Graydon, Buckley, Alsop and Butler amongst The Saddlers' winners...AS PART of The Football League's 125th Anniversary celebrations, supporters were asked to vote for their Greatest Manager, Player, Captain, Season and Match.
We can reveal that Ray Graydon has been voted as Walsall FC’s greatest manager. Graydon took over at the helm in 1998 tasked with keeping the club in the second division, but he did better than that and took the team straight up into the first, behind Kevin Keegan’s big-spending Fulham, with The Saddlers having one of the smallest budget in the division.
Although the team came straight back down, Graydon master-minded and instant return courtesy of a memorable play-off Final victory over Reading at the Millennium Stadium in May 2001.
His time in the role saw him collect 50% of the votes cast in The Football League Poll and finish well ahead of Bill Moore and Alan Buckley, the other names in the running.
The vote for Walsall’s greatest ever player produced an inseparable outcome with Buckley and Gilbert Alsop both ending up on 46% for a tied result, with exactly the same amount of votes each.
Alsop had two spells as a player for Walsall and ended up scoring a total of 222 goals in 321 appearances, including war-time matches. He spent a further 20 years as groundsman once his playing days came to an end.
Buckley is Walsall’s all-time record goalscorer with 202 strikes to his name in all senior competitions. He had two spells as a player with the club, returning for his second spell in a £175,000 deal from Birmingham City and thus becoming our record transfer fee paid. He has also had four spells in the hot-seat and oversaw a talented young side that played some good football and reached the semi-final of the League Cup in 1983/84..
Current skipper, Andy Butler, has been voted as the club’s greatest captain. He signed for The Saddlers in November 2010 before taking the armband the following January and becoming an important member of the team, taking the Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards in his first season. He came out ahead of Martin O’Connor, Albert McPherson and Peter Hart with nearly half the vote.
Walsall’s best season as voted by the fans is 1998/99, which culminated in that against-the-odds promotion under Graydon, taking 44% of the votes to beat 2000/01, which ended in fine style at the Millennium Stadium, 1983/84 when we reached the semi-final of the League Cup, winning at Arsenal along the way, 2006/07 as we secured the League Two Title and 1959/60 when the club won it's first Championship as we were crowned Division Four Champions.
In May 1999 The Saddlers were 3-1 winners at home to Oldham Athletic to seal promotion into the second-tier of English football, a match voted as our greatest with 38% of the vote, ahead of 2003’s 4-1 win at home to West Bromwich Albion, a 2-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1999, a victory at Shrewsbury Town by the same scoreline in 1961 to secure a second-successive promotion and a 1-0 triumph at Sheffield United in 1981 as we avoided relegation and instead sent our hosts down.
Graydon sits alongside legends of the game including Brian Clough, Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Tom Finney, Billy Wright, Sir Stanley Matthews, Trevor Francis, Billy Bremner and Herbert Chapman who have all been named in a list of the greatest contributors to clubs’ League history in a vote as part of The Football League’s 125th Anniversary celebrations.
The names feature in lists for each of the current 72 Football League clubs’ greatest in various categories including managers, players, captains, fan favourites, matches and seasons. The polls were run by The Football League to celebrate each club’s own contribution to the last 125 years of League football.
The results have been announced on the anniversary of The Football League’s formation on 17th April 1888 to bring down the curtain on a year of activity celebrating the start of the world’s original League football competition.
Nearly 100,000 votes were cast in the polls after clubs were first invited to compile their own shortlist for each category based on fans’ nominations via social media.
A list of the winners in each category can be seen at www.FL125.co.uk/vote, and a club-by-club breakdown for each vote with more detail on the winners can be seen at www.fl125.co.uk/walsall.
Supporters can find out more about The Football League’s 125th Anniversary at www.FL125.co.uk. Fans also still have a chance to visit a special exhibition called ‘Game Changers’ at the National Football Museum in Manchester celebrating 125 years of The Football League, with contributions from every club. The exhibition is free to enter and open seven days a week – for more details visit http://po.st/GameChangers.