If it wasn’t for back-to-back promotions from the Blue Square Premier up to League One, who knows when we’d first meet Walsall. It was almost like the void that was missing in our existence. No, really. In the three campaigns we were part of the third tier, our head-to-head against the Saddlers was nice and even: two wins, two draws, and two defeats. Actually, they were the last team we beat before dropping back into League Two.
Of course, the Saddlers stayed put and it meant we didn’t cross paths again. Well, for five years. After losing their own battle for survival in 2019, down to League Two they came. The downside, for those of you who love symmetry, is that we’d have to risk our beautifully-balanced head-to-head record. Unless we draw with each other every time we meet from now until the end of the world. And that’s not a completely inconceivable happening. Is it?
In 1888, Walsall Town and Walsall Swifts weren’t having much success as separate entities. So, they decided to join forces and call themselves… Walsall Town Swifts. And that’s the start of our journey here – whether you like it or not. One year later, they would become founder members of the Football Alliance. But things were happening fast at this point in time; becoming founder members of the Football League’s new Division Two in 1892. After some less-than-impressive showings, the Saddlers failed in their bid for re-election in 1895.
At this point, the Saddlers joined the Midland League; dropping ‘Town Swifts’ from their name at the same time. Now came some indecision on the Football League’s part. After rejoining the club in 1896, they again found themselves in the non-league wilderness in 1901. It took 20 years – and the creation of Division Three North – that Walsall would be back in the Football League. Even then, the competition couldn’t make up their mind what to do with them; switching them between Division Three North and South three times between 1927 and 1937.
We can now pretty much fast forward here. For much of the time that followed, the Saddlers would compete in either the third or fourth tier. On occasion, starting in 1961, they’d pop up in the second tier. But they were often short-lived outings and relegation back to the third tier was normally not long in coming. And they’ve not yet managed to repeat their best-ever league finish of sixth in the second tier; a record that was set in Division Two in 1898-9. As far as any other ‘honours’ go, they did reach the League Cup semi-finals in 1983-4 (losing 4-2 on aggregate to Liverpool)?
Why do we know the Saddlers?
The Saddlers dropped into League Two in 2006 – but secured an instant return by winning the title. From that point on, they became relatively settled in League One. Finishes of 12th, 13th, and 10th show how they didn’t exactly set the world alight. But there neither was there danger of them returning to the fourth tier any time soon. Well, we say that – but they survived relegation by a solitary point at the end of the 2010-1 season. That twist of fate would have an impact where we’re concerned. Quite simply, it meant they remained a League One side as we came up from the division below. And there we go…
How to get to Walsall – Travel Information – Distance: 103 miles
For your trip to the West Midlands, cross country using your preferred route to join the M1. From here, travel northbound and exit onto the M6. If you travel via the A14, however, you can forget the M1 and just join the M6.
Continue onto the old section of the M6 towards central Birmingham. Exit the motorway at Junction 9 for the A461 towards Walsall. At the lights, continue onto Wallows Lane/A4148, which bears round to the right.
Another set of traffic lights will present itself, at which point you will need to turn right onto Bescot Crescent. The ground will be located on the left hand side of the road.
You can park at the stadium if you like. Each car costs £4, while minibuses and coaches are charged at £6 and £12 respectively. Those prices include disabled supporters.
If you’re in the Green Zone, be aware that you’ll be locked in if you’re not away within a couple of hours after the full time whistle.
You can also park up at Bescot Stadium Railway Station for £2 if you prefer.
Station: BESCOT STADIUM
Services to: BIRMINGHAM NEW STREET (for PETERBOROUGH, LONDON EUSTON)
Walsall is among a rare breed of football clubs in that their home ground has its very own railway station. To take advantage of this, you need to change at Birmingham New Street for the 20-minute journey.
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