For younger supporters the prospect of Walsall Football Club even thinking of offering a 3 or 4 year contract to a player these days is absurd yet in 1978 there was mounting speculation that star striker Alan Buckley was all set to sign a nine year contract which would have tied him down to The Saddlers to the age of 35.
When the little striker scored in 3-1 home win against Lincoln City on 7th Febuary 1978 he had joined a very elite band of just four other post-war strikers to have scored 20 or more goals in a season. Only Jimmy Greaves, Roger Hunt, Brian Clough and Arthur Rowley had acheived this feat and Alan Buckley had built quite a reputation in his five seasons at Fellows Park. The player, the club and indeed the supporters were delighted at the prospect of such a long-term signing.
Walsall had an important game coming up that month – a money spinning 5th Round FA Cup tie at Highbury to face the might of Arsenal after disposing of Leicester City in a shock Fourth Round tie. The lead up to this cup game was dominated by this on-going long contract talk which was picked up on by the national papers. As the quotes from the great man himself and his manager Dave Mackay in the press show, he was offered a four year deal by chairman Ken Wheldon but when Alan said he would be 30 then, a ‘dangerous age’ he was promptly offered a nine year deal instead! There was a gentleman’s agreement that the club wouldn’t stand in his way if a First Division club came in for him but such was his relationship with the chairman and the fans he would have been happy to sign on.
Its history that within six months he got his wish to play First Division football when Birmingham City Manager Jim Smith snapped him up for £175,000 following a similar deal for him to sign for Derby County fell through.Just before he got the nod from Blues he found himself in the Fellows Park hot seat on a caretaker basis following the departure of Dave Mackay.Within a year he returned to Walsall – for the same fee -as player manager and led Walsall to promotion in his first season in charge spending seven more years on the Walsall payroll before the Terry Ramsden takeover on August 1st 1986 brought in his own management team.