The men who have sat in The Saddlers' hot-seat...
PRIOR to 1920 Walsall did not have an official team manager. The secretary usually looked after team affairs and he liaised with a committee, including a delegated captain, to select the first-team line-up.
For the 1920/21 season, Walsall named defender ALBERT GROVES as their player-manager, but this was only a temporary measure, and when The Saddlers regained their Football League status in the summer of 1921, club secretary JOE BURCHELL was appointed as our first-ever team manager - taking the role of secretary-manager - and the list has grown ever since.
ALBERT GROVES had been a key figure in the Wolves team since 1909 and during his stay at Molineux he became a firm favourite with the fans, amassing in excess of 220 senior appearances, mainly as a rugged, no-nonsense defender.
Born in South Wales, he started off as an out-and-out goalscorer with Aberdare Athletic but after moving to the Midlands he was successfully converted into a defender. He was given the job of looking after the team as player-manager when he was signed in the summer of 1920, and he did a good job, so much so that Walsall regained their place in The Football League for the following season. He was forced to retire as a player in 1924 following a serious knee injury.
JOE BURCHELL was born in Walsall in April 1873 and played football for the old Walsall Unity club. After a spell as a member of the Walsall Town Swifts committee, he succeeded Hayden Price as secretary of Walsall during World War I, duly taking over as secretary-manager to become the club's first 'real' team boss.
He began his double daily duties on August 8 1921, soon after the team had been voted back into The Football League following 20 years in the wilderness. A local man, he did a reasonable job for four years but then, as the results began to go against the team and the pressures built up around him, he resigned from his post in February 1926, handing over to Irishman, David Ashworth.
He continued as club secretary until 1931 when he became licensee of the Vine Inn, Rugeley, and thereafter the Cross Keys Hotel at Hednesford, also becoming a director of Hednesford Town FC. He died following a short illness in October 1932.
DAVID ASHWORTH was Walsall's first full-time team manager, accepting the position in mid-February 1926.
Ashworth possessed a wide knowledge of the game and it was thought that he was the right man to get the team back into winning ways. He quickly added some experience and steel to the side, signing centre-half Jimmy Torrance from Fulham and utility forward Bert White, who had also served at Craven Cottage as well as Blackpool and Arsenal. Alas, things did not improve a great deal and after The Saddlers had finished next to bottom of the third division (north) at the end of the 1925/26 season they were forced to successfully seek re-election. Results improved slightly in 1926/27 and The Saddlers edged up to finish 14th, but in February that season Ashworth handed over his duties to Jimmy Torrance, who became player-manager.
An Irishman, Ashworth had been a first-class referee prior to stepping out into Football League management with Oldham Athletic in 1906. He stood barely five feet tall - making him one of the smallest managers ever - and was often seen wearing a bowler hat. His waxed moustache made him look more strict and dominant than he really was. Indeed, he had a fine sense of humour and his moustache was altered in style after a match because if his team had won he would curl both ends upwards; if it had lost, then the ends would be turned down; and if a draw had materialised, then one end would be up and the other down!
In his first stint as a manager he guided Oldham Athletic from the Lancashire Combination to the first division of The Football League within four years before leaving Boundary Park in April 1914 when he moved into Cheshire to take charge of Stockport County. He was appointed manager of Liverpool in December 1919 and after twice leading the Merseysiders into fourth place in Division One, he finally took them to the League title in 1922. He was well on his way to taking the Reds to their second League Championship when the directors of Oldham Athletic enticed him back to the club for a second spell in January 1923, but he was signed up too late to save the Latics from relegation to the second division. He left Oldham for a second time in July 1924, taking over at Manchester City where he remained until November 1925. After a brief spell out of the game, he returned to management with Walsall, before taking over at the helm of progressive Welsh club, Caernarvon between June 1927 and May 1930. Moving on to manage Llanelli during the early 1930s, he later scouted for Blackpool from January 1938.
'Little Dave' as he was often called, died in Blackpool on March 23rd 1947, aged 79.
JIMMY TORRANCE took over from the man who had initially signed him as a player, David Ashworth, but he spent only one season in charge before handing over to Jimmy Kerr in May 1928.
Born in Coatbridge, Scotland in 1889, Torrance was a utility-forward with Glasgow Ashfield and Fulham (1910-26) before joining Walsall in July 1926. He appeared in four different positions in attack for the Cottagers, making 355 senior appearances and scoring 35 goals.
Sadly 1927/28 was not the greatest of seasons, but Walsall, under Torrance, had their moments, with a 7-0 win over Coventry perhaps the best. Torrance did, however, sign some useful players, including David Fairhurst from Newcastle United and the former Birmingham City and Derby County marksman, Moses Lane who went on to net 36 goals in his first season with The Saddlers.
Torrance played in a total of 40 League and Cup games for Walsall, including the famous FA Cup tie against the Corinthians in January 1928. He dropped out of football after relinquishing the manager's job with us, and for some years after worked for a telephone company.
