The summer of 1988 saw the inevitable sale of its star player David Kelly to West Ham United for a fee of £600,000. Despite Walsall gaining promotion to the old Second Division via the play offs thanks to those memorable games with Bristol City, the club were not prepared to wreck their wage structure to keep the player, it was reported. Walsall FC’s plan to to sell Fellows Park for development and build a new stadium at Bescot Crescent was opposed by some shareholders who were not slow to voice their concerns.
One, who didn’t want to be named by the press said, “The present directors have 38,314 shares,representing more than 76% of the votes so they will get the scheme through. But I think now they have picked up £600,000 for one player (Kelly) they should stay at Fellows Park and improve the ground. It would not cost a fortune and they would keep their biggest asset. I shall vote against it at the EGM.”
It also came to light that two league club directors were the masterminds behind the multi-million pound plan to rebuild Walsall FC. They were Mr Peter Gilman, a director of Leeds United and Mr Michael Norris, Charlton Athletic’s Vice Chairman. Mr Gilman announced that he was negotiating with three potential buyers of Fellows Park. It also became clear that Walsall Council had the right to appoint four club directors once the plan, based on the Leeds United Golden Share scheme went through. Mr Norris was Managing Director of London and Cambridge Investments and Mr Gilman Managing Director of GMI Landmark, a Leeds-based firm. Under Football League regulations both are excluded from directorships of Walsall FC. Mr Gilman said, ” You can take it from me that football came first in this scheme. It was obvious that Fellows Park was out of date and there were massive car parking problems. The intention has been to vest ownership in local people and we are looking to set up a trust company so that the club can never be used as a pawn.”
Around a month later, the Walsall FC management and officials from the Saddlers Club spent a day at Glanford Park, the then new home of Scunthorpe United, to see for themselves the facilities available for them to glean the best ideas that stadium offered and impliment their own when Walsall’s time came. It was also stated at this time that the supporters would have a big say in what the stadium should or should not incorporate at Bescot and also have a final say in what Walsall’s new ground should be named!!
In October 1988 it was stated Walsall FC have possible buyers lined up for the old Fellows Park site and were hoping to start work at the Bescot site the following month and if everything went smoothly the team could be playing in their new stadium as early as August 1989. Agreement had been reached with Severn-Trent to lease the the Brockhurst land and the project could at last get underway if the Dept Of The Environment approves planning permission already granted by the council.
It also emerged at this time that Walsall supporters may get a brand new social club in the stadium complex. At that time the supporters club owned their existing Saddlers Club, a former Laundry but their home since 1965, but that site too was required by for development. Mr Blower commented, “We would like to have a supporters club attached to the ground,with bigger and better facilities for the fans. Walsall Football Club would also pay off the £40,000 the supporters club owe the brewery for that old Saddlers Club.
So as 1988 came to a close all seemed to be going along nicely. Would it be all plain sailing as the decade was drawing to a close or would there be any more hitches along the way? Find out in part five next time.