In this part of our look back on the 20 years opening of Bescot Stadium, Walsall Web Fans examines the changes for us, the supporters, in the move from Fellows Park in 1990.
Supporters had mixed views on the move to their new home. The traditionalists did not want to move at all, despite the fact that Fellows Park was, by the late 1980′s, a decaying and worn out stadium, with very little room for car parking and no scope for corporate hospitality. Some welcomed the move to a new, purpose stadium with better facilities and access.
Speaking to the press, Walsall superfan Stan Blandford, who, at the time of the stadium’s opening had clocked up 716 consecutive games since May 1977 said of Bescot:
“Its certainly better than Scunthorpe, although most of us would have wanted cantilevered roofs and I think the home terrace is too small.”
Many supporters agreed with Stan’s comments. The fact that when it was first built Bescot Stadium had no less than 28 stanchions rankled with all supporters. The architect’s original scheme was to have cantilevered beams all round which was dropped in favour of the stanchions in a cost-cutting excercise along with plans to install under soil heating. This was for a reported saving of £150,000 in a £4.5 million budget.
Some supporters were against the move because of where they had traditionally stood at Fellows Park, in the stand along the touchline, known as the popular side. At been lost at Bescot, with standing now only behind the goal. Some complained they wouldn’t feel comfortable with that. Their decades old vantage point of watching from the half way line had been lost forever.
The club held the prices of season tickets from the previous season. They had little choice following relegation from the third to fourth division. Season tickets for the centre part of the HL Fellows stand were £135 with the wing parts of that stand on offer at £80. The cost for adults in the Highgate Mild (family) stand was also £135. The price of tickets for the Gilbert Alsop Stand was £75. Children’s tickets were £50 and just £20 for OAP’s.
Since the original Saddlers Club at Fellows Park was first opened in 1965 it has always been a big part of some fans matchday experience and the move to Bescot would only go ahead if it was agreed that a new Saddlers Club could be built on land adjacent to the football club. There were a few snags along the way but a new Saddlers Club was built with a function room for up to 300 people-the biggest outside Walsall town hall. A 100-seater restaurant, named ‘Stanley’s’ was incorporated into the HL Fellows stand. Supporters were able to enjoy ample car parking with space for 1,200 cars. Car parking season tickets were available for £25.
All the fans wanted now was a successful team to climb out of the Football League’s basement…