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Stan Blandford Memoirs - Chapters 8 And 9

Here are the latest chapters from legendary lifelong Saddlers fan Stan Blandford

CHAPTER 8 – 1990 “A Missed Game”

We played at Swansea in the FA Cup Round 2 in December 1990. The only game I actually missed since May 1977.

I was due to travel with the Press, but it was not to be.

Friday night saw a massive snow fall cover the Midlands, and whilst and managed to reach Paul Marston’s house, it was clear they would not be going. So, I walked round to Bescot, but the Supporters’ Coaches had been cancelled. Suddenly, a Birmingham bound train was pulling into Bescot Station – I dived onto it and got to Birmingham but could get no further.

Getting home proved to very hard, buses to Walsall had been stopped so I tried going via West Bromwich, sadly the bus got stuck on the way so there was no option but to walk – it was only 12 miles but was very hard through the snow.

Eventually, got home, somewhat tired, around 6.00 pm. Saddlers lost 2-0!

CHAPTER 9 - “The Early Nineties”

Another disastrous relegation season followed, and after two average seasons, reached the play-offs with a game against Crewe Alexandra.

The season had opened with a very entertaining 4-3 victory at Carlisle United. Near the end of the season, we played at Halifax Town and won 4-0 with a Mike Cecerihat-trick.

It was a very interesting afternoon, as I sat in the stand next to Paul Marston, who was constantly sending copy back to the office for The Sports Argus. About 15 minutes from time, Paul sent in his summary that used to be on the front page. The score was then 1-0, but then scored 3 and Ceceri got his hat-trick. Paul must have redone his summary at least three times, at the same time as doing the report on the pitch. If you thought covering football was cushy job, forget it! Of coursewithout the evening football paper it is now easier, but back then it really could be a pressurised job.

We journeyed to Crewe highly optimistic, buthad an afternoon to forget. An horrendous defensive display, with mistakes aplenty, and conceded poor goals, meant a 5-1 defeat, and the end of our promotion hopes. To make things worse, we lost the home leg 4-2 to hold the record for the worst play-off defeat.

Promotion was achieved two seasons later, finishing runners-up.

The last game was at Bury on a Thursday night. Two days after a game at Scarborough, and two days before everyone else played their final games.

This scheduling was determined by the Football League, and was the subject of much discussion at the time.

For me it was a nightmare, as the Thursday was local council election day and I was a deputy Returning Officer. I contacted the League on the issue, but they would not budge. Greater Manchester Police were no help either and they felt confident they could adequately police that game and the elections.

In the end there was no alternative, I had to resign as deputy Returning Officer, as I could not miss such an important game!

The game itself was a feisty, nervous affair, with an early poor tackle on Martin O’Connor setting the tone. Fortunately, it did not boil over and without too many alarms, Saddlers had avoided defeat and would be promoted. After the game, I sat in the stand alone for ages waiting to go on BBC WM with an interview, listening to all the celebrations going on and being disappointed I was not joining in.

One notable trip that season was to Elland Road, Leeds, for an FA Round 3 replay. The original tie had been a cracker, with Chris Marsh putting the Saddlers ahead in the first half. Leeds then laid siege to the home goal, but a tremendous performance by goalkeeper, Trevor Wood, and the defence kept them at bay until the final minute. The replay was a good affair, with the Saddlers matching their opponents once again. After 90 minutes, which included a floodlight failure, the score was 2-2. Unfortunately, Walsall could not maintain the efforts and finally lost 5-2 but had put in a performance to be proud of against higher opposition.

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