He died of cancer in July 1949, the year when Walsall beat his former club, Fulham in the FA Cup at Craven Cottage.
JIMMY KERR was born in Scotland in November 1881 and served with the Bathgate club for many years before becoming manager of Coventry City in July 1925, a position that he held until February 1928.
Unfortunately his stay at Highfield Road coincided with three of the most dismal years in Coventry's history. After three months out of the game, Kerr was given the Walsall job in May 1928 and quickly went into the transfer market, securing the services of two players from Highfield Road, full-back Charlie Houldey and wing-half Billy Hunter. He also recruited Scotsman Duggie Lochhead from St. Johnstone and Roy John, a hard-tackling defender who was later to become a Welsh International goalkeeper.
Sadly for Kerr, nothing went right on the pitch and like his predecessor he was quickly replaced, this time handing over team affairs to Sid Scholey who was promoted from the rank of trainer.
Kerr, who always donned a bowler hat in public, joined Norwich City as manager on April 4th 1929. He held that position for four years (until June 1933) and took with him from Walsall to Carrow Road three very useful players - Irish International Mick O'Brien, Duggie Lochhead and Norman Thompson, the former Torquay United winger. Kerr did an excellent job with Norwich, turning things round in splendid style after The Canaries had struggled for two seasons in the third division (south). Norwich were well on course to carry off the Southern Section Championship when, in January 1933, Kerr was admitted to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital with bronchial pneumonia. Up to the previous November he had never suffered a serious illness, but this time his condition worsened and on February 18th 1933 he died, aged 51.
SID SCHOLEY was Walsall born and bred. He had been trainer at Fellows Park from 1908 to 1911 and then for a year prior to being asked to succeed Jimmy Kerr in April 1929, becoming the fifth man to take over team affairs in eight years. Scholey never got to grips with management and he quit in October 1930, after Walsall had finished 17th in the third division (south) at the end of his first full season in charge. He managed the team when The Saddlers stepped out in front of that bumper 74,600 plus crowd at Villa Park in the fourth round of the FA Cup in January 1930.
After leaving Fellows Park he worked for some time at the Marine Hydro in Rhyl, being an expert masseur, and while there treated many famous players. Following his first spell at Walsall, just before World War I, Scholey moved to Stockport County and then after four years' War-time service in the RAMC, he switched to Birmingham City as their trainer in 1920. In his first season at St. Andrews, Blues won promotion to Division One. He then had a short spell as caretaker-manager of the club during the 1927/28 campaign before rejoining Walsall. He died in 1960.
PETER 'PAT' O'ROURKE, born at Newmilns in June 1873, was a solid centre-half who played for Chesterfield for quite some time before transferring to Bradford City in August 1903.
He made 49 appearances for City (one goal scored) before taking over as player-manager at Valley Parade in November 1905 following a month in charge as caretaker boss after Bob Campbell's departure. He played his last game in City colours against Darlington in the FA Cup in December 1905 and after that concentrated entirely on management. He spent 16 years in charge of the Yorkshire club, and became a very popular figure, being shrewd and deliberate in everything he did. He completely rebuilt the Bradford team and after only five years in office he guided them into the first division, immediately securing a five-year contract for this magnificent achievement.
The pinnacle of his success came in 1910/11 when Bradford City won the FA Cup and finished fifth in Division One - the club's highest-ever position. After World War I, O'Rourke suffered tragedy when his son died. This affected him deeply and he was forced to resign through ill-health in June 1921. He returned to the game as manager of Pontypridd, a position he held for five months, and after this spell in Wales he took charge of Dundee Hibernians.
In April 1924 he returned to Bradford, this time as manager of Park Avenue. In his ten months there he saw another son, Peter, score twice on his League debut against Durham City. O'Rourke came out of retirement to rejoin Bradford City in May 1928 and steered The Bantams to the third division (north) title. He left Valley Parade for a second time in May 1930, unable to maintain the club's resurgence in Division Two.
Thus, in October 1930, he was installed as Walsall's new manager and results soon took a change for the better with a run of 11 games unbeaten in the League and FA Cup. Things were ticking over pretty well and it was O'Rourke who signed a player who was to become one of the greatest ever to don a Walsall shirt. His name was Gilbert Alsop, whom O'Rourke captured from Coventry City in October 1931. It was a master-stroke by the manager and Alsop went on to become a terrific goalscorer, breaking many records before, during and after the War.
In February 1932, Bill Slade came in to replace O'Rourke who moved to Llanelli before finally leaving football in July 1933. He died in January 1956, aged 82.
BILL SLADE, born in Walsall in 1898, was educated at St. John's School, Pleck, and played amateur football for several local teams up to the age of 24, when he became a director of Coventry City in 1922.
He was appointed acting manager at Highfield Road for a while before Harry Storer took over the position in 1931. The following year Slade left Coventry and became manager of Walsall in February of 1932. He maintained the strong link between Coventry and The Saddlers when he signed Bill Coward, Chris Ball, Bill Sheppard and Freddie Lee all from the Highfield Road club. Slade was in charge of the team when Walsall caused that major shock in beating Arsenal 2-0 in the FA Cup of January 1933. In fact, the whole Walsall forward-line against The Gunners that day were all ex-Coventry players and for the occasion The Saddlers wore Coventry's blue and white striped shirts.
