Walsall Web Fans marks the 40th anniversary of our last competitive meeting with Everton on February 5th, 1972 in a FA Cup Fourth Round tie at Goodison Park before a crowd of 45,462 on Merseyside by looking at the game and also two Saddlers who left Fellows Park on the back of their performance to better clubs.
Walsall were struggling in the Third Division fourth from bottom whilst Everton were in mid table in the First Division. Manager Bill Moore sprang two surprises in his team line up. In came Stan Jones in the heart of defence to replace Stan Bennett whilst the versatile Colin Harrison replaced Geoff Morris on the left wing. In goal Walsall were forced to field the 19 year old promising but inexperienced goalkeeper Mark Wallington as regular keeper Bob Wesson was serving a 14 day ban due to an incident at Brighton. He had only played 7 league games coming into this clash and Moore included him in the previous fixture at Wrexham to give him a bit more experience. Walsall won 2-1 at The Racecourse in that game and he was full of confidence on his big day.
Colin Harrison got in Walsall’s first shot on goal which hit a defender and looped just over the bar. The Saddlers soaked up a lot of early pressure but striker Bernie Wright, who was also 19 years old and also fairly inexperienced, plus the vastly experienced strike partner John Manning were causing all sorts of problems for the home defence as the first half progressed. Wallington produced a string of fine saves to deny Everton with one save in particular, from Alan Whittle, was breath taking.
Early in the second half Bernie Wright produced a great run but just as John Woodward was about to cross but Lyons beat him to it. However the inevitable happened in the 62nd minute. Henry Newton, who was destined to join the Saddlers five years later, took a free kick which was headed on by Joe Royle and David Johnson hit a fierce volley home. Woodward had a great chance to draw Walsall level when he only had keeper Gordon West to beat but instead of slotting home shot straight at him. Disaster struck for Mick Evans late in the game when he mis-timed a back pass to Wallington and livewire Alan Whittle zipped in to double Everton’s lead.However the Walsall full back made amends with the last kick of the game to make it 2-1 to Everton so although they lost the game they made many friends and the thousands of Walsall fans who made the trip were proud of their team who put up a terrific fight.
The local paper, the Liverpool Echo, had the following to say in their write-up of the game. ‘Walsall, big, strong and determined, gave Everton a giant-sized Cup headache this afternoon. The result was that Walsall were having more of the game in the first half. Manning was giving Lyons a lot of trouble in the air and he outheaded him again to nod the ball wide from a free kick. Walsall rarely missed a tackle and this meant that Everton could rarely get started, move after move breaking down as the Walsall defence covered well. It was a tremendous performance by Walsall, preventing Everton from showing the class and superiority expected from a First Division side.’
Such was the performance of Bernie ‘The Bolt’ Wright on the day that within a week he was transferred to Everton for a reported £50,000 fee. It was a real rags to riches story for Bernie, who had previously played for Paget Rangers. He had only made his debut in the October and only made 15 starts in the League for Walsall. It was too good an offer for the Walsall board to resist however it was a fairly unhappy time for him at the First Division club. He only figured in 11 games in the league, including a substitute’s appearance in a game v. Liverpool. He was involved in a training incident in which he punched coach Stewart Imlach and was ‘sacked’ by the club. He returned back to Fellows Park in less than a year for half the fee and went on to have four great seasons in his second spell scoring a further 38 goals in 152 games.
Mark Wallington had won England Youth and Schoolboy caps before he joined Walsall had plenty of higher division clubs watching him in action for the Saddlers after that Everton game and it was Leicester City who came in for him and he joined them for a reported £30,000 transfer fee. He was understudy to England keeper Peter Shilton for some time before taking over at Leicester where he had 10 great years at Filbert Street playing in over 400 games and set up a club record there of 331 consecutive games. As for Walsall manager Bill Moore, he resigned from his post a month or so later. The team line ups on that memorable day at Goodison Park were….
EVERTON – West, T.Wright, Mc Laughlin, Kendall, Lyons, H Newton, Johnson, Harvey, Royle, Hurst, Whittle.
WALSALL – Wallington, Gregg, Evans, Penman, Jones, Deakin, B.Taylor, Woodward, Manning, B.Wright, Harrison.