He got sent-off for dissent in an away game at Lincoln after earlier being booked. That summer he refused to sign a new contract as he was not happy with the terms offered and went on week-to-week contracts as he fell out with the club and the manager, Buckley. Geoff Hurst, the then Chelsea manager, wanted him on trial for a week but Walsall insisted he was for sale only and Chelsea duly stumped up the £15,000 required by the Saddlers.

One of my Fellows Park memories of ‘Donut’ is that he was sometimes the target of the boo-boys when things were not going Walsall’s way and when he did score one of his all-to infrequent goals he would give a ‘V’ sign to the Street Enders, which obviously riled the supporters even more. This was not forgotten by Saddlers fans who would barrack him when he played against Walsall for many years thereafter. He never made the grade at Stamford Bridge and was sold on to Colchester, for whom he had two spells. He also later had two spells with Southend United plus stints at Cambridge and Exeter and over these years it was no surprise to read in the press of another red card for Roy.

In his Football League career he chalked up 80 goals in 437 full apps and dropped into the Conference with Colchester in his second spell. As a player-manager with the ‘U’s he did the double, guiding them back into the Football League and an FA Trophy success. He banged in 29 goals that season and got into the news for all the wrong reasons again having spats with Martin O’Neill, Wycombe’s coaching staff and the Wycombe Wanderers players by taunting the lot of them!

On regaining their League status I recall a visit to Layer Road in the 1992/93 season and whilst waiting for corners to be taken he was winding up the Saddlers fans –  goading them with abuse of which he got plenty back!  After being sacked by Colchester he drifted into the non-league scene again and got sacked at Heybridge for bad discipline as well as bad results. On his day he was quite a handful and a decent striker, despite the goal record. One thing is for sure, he was certainly a player who left his mark…if not for all the right reasons. His confrontational style was his trademark, after all.

If you want to know more about Roy McDonough then his biography is coming out on August 20th 2012.  The book is called ‘Red Card Roy’, and more details will be available here:

There are two or three chapters about his time at Walsall and some great stories – especially regarding his relationship with the Fellows Park crowd and Alan Buckley.

It is published through Vision Sports Publishing, who recently published a book about another Birmingham old boy, which is called ‘Mick Rathbone’s Smell of Football’.

The Sean Geddes Interview

Sean Geddes has kindly put himself forward to be the first ex-Saddler interviewed for The Gilbert Alsop. Sean was surprisingly released in the summer of 2011 and has now linked up with Stourbridge Town, who are currently in 6th place of the Evostik League – Premier Division. Sean, who has previously been chosen to play at under 19 level for Wales, is having an excellent season – scoring a number of goals – as he bids to get Stourbridge promoted to Tier 6 and earn for himself a move back into the Football League.

Let’s start by asking you what you were like at school. Were you the best player in your school team? Did you ever play in a game when you scored more than 10 goals? Yes, I was the best player at school and ‘no’ I always set them up.

How were you spotted by Walsall? I wasn’t spotted by Walsall I was spotted by Manchester United and Walsall FC are a feeder club for Manchester United.

What was it like effectively signing a three-year deal with Walsall at just 16 as you were given a one year apprenticeship to be followed by a two-year pro offer? I only signed a 3 year deal in-case Manchester United didn’t work out, but I regret signing the deal now because there were other big teams looking at me and I couldn’t leave because of the 3 years I still had on my contract.

Will Grigg has played a few games this season. Was he the stand out player from your group of players?  Will Grigg was the best youth team player – he always worked hard and was the last to leave training every day. 

I remember in the summer of 2010 you came on as sub in the two big home friendlies v. Wolves and Villa and started the game at Port Vale. What were those experiences like? The experience was great and I loved playing in front of a lot of people, it was a great buzz. I didn’t expect to start at Port Vale so I was very nervous.

I saw you play for Walsall Youth against Chelsea Youth in the FA Youth Cup a few years back. We lost 5-1 but I thought we gave them a decent game especially considering the calibre of players they had. Unfortunately, you were sent off in that game. What are your memories of the game? Were that Chelsea team the best you have played against? We should have had a penalty in that game but the ref didn’t give it. Chelsea were not the best team I have played against. The best team I played against was in the Nike Cup against Barcelona – they were a great passing side.

Is Mick Halsall the loudest man in football? He was the ONLY person I could hear that night. Mick Halsall is very passionate about his job and he was the biggest help I had while I was at Walsall and when he left it was a massive loss to Walsall FC.

Who would you say was the best manager for the club and you personally as you served under Jimmy Mullen, Chris Hutchings and Dean Smith? Chris Hutchings was the best because if you were finding it tough he would always have a chat with you and the door was always open to talk to him.

Whilst at Bescot you were reportedly linked with moves to bigger clubs. West Brom, Manchester United, Blackburn, Bolton and Newcastle were amongst some the press mentioned. Was that a distraction, an embarrassment, flattering, or was it viewed as just media speculation? Was there any truth in this? Yes, it was all true. I was flattered more than anything, knowing such big clubs were interested, but Walsall refused all bids.

Plenty of young players have been released by their first league club, dropped in to non-league football and returned to have a decent career after all. Does this dream spur you on? Yes of course it does. There are already a few league clubs interested, so hopefully I will be moving on soon.

October 29th 2011, my birthday, I am playing golf, having a great day, I then get a text from my Mom telling me that Stourbridge have prevented Rushall Olympic, one of my local clubs from going into the first round of the FA Cup for the first time and not only that, they got walloped 5-0. This took the shine off my birthday. How do you feel? Ha, ha, well I’m sorry about that but it was great to be part of my first FA Cup run.  It was fantastic to get to the second round. It was incredible, I loved every minute of it.

