I’m sure like me, you’ve been asked on occasion ‘Why?’ you support Walsall Football Club. In most contexts, I guess like me you answer with how you started to support the Saddlers, whether that’s as simple as being your home town or club, or your dads team or something more random.
How you started is perhaps easy to answer; but why you continue to do so, is not as straightforward; particularly when you don’t live in the town & given the last 15 years of failure. I’ll be honest & say it’s a question I have asked myself on the odd occasion.
But in the last few weeks, it’s become even more evident to me how important Walsall Football Club is & always will be to me. My incredible father lost his battle with cancer on the 29th of December, (ironically hours before we beat Wrexham & days before our biggest away win in 75 years).
Dad was a lifetime Saddler, taken by his dad, before he returned the compliment to me decades later. He once said to me after a lot of Bourbon in New Orleans, ‘Son you can’t pick your football team, so make sure you pick a good woman, as the Saddlers will cause you enough heartache’. Thankfully I took his advice.
The weeks since he died, the significance of this club of ours has taken on a whole new meaning to me. It’s more than memories of Anfield, Vicarage Rd or Cardiff or the Cow Shed or Willie Naughton; it’s become about connection, about continuity or even dare I say it, spiritual. The club was Dad & ours. We loved it.
Days after he died, I found myself in the club shop getting a shirt for him, with his name on it, so he can still come to games with me (I will never wear it). The staff were brilliant & thanks to amazing people at Southampton they allowed me to take it on the pitch & have a pic with it & I met Sads which was incredible.
But this isn’t about me, it’s about us & this fourth division football club of ours. Our club, that we’ve all been a part of for varying lengths of time, with different memories, commitments, frustrations and expectations. Our club that we love unconditionally. Our bl**dy brilliant club, that Dad loved so much & I’ve never needed more.
Perhaps Bill Shankly had a point ……