Houghton guest of the club at the weekend...THE APPEARANCE of former players at our home games has proved to be a popular feature of the matchday schedule this season.
At each home game they will meet supporters in the bar areas and take part in a Q&A with Mick Kearns prior to kick-off before being introduced to the rest of the crowd on the pitch during the half-time interval.
On Saturday we welcome a popular former wing wizard who, apart from a ten-minute flying visit on his lunch-break back in the Autumn, has not been back to the stadium for 18 years.
Scott Houghton was an important figure in The Saddlers’ team which secured promotion under Chris Nicholl in 1994/95, on his way to almost 100 senior outings for the club.
“I can't wait to come back to Saturday's game,” said the 42 year-old. “It will be emotional; I had 11 clubs during my career and the two years I spent here were the best of the lot.
“The players were such a close-knit group and we had some great times.
“That promotion season under Chris Nicholl was a massive achievement. We had one of the lowest budgets in the League yet he managed to get the best out of us and got us moving the right direction.
“To be fair, Chris totally transformed the club; we were so well-organised, with everyone knowing their jobs and working hard for each other.
“I have so much respect for Chris. It didn’t take us long to discover that he was a man not to be messed with, but he did so much for me.
“Coming to Walsall resurrected my career because I’d previously had a torrid time at Luton Town and was at a crossroads.
“I came in initially during pre-season and played a few friendlies. I remember being impressed with the set-up and even though the club was a few levels below Luton at the time, there was no real difference in the way things were done and so I agreed to join.
“It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. When the crowd used to sing ‘Super Scotty Houghton’ it was the best thing ever and even thinking back to it now, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“I will always regret leaving the club. I had my head turned and if I could turn back the clock, I would have stayed here and continued to enjoy my football.
“It affected my whole life, but I’ve always kept my eye on the club’s progress and speak to Dean Smith regularly."
Houghton has some fond memories of the camaraderie that existed within the squad.
“We had some big characters, people like Martin O’Connor and Wacka, but everyone just got on well together and enjoyed each others’ company," he continued. "I can remember the card school we used to have on the way to and from away games. There’d be David Mehew, Chris Marsh, Colin Gibson, Dean Peer and myself all engrossed.
“Things were very different back then and I remember Banks’s used to supply us with beer for the journey home. Happy days!
“We had some good times on the pitch too. As well as that promotion season, there were also some memorable FA Cup ties, such as beating Torquay United 8-4 and coming so close to beating top-flight Leeds United, taking them to extra-time in a replay at their place.”
Whilst Houghton’s arrival at Walsall came shortly after Dean Smith’s departure to Hereford United, the pair were team-mates at Leyton Orient.
“Dean is doing a fantastic job here,” he added without hesitation. “From what I have heard, he’s got the team playing some excellent football and has made them difficult to break down.
“The club has always been run on a strict budget and to achieve what they have done in their recent history is phenomenal and a great credit to Mr. Bonser and everyone involved."
Houghton was lured away to Peterborough United in the summer of 1996 and then had spells with the likes of Leyton Orient, Halifax Town and Stevenage before calling time on his playing career a decade ago and joining the Police Force, where he remains today.
He did have a spell as manager of St. Neots Town and hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching at some point in the future.
“I do miss the regular involvement in the game,” he admitted. “I took over as manager of St. Neots a few years back but my shift patterns at the time meant that I couldn’t give the job the level of attention that it needed.
“I look around and see former team-mates, such as Dean, doing well and I do wonder if I could do the same.”