I am a very proud Walsall Football Club supporter.
I’ve supported them since my early teens.
It was love at first sight.
Not because they were brilliant, far from it. But because the experience of physically watching football matches, and watching The Saddlers in particular was so much fun.
Standing on the terraces, joining in with the singing, the celebrations and the sarcastic jeers had me hooked.
Up The Saddlers
I sold the idea to other friends, even going to midweek reserve team games and as I grew up a little, my dad then started to come with me to watch.
We’ve been through some genuine highs and lows. Following Walsall all over the country.
The night we drew nil-nil away at Gigg Lane with Bury to all but clinch promotion will live with me forever.
As will Dean Keates’ last minute screamer at Swindon that wrestled the League Two Championship crown from Hartlepool United.
That was even topped by being in the Air Balloon pub afterwards, and the team coach noticing the Walsall fans had taken it over for the day, and them then turning around to join us fans in our celebrations.
Truly magical stuff.
And I thought we may never top it.
Then Max started coming to Walsall games.
|Boy + Pie + Football = Aces|
I’ve written about his super powers before, there’s even a chapter dedicated to them in my book, but they still continue to astound me.
The first one he has is to make everything more fun than it has ever been. And as he’s taken to coming to Walsall games with me (and his granddad) the experience that I’ve always loved, has got even better.
I explained to him recently, that I’ve never enjoyed going to the football more.
Regardless of the results and performances, sitting with him, and my dad, always makes for an enjoyable afternoon.
Which is one of the reasons why I’m passionately involved with the Football League’s work in encouraging family excellence.
Then there’s his second super power. Where everything he seems to come into contact with him performs beyond their previous performances.
Like when he came to watch me play hockey for the first time, and I rattled in two corking goals in one game, despite only ever scoring a handful of goals in the hundreds of games I’d played before.
And now, as he’s chosen to come and support Walsall, in his very first season as a full-blooded attending supporter, they make it to Wembley for the first time in their 127-year history!
Well done Walsall Football Club
On Sunday we will take on big spending Bristol City in the final of the Johnston’s Paint Trophy. They are the highest ranked team in the competition so it would be no mean feat to come away winners.
The playing and coaching staff of Walsall must indeed be congratulated on their immense efforts to even get to the final. Defying the odds at almost every round to get there.
However my biggest praise is reserved for the club itself, and how they’ve handled getting to the final.
They’ve done a tremendous job of engaging with the fan base and wider community and the normal loyal 3,500 home crowd has been swelled to nearly 30,000 supporters for Wembley.
Which actually formed part of my initial fears. I was always confident of getting tickets to the final, but wanted to share the experience with the friends I usually go to away games with rather than with anonymous fans only coming along to this game.
I’m delighted to type that that is going to happen. I have some fabulous friends I’ve made through supporting Walsall – something Max recognised himself at our last home game – and they braved the cold and the queues to ensure we would be sat, or stood singing, together.
The club did a fantastic job facilitating us and many other fans, and it was clearly a tremendous collective effort.
Players recognised this too, even making hot drinks for the hard-working ticket office staff.
The town has really got behind the club, even turning the its famous concrete Hippo into a Walsall Fan to mark the event.
Wish us luck
Whatever the result on Sunday, we are confident of making a decent account of ourselves.
The team, and the fans.
It will be a trip, that myself, my dad, and Max will probably remember forever.
Up The Saddlers!