He saw us finish fifth in the Northern Section in 1932/33 and fourth the following season, but lost his job after Walsall made a dreadful start to the 1934/35 season. He died sometime around 1968.
ANDY WILSON moved to Walsall in October 1934 and during the course of his first season at Fellows Park he saw the team recover from a terrible start to finish 14th in the third division (north).
Born in Newmaine, Lanarkshire in 1896, he played for Cambuslang Rangers before joining Middlesbrough in 1914. During World War I his left arm was shattered but he recovered and went on to assist Heart of Midlothian and Dunfermline Athletic before returning to Middlesbrough in 1921. In his first season back at Ayresome Park he scored 31 goals in 32 games and became a regular in the Scotland team. In November 1923 he was transferred to Chelsea for £6,000 and spent eight years at Stamford Bridge prior to signing for neighbours QPR in October 1931. After leaving QPR he served with Nimes in France for two seasons and then became manager of Clacton Town in 1934. It was from Clacton that he came to Walsall, succeeding Bill Slade.
In each of Wilson's first three seasons in charge, The Saddlers reached the third round of the FA Cup and it was he who bought future Wolves and England goalkeeper Bert Williams to the club. He also persuaded another great goalkeeper, Harry Wait, to come out of retirement in 1935/36 following an injury to Peter McSevich.
Wilson was eventually succeeded by Tommy Lowes in April 1937, and after leaving Walsall he managed Gravesend for a short while, returning to Chelsea as coach shortly before World War II. After the War Wilson, who represented England at bowls, was employed by the Ministry of Works. He died in 1973, aged 77.
TOMMY LOWES was a Newcastle United player before World War I and he played for Coventry City, Caerphilly and Newport County immediately afterwards. He then served Yeovil Town as player-coach and later as manager in the mid-1920s before becoming manager of Barrow in 1930, leaving there for Walsall on April 30th 1937.
Unfortunately his reign at Fellows Park was short-lived, although he did sign one of the club's greatest players, Johnny Hancocks. Only at the end of the 1938/39 season did he instill any confidence in the side and he parted company soon after the outbreak of World War II. Under his leadership, The Saddlers struggled and twice had to apply for re-election to the third division (south) in 1938 and 1939.
After leaving Fellows Park, Lowes scouted for Arsenal and Norwich City, 'discovering' a future Walsall manager in John Barnwell for The Gunners. He was associated with The Canaries throughout the 1960s and was still at Carrow Road when Norwich City reached Division One for the first time in the club's history in 1972.
Lowes was born in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne in April 1902 and died sometime around 1993.
SAM LONGMORE, a local businessman and long-time supporter, was elected as a director of Walsall FC in 1934.
In the summer of 1938 he took over as chairman, replacing Mr. H. L. Fellows, but following the departure of Tommy Lowes shortly after the start of the ill-fated 1939/40 season, he surprisingly agreed to look after team affairs, assisted, when possible, by former goalkeeper and trainer Harry Wait.
Longmore and Wait held the fort until Harry Hibbs was given the managerial job in 1944. Sam Longmore also retired as chairman in 1944, thus ending a spell of ten years on the board at Fellows Park, with Harry Barlow taking over the chair.
HARRY HIBBS enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a goalkeeper for Birmingham City and England, and became Walsall's first post-War manager, being first appointed in 1944.
Born in Wilnecote, near Tamworth, in May 1906, he played for Wilnecote Holy Trinity and Tamworth Castle before joining Birmingham as an amateur in April 1924, turning professional the following month.
He went on to make 389 appearances for the Blues and collected 25 full England caps as well as representing The Football League XI in three games and touring South Africa with the FA in 1929.
He retired in May 1940 and took over as Walsall boss in August 1944, holding office until June 1951. Hibbs signed some grand players during his time at Fellows Park, including one of the club's finest post-War defenders Reg Foulkes, ace goalkeeper Jack Lewis and star strikers Dave Massart and Duggie Lishman.
Perhaps Walsall's best season under Hibbs came in 1945/46 when they reached the Division Three (South) Cup Final at Stamford Bridge before losing to Bournemouth, although in the third division (south) his team finished fifth in 1947 and third in 1948. Hibbs' shoot-on-sight policy paid some rich dividends for the Walsall attack in the late 1940s and supporters certainly got good value for money during his reign as manager.
Hibbs left the club in the summer of 1951 to be replaced by former Reading goalscorer, Tony McPhee. He then became a permit player for de Havillands FC between February 1953 and May 1954 and later managed Ware Town (1960-61) and Welwyn Garden City (1962-63). He died in Hatfield, Herts, in May 1984, just four days before his 78th birthday.
TONY McPHEE was born in Edinburgh in April 1914 and although christened Magnus, was always known as Tony throughout his career in the game.
