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Years Gone By - Colin Askey

Our latest installment of ”Years Gone By” comes from Walsall winger Colin Askey.

Walsall Trust Board member Steve Davies sat down with Colin in recent weeks.

Colin joined the Saddlers in 1958 and went onto make over eighty appearances for the Saddlers. Askey was part of the title winning side in 1959/60 season before winning a second successive promotion in 1960/61 season.

Around the country there are a number of true football families. Today I was going to meet one of those true football families.

I was on my way to Milton in Stoke on Trent but my first port of call was to collect Bob Askey the Chairman and Assistant manager of Stone Old Alleynians.

Bobs son Luke is Player Manager of the Old Boys and the early conversation sees me offering congratulations to Bob on another stunning victory in the Staffs Senior Cup against higher ranked Leek Town meaning they play Stafford Rangers in the Final in May at Burton Albions Pirelli Stadium in May.

The conversation then moves along to Bob's brother Macclesfield Town legend John Askey who has recently been installed as the new Manager of York City.

The main reason for todays visit is to meet Bob and John's dad COLIN ASKEY who holds a special place in the history of Walsall FC.

If you know you know but more on that later.

When I arrived brandishing my Walsall FC history book I was stunned to see Colin had the very same book! The Village of Milton was well known in the 1950’s as a footballing village where it seemed almost every other youngster was a professional football player.

Colin was born in the village on October 3rd 1932. I was surprised to find that despite Colin being a Port Vale legend he actually grew up a Stoke City fan. He recalls seeing in the local paper that City were looking for players so one day with his boots hung over his shoulder he set off on his bike for the Victoria Ground.

The place was in darkness when he arrived except for the groundsman who challenged the youngster about his reasons for being there. I've come for a trial for Stoke he announced only to be told to get on his way by the groundsman.

Thankfully Port Vale has scouts in the Village and they offered him an Apprenticeship in 1947 until 1949 when he was offered a contract on minimum wage.

Colin stayed at Vale until 1959, achieving a memorable promotion with the Vale from Division 3 North when only one team was promoted and was also a member of the team that reached the FA Cup Semi-Final in 1954.

Towards the end of his time at Vale, Colin struggled with injuries including having to have a cartilage operation.

Back then this was a major operation, nothing like the modern wonder of keyhole surgery. It had been known to end players careers when the operation went badly.

After nine years as a pro with two hundred appearances and twenty one goals - Vale were prepared to let him go and Colin recalls Bill Moore travelling to Milton to convince him to sign for Walsall.

The added bonus was that he was allowed to remain living in Milton and continued to train with Vale in the week just meeting up with his new team mates on matchday,travelling by train from Stoke to Wolverhampton then onto Fellows Park by bus! He also travelled with keeper John Savage.

Colin recalls that the Walsall boss Bill Moore was strict but always fair and he got on well with him. He does remember asking Bill why Colin Taylor was on more money than he was to which Bill replied" because he is a better player than you." to which Colin replied

“not in the Summer he isn't ".

Despite this Colin was very proud of the fact that he was the first person in the family to buy his own house. The Walsall players were like Choir boys in comparison with some of the hard drinking team mates he left behind at Vale Park!

No big signing on fee but there was a pay rise involved!

1958/59 saw Colin making his debut away at Exeter City on August 23rd in a 3-0 defeat he missed just one game up until January making twenty-six appearances scoring six goals before injury ended his season.

It was well into 1959/60 season when he made a welcome return scoring twice in a dozen appearances as the Saddlers clinched promotion and the Title itself.

1960/61 was really the season when Colin's time at Walsall really took off missing just eight games in the league and also appeared in the Saddlers first ever League Cup tie at Everton.

Colin was still training at Vale Park but this came to an abrupt end as the Saddlers hammered Vale 6-2 and he was told he couldn't train there any more. Thankfully Bill Moore was friendly with the Stoke boss Tony Waddington and arrangements were made for him to train at the Victoria ground instead!

He scored four times in this season the most notable being the day we clinched promotion at Gay Meadow against Shrewsbury Town on 26th April in front of a stunning crowd of 18,917.

He recalls it was an incredible atmosphere and made an amazing confession to me.

“I had to play in contact lenses and i lost one before the Shrewsbury game so actually played with just one contact lens in.” I scored the winner with a header which was very rare for me. I often wonder if I would have scored if I had both lenses in! “

But score he did and Colin became the Walsall hero as we achieved back to back promotions.

The following season saw injuries return plus the arrival at the club of George Meek who made the right wing position his own.

Colin was approached by Mansfield Town who offered him a pay rise to sign for the Stags.

Some of the names Colin remembered clearly from those days include Vic Potts the Trainer who he remembers as a very nice quiet character, Hard man Bill Gutteridge, Peter Billingham, Colin Taylor and Tony Richards who were great goalscorers.

Colin remembered his time at Walsall with great affection and would have made many more appearances had it not been for injuries. He was really pleased to know that he is not forgotten down at a club he served with distinction in what was undoubtedly a golden era at Walsall FC.

After leaving Walsall Colin Askey played for Mansfield Town in a forward line that included Ken Wagstaff Roy Chapman and Albert Scanlon. They won promotion from Division 4 to 3 under manager Raich Carter.

Colin was booked for the first and only time as a professional against Crystal Palace when the team sarcastically clapped the ref off the field (although Colin did not). After finishing at Mansfield Colin played non league for Macclesfield Telford and Stafford Rangers.

He was not sure on what occupation to take up but on meeting his ex-Vale colleague Stan Turner joined Stan working for Refuge Assurance Company. Colin loved the job as he enjoyed meeting people. He was very successful and ended up Manager of the Hanley Branch.

At the age of sixty-four Colin took retirement.

In retirement Colin’s main interest is football and he took great joy in watching the playing career and managerial career of son John. He always says he had two very enjoyable careers – firstly football and secondly insurance. Colin now lives a quieter life in Milton with wife June .

He celebrates his 90th birthday in October.

Thank you to son Bob Askey for making this interview happen and we send our best wishes to the Askey family.

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