Years Gone By - Bill Jones

Bill Jones has had a lifetime in football however his work career saw him start out as a toolmaker at the age of 16 back in 1956.  He played for a number of local teams in and around the Walsall area and was asked to run others including Bloxwich Strollers and Forest Star and built up a bit of a name for himself on the local circuit.  He got in with well respected coaches like Ken Hodgkisson and Albert Mc Pherson.


Whilst Sammy Chung was Tamworth manager Bill would go over to The Lamb regularly and watch their youth team games. In doing so Paul Taylor told Bill that Walsall were after someone and Stuart Ryder was suggested.  Stuart of course went on to not only play games for Walsall before injury cruelly robbed him of a very promising career and also England Youth honours.


Bill enjoyed a variety of roles in his long association with The Saddlers and was very happy to assist in all of them. They included the titles of Youth Liaison Officer,  Sports Complex Manager, Youth Recruitment Officer, Welfare Officer as well as various others!


Bill was keen to point out the wonderful support from Jeff Bonser and Roy Whalley in everything he wanted to do at the club.


The Head Of Youth that Bill worked alongside included Eric Mc Manaus, Mick Halsall and Dean Smith and he enjoyed working with all of them and had a very good working relationship with all of them.  By 1995 it had expanded so much there were so many players under his scrutiny and well being and there were hundreds of reports to write out on all the players. One of the hardest parts of that job of course is to tell the majority of them that they were not going to make it at Walsall FC.


There was that link up with Manchester United around 2004 and Bill was involved in that and on visits to their training ground formed a friendship with Sir Alex Ferguson and the pair would often have lunch together.  Bill got involved with a little bit of scouting on United's behalf as officially our location meant that we were out of the 80 miles radius of what was permitted for


Premiership clubs - there was nothing against any would-be starlets being signed by him for Walsall and eventually being transferred to the Manchester giants!  But alas nothing came of it.  There was even a visit to China for Bill at this time.


There was one stroke of luck from neighbours Aston Villa.  Bill takes up the story

" One morning there was a call for me from the Aston Villa Supporters Association who asked could we make use of a £25,000 cheque that we had won from Coca Cola? I thought someone had set me up here - a wind up but the chap insisted otherwise. . He said there were certain conditions such as we had to spend the money in certain ways  -  not on players  -  but  equipment and facilities  etc . Part two of the prize was a  training session for a couple  of lads with Wayne Rooney which went down well "

Amongst his most bizarre requests was from the chairman when Paul Merson was having troubles with his personal life..


“There was a directive from Jeff Bonser telling me to pick up Paul Merson from his house as the media had gotten wind of Paul's troubles and he was a bit worried his manager may say something he'd regret so fair enough I duly went over there and rang him seconds before I arrived, grabbed him and whisked him off to the Delves Road training ground we were using at the time.  Even at the training ground there was two or three journalists milling about but I managed to get him in and the gates were locked behind us so the vultures couldn't get at him!"

There was one bleak day in all his years at Walsall FC.

" The saddest day of my working life at Walsall Football Club was when promising player Anton Reid passed away on the field and having to drive to his mother's house to tell her the sad news of her son."

On a happier note, Bill was responsible for signing so many players at an early age who went on to have decent careers in the game including the likes of Dean Keates, Will Grigg, Mal Benning, George Bowerman, Rico Henry , Keiron Morris, Alex Nicholls and out of the current team Liam Kinsella.

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