He started as a goalscorer with Belfast Celtic in 1929/30 and then moved across the Irish Sea into Cumbria to assist Workington in the North Eastern League. In July 1936 he switched to Bradford Park Avenue, making an immediate impact with 17 goals in 30 games for the Yorkshire outfit in his first season. In May 1937 he was transferred to Coventry City whose goalkeeper at the time was Alf Wood, destined to become Walsall's manager in the mid-1960s. McPhee started off well enough at Highfield Road with six goals in just three games, but he lost his form and in June 1938 headed south to Reading, scoring on his debut for the club against QPR. He ended the last full peacetime season with 26 goals to his credit.
He served Reading regularly throughout the War and in the period from 1939 to 1946 weighed in with 160 goals in 226 games, being top scorer in six out of the seven seasons. In the first three post-War campaigns in Division Three (South) he claimed a further 60 League goals in only 90 appearances before hanging up his shooting boots in May 1949, having become one of the finest centre-forwards in Reading's history.
A tall, commanding player, he possessed deft footwork and could unleash a thunderous shot. After retiring he spent two years at Elm Park as assistant manager to Ted Drake before succeeding Harry Hibbs at Walsall in July 1951. He had the pleasing experience of seeing The Saddlers go top of the League after they had won their first two matches under his charge. Indeed four of the opening six games resulted in wins but then, after the next 11 games produced only one victory, his programme notes became more and more pessimistic as he lamented that money was not available to strengthen the team.
Suddenly McPhee resigned, the reason given that he was having problems finding a house in the area. His last game in charge was against his former club, Reading, who won 3-0 at Elm Park. After leaving football he kept the George Hotel in Basingstoke for a time and was only 46 years of age when he died in 1960.
BROUGH FLETCHER was manager at Fellows Park for 13 months and was 56 when he took over a desperate situation from Tony McPhee, who had resigned three months earlier.
Born in the village of Mealsgate, Cumberland on March 9th 1893, Fletcher joined Barnsley in 1913 after playing inside-right for Chiltern Colliery. He was a regular in the Barnsley side before and after World War I, and was switched to wing-half in the early 1920s. In 1926 he was transferred to Sheffield Wednesday, but moved back to Oakwell soon after an in 1930 was appointed team manager in succession to Arthur Fairclough.
Fletcher remained in charge of The Tykes until 1937, lifting them out of the third division (north), but after they had slipped down again, he retired having spent a total of 24 years with the Oakwell club, scoring 73 goals in 312 games as a player. In 1938 he became manager of Bristol Rovers, a position he held until 1949, and he teamed up with Walsall in March 1952. The Saddlers successfully applied for re-election at the end of 1951/52 and in the summer Fletcher signed 11 new players, adding a few more as the season progressed. Yet all in all, the 1952/53 campaign was another poor one as we finished bottom again, and Fletcher duly resigned in the Easter, being replaced by a man even older than himself, Major Frank Buckley.
Brough Fletcher died in Bristol on May 12th 1972, aged 79.
FRANK BUCKLEY was associated with football for 53 years but he certainly won more fame as a manager than he did as a player.
One of five brothers, he was born at Urmston, Manchester on November 9th 1882 and soon after leaving school he enlisted in the Army in 1898 and served in the Boer War. In 1903 he signed for Aston Villa as an attacking centre-half, but failed to make the breakthrough and in 1905 headed for Brighton. He spent a season with the south coast club and did the same with Manchester United up to August 1907 and then played in turn for Manchester City (up to July 1909), Birmingham (to August 1911 - making 56 appearances for the Blues), Derby County (to May 1914) and then Bradford City, although his association with the Yorkshire club was limited due to the outbreak of World War I.
Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Buckley joined the 17th Middlesex Regiment, the famous Footballers' Battalion, and rose to the rank of major. He proudly retained the title for the rest of his life. Whilst at Derby he won a full England Cap, playing against Ireland at Middlesbrough in 1914 - when the Irish won 3-0 - having helped The Rams win the second division title two years earlier.
In March 1919 Buckley was appointed manager of Norwich City, a position he held until May 1920 when he left football for a while to become a commercial traveller, based in London. It was July 1923 when he decided to return to the game as manager of Blackpool and he spent four years at Bloomfield Road prior to moving in the same capacity to Wolves in July 1927. He had a long and successful spell at Molineux which ended in March 1944. During those 17 years Wolves won the Division Two Championship in 1932 and reached the FA Cup Final in 1939 as well as carrying off the War-time League Cup in 1942.
Following that marvellous career with Wolves, Buckley had a couple of years as manager of Notts County and then he took over as boss of Hull City in May 1946. Two years later, in May 1948, he was appointed manager of Leeds United and signed the great John Charles while he was at Elland Road. In April 1953 he arrived at Fellows Park where he stayed until retiring from competitive football at the age of 72 in September 1955, handing over to Jack Love.
