Chapter 4 – “The Eighties – Watching every game”
Forward now to 1983-84, which saw our historic run to the League Cup semi-final.
Who can forget that magical night at Highbury where the Saddlers dominated most of the game, playing some excellent football through Mower, Shakespeare and Preece. The winning goal in a 2-1 win came late on but was well deserved against a strong Arsenal team. Went by car to this one but parking was a nightmare and finding it afterwards also proved problematic – but a very happy journey home!
A Mark Rees inspired win followed in Round 5, with the winger causing the home defence all sorts of problems all night and scoring twice.
Into the semi-final and what a night at Anfield. Went by car and got their early to enjoy the build-up. Although only about three-quarters full, the atmosphere was great as the Saddlers fans roared the team on. It was a fine performance too, going behind twice and equalising twice. The second equaliser was scored by Kevin Summerfield, who was being flagged offside by the Linesman. However, the referee, Neville Ashley, waved the flag away as he had seen it was a Liverpool player who had last played the ball. Going early, we had parked quite near the ground so got away quickly and found a nice country pub to watch the highlights and relive the wonderful night again.
While the League Cup produced some highlights, our early season form in the league produced some definite lowlights. A trip to Bolton Wanderers saw us beaten, embarrassed and humiliated 8-1. This was the worst feeling ever at a football match, with Bolton looking likely to score every time they attacked, we were just so inept. Ally Brown’s late goal threatened a come back but time defeated us, and it was a very sombre journey back home.
Three weeks later we were at it again, losing 6-3 at Oxford United with another worrying defensive display. It was a bad night all-round as we stopped for a drink home, then broke down in a remote location on the A41. Went to find a phone box or house to call assistance but were helped by a fellow in a car with a CB radio, who contacted his mate, who got help. We waited some time for the help to arrive, were towed to a unit in Coventry and then home. Arriving home around 3.30 am.
Another good night soon to follow again. Captured on television was a Round 5 replay at Watford, which finished 4-4 after extra time. In a pulsating clash, both sides held the lead before the Saddlers equalised to see the game into extra time and equalised again to force another replay. Again Walsall did not look out of place against First Division opposition, and everyone was full of praise for their performance. Went into the pub across the road to watch the highlights before setting off for home. Chatting to the home fans, they congratulated us on our performance, which we sadly failed to repeat in the next game – losing 1-0 at Fellows Park.
The following season, Saddlers reached the play-offs and, in the semi-final, won 3-1 at Notts County and repeated it at Bristol City. These were two good victories, especially the latter in front of a large vociferous and hostile crowd. Finally won the play-off final after losing the second leg 2-0.