Final day as a full-time employee for Roy Whalley...TODAY is Roy Whalley’s final day as a full-time employee here at Walsall FC as he retires after 27 years of sterling service.
He has worked tirelessly for the club since first taking office in August 1986 and has fulfilled a number of key roles during what has been one of the most successful periods in our long and proud history.
Roy’s association with The Saddlers actually stretches back almost six decades. Who’d have thought that the wide-eyed kid in short trousers who first set foot inside Fellows Park with his Uncle Jim for an evening game against Southend United in May 1955 would go on to play such a significant role in the history of Walsall FC in the years to come?
The 12,456 crowd that were present on that Monday night for a run-of-the-mill League fixture didn’t realise they were there at the very start of something extremely special.
Back then success came in the form of finishing second from bottom instead of rock bottom of the old Division Three (South)!
Roy was lucky though. His first Walsall game ended in a 4-1 victory and stimulated a love affair with The Saddlers that would last a lifetime.
It was during the 1978/79 season that Roy was invited to pen his first article in the Matchday Programme, entitled ‘A View from the Terrace’.
By 1982 plans were afoot for The Saddlers to leave Fellows Park and ground-share with Wolves. Losing League football from the town would have ultimately led to the death of the club but Roy, along with the drive and determination of the likes of Barrie and Sharon Blower and Tom Hargreaves mobilised their fellow supporters and indeed the whole town to eventually win the day.
The Save Walsall Action Group was called into action again four years later to rebuff a similar move to ground-share with Birmingham City at St. Andrews.
For Roy it saw him lead a double life as a well-respected teacher in a local secondary school by day and a warrior for the good of Walsall FC by night. No-one should ever under-estimate the importance of what SWAG did for this club and Roy was at the very heart of it.
His sheer enthusiasm, commitment and organisational skills during those battles were key qualities in him being appointed Club Secretary in the summer of 1986 after high-flying London financier, Terry Ramsden, was persuaded to buy the club.
In taking situ in his modest and extremely unglamorous office at Fellows Park, Roy became one of those fortunate people whose job is also their hobby. Peering from his bolthole under the Main Stand, he couldn’t have been happier as he set about the task of shaping a brighter future for his beloved club.
Life has been far from dull and it’s been a remarkable 27-year journey since then. Terry Ramsden disappeared as quickly as he arrived and there followed battles with bailiffs and the local authorities all to ensure that the club survived to fight another day.
On the pitch there were promotions and relegations but the most remarkable change for the club came with the move to Bescot Stadium in the summer of 1990 and Roy, as you would expect, was at the centre of it all.
The move was crucial in giving the club the facilities it needed to survive in the future, but it required someone to identify and capitalise upon the opportunities that existed and, following some tough years for the club, Roy alongside Jeff Bonser, who became majority shareholder in March 1991, set about the task of making the club self-sufficient and a model of how a lower League club should be run.
There was fun and frolics along the way, plus there were tasks that don’t appear in the job description like ridding the stadium of our resident ghost, Ronnie!
Diversification has been the buzz word during Roy’s time at the club. It was obvious from the outset that we couldn’t survive on football income alone and over the years he has played a significant role in the extensive programme of Cabaret Evenings, Quiz Nights, Sporting Dinners and Boxing Shows that are still going as strong today as ever.
It’s not been easy and each event has taken many hours of telephone calls to sell. As well as selling the events, Roy has to then get on stage to compere and ensure that things run smoothly on the night itself.
No-one can imagine what it’s like to be told that your celebrity speaker for the evening is not coming when hundreds of expectant punters are sat upstairs waiting as was the case with a certain George Best – but Roy has the qualities to be able to manoeuvre himself out of any situation!
As well as the events, there’s the Sunday Market that he battled hard to get and has been one of our main sources of income for over two decades, the M6 advertising, which was ahead of its time, helping to secure an exclusive training base for the club for the very first time and the sponsors, advertisers and corporate clients that come back to the club time and time again.
He has fulfilled many roles at the club and achieved many ambitions, including singing Sinatra in the centre circle of the pitch, which can still be seen on You Tube!
His time as a club employee has seen us promoted five times and relegated five times as we have enjoyed the most successful period in our long and proud history.
In football, 99 times out of 100 club legends are players, but whilst Roy has never been allowed to dust off his boots and play centre forward – none of the 13 full-time managers that he has worked alongside would have been foolish enough to do that - he has played a significant part in our history and will continue to play a part in our future.
Roy was Secretary, Chief Executive and Commercial Director all rolled into one for many years. He is Mr. Walsall FC and that vast knowledge of the club is being passed on to younger members of club staff, something that will thankfully continue as he remains on the Board of Directors.
Once a Saddler, always a Saddler – Roy Whalley we salute you...