Buckley was a ruthless disciplinarian and it is said that youngsters at whichever club he was associated with were genuinely afraid of him. That approach did little to help Walsall, however, who finished 24th and 23rd in his two full seasons at the helm. He died on December 22nd at the age of 81.
JACK LOVE, a Scotsman born in Edinburgh on March 18th 1924, was a hard inside-forward with a strong shot.
He had performed well for Albion Rovers before signing for Nottingham Forest in February 1949. He went on to score 21 goals in 62 League and Cup games whilst at the City Ground, helping Forest win promotion from the third division (south) in 1950/51. Four years later, following a good spell with Llanelli, he was transferred to Walsall in early March 1955 and stayed in the side for the rest of that season, scoring twice in 16 League games. The following season he scored eight goals in 24 League games, but from September he was player-manager, having taken over from Buckley who had resigned. It was Love's last season as a player as he retired through injury at the end of it.
Altogether he was Walsall's manager for only a year and a quarter, in which time The Saddlers finished 20th and 15th before he in turn handed over to Bill Moore. Love moved into Wales to become manager of Wrexham for 1957/58 and later served with a number of minor clubs.
He was awarded a DFC when he was wounded by shrapnel during the Allies' Rhine crossing in 1944 and served as an RAF flight-lieutenant and then as a glider pilot.
BILL MOORE was a real character and the man who took Walsall into the second division in 1961.
Born in Washington, County Durham, in 1913, Moore played for Walker Celtic in the late 1920s and early 1930s before joining Stoke City for whom he made a handful of senior appearances when he partnered Arthur Turner - later to play for and manage Birmingham City - in defence behind some fine forwards like Stanley Matthews, Freddie Steele and Joe Johnson.
In 1938 he moved to Mansfield Town and scored a goal against Walsall when playing in the FA Jubilee match in 1939. After the War Moore was appointed trainer of Notts County, who at the time were managed by former Aston Villa and England forward Eric Houghton. Tommy Lawton and Jackie Sewell were two of the star players under Moore's supervision at Meadow Lane. When Houghton returned to Villa Park as manager, Bill Moore went with him as right-hand man and he played a big part in Villa's FA Cup triumph over Manchester United in 1957. In the December following that Wembley victory, Moore was asked to take over from Jack Love as manager of Walsall who had been going through a difficult time and were in deep trouble at the foot of Division Three (South). In no time at all he rallied the players, re-election was averted, the fourth division title was won in 1960 and 12 months later promotion gained to the second division.
After Walsall slipped back into the third division in 1963, in the most unfortunate of circumstances, being reduced to nine men in the final game of the season from which they needed a point but ended up going down by two goals to one against Charlton Athletic, Moore left Fellows Park early the following season to take up a scouting position with Fulham. He returned to Fellows Park in February 1969, to succeed Ron Lewin, and over the next three years developed some superb players such as Phil Parkes and Ray Train. But as financial problems loomed large, Moore resigned his post in March 1972 after a disagreement with coach John Smith over a substitution.
In later years Bill Moore kept the Fox Hotel in Stafford and died in 1982, but he will always be remembered as the man at the helm when Walsall FC were having their greatest-ever period.
ALF WOOD had a splendid playing career, which spanned some 20 years. As a goalkeeper he appeared in well over 500 competitive matches (371 in The Football League).
He played for Nuneaton Borough and Sutton Town before joining Coventry City as a 20-year-old in 1935. He left Highfield Road in December 1951, joining Northampton Town for £2,100, and in his three-and-a-half years with The Cobblers amassed 139 League appearances. In July 1955 he started his second spell as a player with Coventry which finally ended in 1959 after he had played his last game against Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup, while trainer-coach of the Sky Bluers, a position he held until being sacked in November 1961. He was subsequently out of football for a short time, but returned as Walsall coach in October 1963, taking over as manager the following month.
Wood left The Saddlers in October 1964 but during his short spell as manager at Fellows Park he unearthed a fine talent in Allan Clarke. Incidently, when he was fired by Walsall, Wood became the 500th manager of a Football League club to lose his job since World War II. He moved back to Coventry where he worked at the Massey Ferguson factory, managing their football team.
Born in Aldridge on May 14th 1915, Wood made only two League appearances for Coventry before World War II, but he did well during the hostilities, turning out in 96 games when allowed time off from Army duties. He also guested for Northampton and represented the Army in forces football, mainly as deputy to Frank Swift. But towards the end of the War he contracted spinal meningitis and doctors told him that he would never play football again. Wood defied orders and worked his way back to full fitness, going on to make 260 consecutive appearances for Coventry (218 in The Football League) in the next six seasons between 1946 and 1952.
RAY SHAW was a constructive player with Birmingham City for a decade between May 1937 and 1947, during which time he appeared in almost 130 first-team games, 111 in War-time football.
After retiring he was appointed coach at St. Andrews and became manager of Walsall in October 1964, a position he held until March 1968 when he handed over to Dick Graham. Following his spell with The Saddlers, Shaw spent some time in a coaching role at Leicester City. During his time at Fellows Park he guided The Saddlers to two good FA Cup runs, in 1966 and 1968, and to seventh place in Division Three in 1967/68. He signed the experienced Trevor Smith and Howard Riley in his first season but it was the youngsters at the club who did best for him. Shaw sold one of these, Allan Clarke, to Fulham for £35,000 to help balance the books.
