Following the success of our 20 Years at Bescot series, the forthcoming season is the 25th anniversary of Walsall’s dramatic promotion to the Second Division via the play offs. Walsall Web-Fans recalls the events of 1987-88.
Walsall had finished the 1986-87 season in 8th place in the Third Division, just four points short of the play offs, which had only been introduced that season. The Saddlers had ended that season on a high with ten wins and two draws from their final fifteen league games which was a brilliant effort considering the very poor start made to the season under new manager Tommy Coakley where they only won once in their opening nine games. Coakley had been drafted in by new owner Terry Ramsden in August of 1986 and was looking for his manager to get Walsall promoted this time around – or else!
The retained list in the summer of 1987 contained all the first team squad players and the only addition was midfielder Mark Goodwin who arrived on a free transfer from Notts County. Walsall’s shirt sponsorship was again Highgate Brewery in what the club described as a ” Substantial five-figure agreement.” During the summer Walsall became one of the first clubs in the Third Division to have special security cameras. The system cost £13,000 and consisted of a colour camera watching the fans on the terraces and a black and white one watching the crowds outside. Meanwhile talks were still on-going with the proposed relocation to Bescot Crescent. 1987-8 was Walsall Football Club’s Centenary Season and a number of events were lined up including a prestigious friendly game against Manchester United in April 1988.
Back to the preparation to the forthcoming season. Walsall’s main pre-season friendly game was at Fellows Park against FA Cup winners Coventry City, which was long serving left back Kenny Mower’s testimonial game. Walsall held their Midlands neighbours to a 0-0 draw which was a useful workout and 4,450 turned out to support Walsall-born Mower. The other public pre-season game on home soil was a 3-0 win against Colchester United with hot-shot David Kelly scoring a hat trick. ‘Ned’ was transfer listed at his own request as he wanted a taste of higher division football. He had scored 23 league and 3 cup goals the previous season and it was a case of when and not if he would get his wish. However the Birmingham-born striker vowed to shoot Walsall to promotion and he and the club knew that if he achieved that there would be a happy ending to his Walsall career. His strike partner Trevor Christie was one of six players to pick up injuries in the build up to the new season, whose Achilles required an operation which kept him out of action for the opening games.
To be continued …………….