Supporters help make it a great occasion for former Saddlers' stars...
THE SADDLERS may have narrowly lost our three games in Saturday’s Club Legends Cup tournament in aid of Cure Leukaemia at the LG Arena, but we certainly won the competition for the best supporters.
With a large and vocal backing behind us, Ray Graydon’s side, which included Jorge Leitao, Pedro Matias, Zigor Aranalde, Chris Marsh and Ian Roper, gave a good account of themselves only to be denied by a combination of the woodwork, excellent goalkeeping and bad luck.
Aranalde set the tone in our first game against eventual finalists, West Bromwich Albion, when he rattled the crossbar within seconds of the start.
That game also saw Leitao, Mark Taylor and Matias go close as we slipped to a single-goal defeat.
Our next encounter saw us take on Birmingham City, who went on to win the tournament, and despite finding ourselves two goals down early on, we rallied and after Matias had gone close, Leitao reduced the arrears, much to the delight of the Walsall contingent.
Chances came and went before Roper conceded a penalty as Blues made it 3-1 and that is how it stayed.
Our final game came against Wolves, who took an early lead but then had to hold on as we went close on numerous occasions with a combination of Matt Murray and the woodwork keeping us at bay.
“The lads gave everything,” said Ray Graydon at the end. “After our first game I looked around the dressing room and at least four of them were pouring with blood, which showed me exactly how much this meant to them.
“We’ve come here as the smallest club in the tournament but our supporters have outdone everyone. They were easily the best and it’s just a shame that we couldn’t give them a victory.
“We had so many shots at goal; I can’t believe that we only had one goal to show for it.
“We played well throughout and it was a lovely, the lads are gutted they couldn’t get a win.
“It was nice to see the likes of Jorge, Pedro, Zigor, Marshy and Ropes again. I had no hesitation in agreeing to be manager but when I heard that the foreign lads were flying over especially for this tournament, it was an honour for me to be here and part of it with them.
“The reception that we all received from the fans was out of this world. I still get embarrassed when they chant my name after all these years, but I really appreciate it and the Walsall supporters will always have a special place in my heart.
“Seeing our fans outdo everyone on Saturday evening made me so proud.”