Born in Walsall on May 18th 1913, he was an amateur with The Saddlers in 1928, but then played for Streetly Works FC and Darlaston before turning professional with the Blues at the age of 24. He died in August 1980 at the age of 67.
DICK GRAHAM, a tall, commanding man, played professionally as a goalkeeper for Northampton Town and Leicester City before World War II, for Southport, Crewe Alexandra and Crystal Palace as a guest during the hostilities, and for Leicester and Palace afterwards, making 155 League appearances for the London club between 1946 and 1951 after recovering from letting in ten goals at Reading in September 1946.
After being forced to retire with a serious back injury he took over a pub in Croydon. He became a brewer's representative and part-time reporter and coached with the Surrey FA before, in November 1956, he was taken on by West Bromwich Albion as trainer-coach under manager Vic Buckingham. He remained at The Hawthorns until November 1960 before going back to Selhurst Park as assistant manager to Arthur Rowe. He became team manager at Palace in March 1963 and held the position for three years, during which time he took the club to the sixth round of the FA Cup and promotion from Division Three.
Sacked in January 1966, he became manager of Leyton Orient for two years before resigning in protest against the club's decision not to invest in new players. Graham took over at Walsall the following month, when he replaced Ray Shaw, and hoped to steer The Saddlers to promotion. He did not succeed and left Fellows Park in May 1968, later having a successful spell as manager of Colchester United from July 1968 to May 1972, during which time his side beat West Bromwich Albion in the Watney Cup Final and then knocked the mighty Leeds United out of the FA Cup.
He resigned from Layer Road in 1972 and became chief scout for Cambridge United. In July 1973 he was appointed manager of Wimbledon but quit that post in March 1974, claiming interference by directors.
Born at Corby in Northamptonshire on May 6th 1922, Graham played for Corby Town at the age of 14 and, like Major Frank Buckley, was a disciplinarian. His brother played centre-forward for Clapton Orient, Nottingham Forest and York City.
RON LEWIN spent just seven months as manager of The Saddlers from July 1968 to February 1969.
A Londoner, born at Edmonton on June 21st 1920, he played professionally as a full-back with Bradford City from 1942 to 1944, Fulham (for four years from June 1946 to 1950) and Gillingham, up to May 1955, totalling 310 competitive matches, including 191 in the League for the Gills and playing for Fulham in their second division promotion season of 1948/49.
Lewin then served the Norwegian club, Skeid of Oslo as player-coach, Chelmsford City and Wellington Town as manager, and both Everton and Newcastle United as a coach before taking charge at Fellows Park. After leaving The Saddlers he returned to Newcastle as coach and later held coaching positions in Kuwait, Greece and Iceland. He returned to England and joined Bradford Park Avenue as coach just before the Yorkshire club's closure and as recently as 1986, the year of his death, he was still active in football, coaching Workington.
JOHN SMITH was only 49 when he died in 1988.
As a player he gained England caps at both Youth and Under-23 levels and amassed in excess of 400 senior appearances as a scheming inside-forward with West Ham United, his first club, Tottenham Hotspur, Coventry City, Leyton Orient, Torquay United, Swindon Town and Walsall.
Born at Shoreditch on January 4th 1939, he joined the Upton Park staff as an amateur in the summer of 1954, turning professional for The Hammers on his 17th Birthday. He left for White Hart Lane in March 1960, switching to Highfield Road in March 1964 and went back to London with Orient in October 1965. His spell with Torquay United began in October 1966, he was with Swindon Town from June 1968 until June 1971 and then he moved to Fellows Park. He helped The Hammers win promotion from Division Two in 1958 and Swindon to victory in both the League Cup Final at Wembley in 1969 and the Anglo-Italian Tournament in 1971. When Spurs lifted the League and FA Cup double in 1961 he managed only one game, though.
His managerial duties at Walsall last for just six months - from October 1972 to March 1973 inclusive - before Jimmy MacEwan took over on a caretaker basis.
JIMMY MacEWAN, although a fragile-looking winger, was a regular scorer in Scottish football during the 1950s, being Raith Rovers' leading marksman in 1956/57, 1957/58 and 1958/59, totalling 54 League goals in 209 outings.
He played for the Scottish League and Scotland 'B' and was reserve to the full international side before signing for Aston Villa for £8,000 in July 1959. MacEwan quickly established himself at Villa Park and helped the club win the second division title and the League Cup in successive years (1960 and 1961). He missed the 1963 League Cup Final after losing his place to Alan Baker who was later to sign for Walsall.
MacEwan scored 31 goals in 181 games for Villa before he moved to Fellows Park in August 1966, a month after Baker. He struggled with injuries and was forced to retire in 1968 immediately being appointed trainer of The Saddlers, a position he held until 1975.