The Glassboys shocked the football world with their fine 2-0 FA Cup win over Plymouth this season. What was that experience like? What was it like on the coach back to the Black Country after earning a replay? The experience was great and to play a good game and have took part in both goals was also great. The coach was buzzing – the beers were flying through the coach- everyone was really enjoying the experience.

The new England captain, Scott Parker, appeared in a McDonalds advert doing keepie-uppies in his back garden. How many can you do? Can you do that thing of balancing the ball on the back of your neck? I don’t count how many keepie-uppies I can do as I  do too many to be counting them. One of my first skills I learnt was to balance the ball on the back of my neck.

What is it like travelling to provincial backwaters of England – to places such as Tipton, Hemel Hempstead and Brackley? Do you get to see much of these places? Can you personally hear the fans if they are abusing you? The lower the level the more you can hear the fans because there are only barriers between you so you can hear them a lot more, but it makes it a better experience. No, you don’t see much of the places where you play. Have you ever played against Pelsall Villa? No.

Finally some quick-fire questions, about your time at Walsall. Which player was the:

Most skilful? Hardest? Laziest? Liberal? Intelligent? The most skilful player was Ismael Demontagnac. The hardest player was Antony Gerrard. Laziest? Ismael again. Intelligent? Has to be Mark Hughes.

Thank you very much Sean. Let’s hope you get Stourbridge promoted this season then get your move to a Football League club. In the meantime, here is a video of Sean in action, showing the hardest player who used to be at Walsall, how it is done:

Sean Geddes Penalty

There will be more interviews on the way, soon! 

Leyton Orient v Walsall – Live Blog!

Yes, that is right, live blog! Do not plan anything for this Saturday as The Gilbert Alsop will be doing a live blog from the ground. I have recently joined this century and got myself a mobile phone with the Internet on, proper Internet as well! I will be experimenting with this new device on Saturday. Set your dial to this station!

Test line

Der der der deder der der der der derde derda derda do – so goes the theme to Grandstand – stay tuned for the live blog!

2.30pm The Gilbert Alsop was violently ill last night and ‘saw action at both ends’. Let’s hope that this game is just as action packed.

I have taken my seat with 50 other Walsall fans on a beautiful sunny day in Leyton. 16 quid in for me because I am a student 25 quid for everyone else. No team news yet.

2.35pm Memories of this ground? The first time I came here was for an Auto Windscreens game in Winter a few years back. It was the coldest game I have ever been to. We lost 1-0 with Darren Wrack missing a sitter in injury time which would have meant extra time or penalties. This is the only time I was glad we have lost. On the plus side I did get to sit next to Pete Waterman.

2.40pm Team news: Grof Sadler Butler Lancashire Grigg Taundry Paterson Peterlin Cuevelir Macken. Missed the other one as it was read out too fast. I asked another fan but he must have been asleep as he had no idea. I am going to guess at Nicholls. Meaning Taundry will play at right back. As I am not sure how to spell the Belgian lad’s name, I will call him Flo.

2.50pm Changed my mind about Nicholls. He is wearing a trackie top.

2.55pm I reckon there are 250 Saddlers here. I am going for a victory to us.

3.00pm Still none the wiser about our 11th man. The theme from ‘Its a Knockout’ is the song Orient come out to. Rather jolly…

Hurst is the mystery man on the left wing. 5 minutes in and I can see Flo’s quality already.

3.12pm Not much happening. Flo took a heavy challenge early doors. Watching a couple of fans watch the game from their apartment. That is the measure of the quality on show.

3.24pm Lovely skills from Flo, for fans of FIFA 98 he just did a Rocastle turn in their area. Good bit of pressure. Walsall doing well.

3.29pm Shot from Hurst flies wide. Orient head straight at Grof.

3.36pm GOAL to Orient. Against the run of play a long hoof upfield and Grof is beaten to the ball by the striker who taps home.

3.40pm SENDING OFF. A shocker of a challenge in the centre circle sees Orient reduced to 10. Will Flo get up? He has.

Half time: Walsall should be happy with that display. Unlucky to be a goal down. Flo, Paterson and Hurst playing well. Orient a very physical team. I still believe we can win this.

4.05pm We are back under way. The steward brings over a pot of tea for the Policemen. Over here mate, I’m parched!

4.19pm SUB Grigg off and Nicholls on. Orient playing the better football. Grof looking suspect on crosses. Walsall fans getting restless.

4.23pm Decent penalty shout turned down for Walsall comes just after Grof makes a save from a 1 on 1.

Walsall the better team now. Having all the possesion.

4.33pm SUB Bowerman on for Peterlin. Walsall fans get what they want.

4.45pm If anyone is going to score again it is Orient. They have soaked up the pressure and are creating the better chances on the counter attack. Butler has been pushed up front. Beevers on for Hurst.

4.50pm It is all long ball from Walsall bypassing Flo in midfield. 3 minutes of injury time.

GOALLLLLLLLLL Walsall have drawn. No idea who scored.

It was Lancashire from a corner in the 93rd minute. Wild celebrations!!!!

I am waiting for my train back home and reflecting on the game. Orient defended brilliantly and managed to create the better chances with Grof making several good saves. Walsall had a lot of possession but did not create enough chances. Flo played far too deep in the second half as he would get the ball of defence only for a team mate to lump the ball into the box.

Credit to Taundry who covered a lot of ground and when moved into midfield hit a great shot that forced the corner from where our goal came.

Grof came up for the corner, something we never see Walker do, and he did cause a panic as Lancashire scored with a great header.

A fair result. Paterson gets my vote as MOTM.