Over the next few weeks we shall be looking back at the memoirs of legendary Walsall supporter Stan Blandford, here is chapter two and three.
Chapter 2 – “A Day not forgotten”
The vast majority of trips have been stress-free generally, without travel problems. However, one journey stands out in particular as one to forget, but I could not possibly forget it. It was a trip Oldham Athletic in October 1966.
My Father was a bus conductor and his regular driver, also called Stan, had become a fan. On this particular Saturday, their early turn finished before noon, so decided to go to Oldham.
Stan had checked the car the night before, so off we set on the M6. Got past Stafford and a warning light came on; it was a problem with the oil, which Stan had forgotten to check! Turned off at J15 to the garage on the A34 and sorted the problem out. Great, slight delay but on the way again.
There was no M62 yet, so it was through Manchester centre, unfortunately this meant going past Old Trafford at 2.30 pm on a day when they were at home, so more delay.
Finally got into Oldham about 3.10 pm, but KO not until 3.15 pm. No idea where the ground was, so asked a local. We then spent the next half-hour roaming around Oldham, following rubbish directions, before finally finding the ground. Got in just before half-time, to find the score was 2-2. About 65 minutes later, we were losing 6-2, so decided to leave.
Getting out of Oldham proved a nuisance also. Three times around a one-way system, three times past the same bus queue, before we eventually escaped.
The plan was to visit Stan’s in-laws in Crewe on the way back and thankfully this part of the journey went well, and we spent a very pleasant evening there. The rest of the journey home was uneventful. Stan came in for a coffee, but when he went back to the car, it would not start. Eventually he solved the problem, and he went home. A typical end to a rotten day!
Chapter 3 – “Broadening my horizons”
I started going to a few more games and in the early 1970s tried to go to all the away games but did miss the odd one or two each season.
There were no real stand-out games for a while, but memories include FA Cup visits to Leytonstone in consecutive seasons, a late equaliser at St Alban’s to spare our blushes, a four-game epic with Brighton with a second replay at a freezing cold Fulham.
In the League Cup, two replays with Manchester City at Maine Road, where Bernie Wright tackled Rodney Marsh direct from the KO and Marsh went off injured, and at Old Trafford, Francis Lee fell over twice in the penalty area and was duly rewarded by the Referee Harry Davey with two penalties as we lost 4-0.
As for league games, the only highlight I can recall were two 0-0 draws at Villa Park and a 3-3 draw at Tranmere Rovers with all the goals coming in the last 20 minutes after 70 minutes of dross.
Back to Old Trafford the next season saw another excellent performance and a goalless draw with outstanding displays by players like Stan Bennett and Nick Atthey. Winning the replay at Fellows Park and then beating Newcastle United, it was disappointing to go out tamely at Birmingham City in Round 5.
Two seasons later and we were back at Old Trafford again, but only after one of the best goalkeeping displays I have ever seen, a 1-0 win over Chesterfield in a second replay at Derby saw Mick Kearns on a bitterly cold night and rock-hard pitch, make save after save and earn the victory.
This season, 1976/77 saw a 5-3 win at Peterborough on the 7th May with a Birch hattrick, notable because it was the game which started my long run of consecutive games.
Two seasons later we were relegated to Division 4 butreturned the following season on the back of solid displays home and away.
The only recollection of that season is that the FA decided our Round 2 second replay at Halifax Town should be played on Christmas Eve. The pitch was like an ice rink, but the pressure was on to play as there were limited number of days available before Round 3 was due to be played. We lost 2-0 but at least before the game spent an acceptable hour or so with friends at a pub in Denshaw on the Moors.
Interesting FA Cup ties came in the form of trips to Blyth Spartans and North Shields, where it was great to talk to the locals about football in the club before the games. Facilities are a bit limited, but I do enjoy visiting such places provided, of course, we win!
We will bring you more wonderful memories from Stan over the coming days.