He acted as caretaker-manager following John Smith and prior to the arrival of Ronnie Allen. MacEwan then coached in South Africa, returning to Birmingham in 1977 to work first at Ansells Brewery in Aston and then in the Social Services Department at Handsworth.
Born in Dundee on March 22nd 1929, he played with Ashdale FC before joining Arbroath, first as an amateur in 1946, turning professional in November 1947. He moved on to Raith in June 1950.
RONNIE ALLEN was another Walsall manager who had an exceptionally fine career as a player.
Between 1944 and 1965 he made a total of 804 senior appearances and netted 354 goals (276 coming in 637 League outings) mainly as an outside-right or centre-forward.
Born in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, on January 15th 1929, Allen played regularly at school and for local teams at the weekend until he signed for Port Vale in 1944, turning professional two years later. He also served in the RAF during the War.
In March 1950 he was transferred to West Bromwich Albion for a club record £20,000 and became a household name at The Hawthorns where he stayed for 11 years, up to May 1961 when he moved to Crystal Palace for £4,500. For the Baggies he hit 208 goals, all in the first division, which stood as a club record for 17 years (up to 1978 when Tony Brown eventually topped it). He gained an FA Cup winners' medal in 1954, scoring two goals at Wembley in a 3-2 win over Preston North End and collected five England caps as well as representing the 'B' team and Football League.
He left Selhurst Park for Molineux in 1964, taking a position as coach before being appointed manager of Wolves in March 1965, a position he held for three-and-a-half years, up to November 1968 when he took over as manager-coach of Atletico Bilbao; three years later he was made boss of the Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon (May 1972) and in July 1973, a month after leaving Lisbon, he took over as manager at Fellows Park.
Sadly Allen spent only six months in the proverbial hot-seat before relinquishing the position. He was then out of football for some time before returning as scout for West Bromwich Albion, moving up to scouting advisor in January 1977. In June of that year he was appointed manager at The Hawthorns, but held the job for barely six months, leaving for a lucrative job as football advisor in Saudi Arabia. In June 1980 he took over as manager-coach of the Greek club, Panathinakos, but again spent only six months in office. He returned as manager of West Bromwich Albion in July 1981, leading the Baggies to the semi-final of both the FA Cup and League Cup that season but was then surprisingly replaced by Ron Wylie. He stayed on at the club, however, taking the job of general manager until June 1983. He applied, unsuccessfully, to get on the Albion board in 1983/84 and then offered his services as a coach at The Hawthorns, later retiring through ill-health.
Ronnie Allen, incidentally, was the only player to score in each of the first 20 post-War seasons: 1945/46 to 1964/65 inclusive. He sadly lost his battle with ill-health in June 2001.
DOUG FRASER, a craggy Scot, born in the village of Busby, near Glasgow, on December 8th 1941, played for Rolls Royce FC, Eaglesham Amateurs and Blantyre Celtic as well as having trials with Celtic and Leeds United before signing for Aberdeen in 1958, turning professional at Pittodrie in December 1959.
As a hard tackling wing-half he had some 70 games for the Dons before transferring to West Bromwich Albion for £23,000 in September 1963. He did well at The Hawthorns, making 325 appearances, scoring 12 goals, and gaining League Cup and FA Cup winners' medals in 1966 and 1968 respectively. He also played in the 1967 and 1970 League Cup Finals, skippering Albion in the latter against Manchester City having by then switched to right-back. Capped twice by Scotland (v Holland and Cyprus in the mid-1960s), Fraser left Albion in January 1971, moving to Nottingham Forest for £35,000. In July 1973, after 112 League games for Forest, he was snapped up by Walsall for £8,000 and took over from another ex-West Bromwich Albion player, Ronnie Allen, as manager of The Saddlers in January 1974, holding office until March 1977.
He led Walsall to FA Cup glory against Manchester United and Newcastle United in 1975. Fraser then pulled out of football completely and went into the prison service, working as a warder at Nottingham Gaol. He turned out in a number of charity matches between 1979 and 1982, pulling on a jersey for the Warders against the Prisoners in 1981. He resigned from the prison service in 1997.
DAVE MACKAY, born in Edinburgh on November 14th 1934, had a superb career as a player, accumulating over 800 appearances at various levels despite breaking the same leg twice.
He progressed through junior football in Scotland to become one of the game's celebrities, a most inspirational wing-half, being the driving force of the great Tottenham Hotspur side of the early 1960s. A schoolboy international at the age of 15, Mackay played for Slatefield Athletic and Newton Grange Star before turning professional with Heart of Midlothian in April 1952. He helped Hearts win the Scottish League title in 1958, the Scottish Cup in 1956, the League Cup in 1955, gained the first of his 22 full caps against Spain in 1956, represented the Scottish League twice and appeared in four Under-23 games for his country before transferring to Spurs in March 1959 for £32,000.
Mackay quickly settled at White Hart Lane and became part of the magnificent half-back line which also included Blanchflower and Norman. The medals continued to flow; the League and Cup double in 1961, two more FA Cup triumphs in 1962 and 1967 and a European Cup-Winners'Cup prize in 1963, although he did not play in the Final. He made 318 appearances for Spurs, bagging 51 goals and skippered the side on numerous occasions. In July 1968, after nine marvellous years in London, he moved to Derby County for £5,000 and in his first season at the Baseball Ground his experience and know-how guided the Rams to the second division title under Brian Clough, with Mackay being voted joint FWA Player of the Year (he had earlier been voted Scottish Footballer of the Year in 1958).
In May 1971 he left Derby to take over as player-manager of Swindon Town. In November 1972 he was appointed boss of Nottingham Forest and then returned as manager of Derby County in October 1973 in the wake of Clough's controversial resignation. He took Derby to their second League Championship and an FA Cup semi-final before himself leaving in controversial circumstances in November 1976. He then had four months away from football before returning to the game as manager of Walsall in March 1977.
He stayed at Fellows Park for 14 months - up to May 1978 - and in August of that year he became manager of the Arabic Sporting Club in Kuwait (Al-Arabi), later taking a similar position with Alba Shabab in Dubai. Mackay did well in the Middle East but couldn't resist the offer made to him by Doncaster Rovers in 1987, returning to The Football League as manager at Belle Vue. In April 1989 he came back to the West Midlands, taking charge of struggling Birmingham City, but he couldn't get the Blues going and in January 1991 he lost his job at St. Andrews, being replaced a month later by Lou Macari.
His spell at Walsall saw The Saddlers finish sixth in Division Three and reach the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1977/78.
ALAN BUCKLEY had four separate spells in the manager's seat at Fellows Park, starting in 1978 and ending in 1986 when he left The Football League before returning to do so well with Grimsby Town.
A Nottinghamshire man, Buckley became a professional with his boyhood heroes, Nottingham Forest in 1968 and moved to Fellows Park for the first time in August 1973. He then had ten months with Birmingham City between October 1978 and July 1979 before returning to Walsall for whom he scored 205 goals in 483 senior appearances.
He first tasted management in 1978 when he took over as caretaker-boss for a few weeks in July/August following Dave Mackay's departure and before the arrival of Alan Ashman, who sold him to Birmingham. Frank Sibley then moved into the manager's chair only for Buckley to be given the post for a second time in July 1979, this time holding it for two years. Walsall finished runners-up in Division Four in his first season in charge before then being joined by Neil Martin in a joint-manager's role. Martin took over the job on his own in January 1982, but four months later Buckley was back at the helm and this time he held the position until July 1986 when he moved on to Stourbridge to be replaced at Fellows Park by the relatively unknown figure of Tommy Coakley.
After Stourbridge Buckley assisted Tamworth and was player-manager of Kettering Town before he found his way to Blundell Park, home of Grimsby Town in 1988. Under his management, Kettering won the Bob Lord Trophy and finished third in the Conference. At Grimsby he steered The Mariners to successive promotions and the fifth round of the FA Cup. In 1995 he switched to West Bromwich Albion but after failing to win honours for the Baggies he returned to Blundell Park in 1997. In 1997/98 he twice guided The Mariners to Wembley victories, firstly in the Auto Windscreens Shield and then the Play-Off Final. After establishing the club in Division One he parted company with them early last term before being given the task of keeping Lincoln City in The Football League, a mission which was accomplished in April 2001.
ALAN ASHMAN was the man who guided West Bromwich Albion to FA Cup glory in 1968 at the end of his first full season in charge at The Hawthorns.
A Yorkshireman, born in Rotherham on May 30th 1928, Ashman was an amateur centre-forward with Sheffield United during the War, towards the end of which he turned professional with Nottingham Forest. In June 1951, after scoring three goals in 13 League matches for the Reds, he was sold to Carlisle United and he stayed with the Cumbrian club until 1958, netting 98 goals in 207 third division (north) matches. He then worked on a poultry farm and managed Penrith in his spare time before becoming manager of Carlisle in February 1963, taking them down into the fourth division in his first season in charge (they were already bottom when he took over) and then, in quick succession, up to third place in Division Two.
Ashman moved to The Hawthorns in the summer of 1967 after Jimmy Hagan left and at once things started to happen for him at the Baggies. In all he spent four years in charge of the club, taking them to the European Cup-Winners' Cup quarter-finals as well as the 1968 FA Cup and 1970 League Cup Finals. After a disappointing season he was sacked in May 1971 (he was on holiday in Greece when a journalist told him that he had lost his job) to be replaced by former player, Don Howe, and immediately took up a position of manager-coach of the Greek club, Olympiakos Piraeus after turning down a scouting job with Stoke City.
He took Olympiakos to runners-up in the Greek League in 1971/72, but left in the summer to return as manager of Carlisle United, signing the forms on June 4th 1972. He guided the Cumbrian club to promotion to the old first division in 1974 but after suffering relegation immediately, he resigned in October 1975. Two months later he went to Workington as their boss but in February 1977 he was sacked with the club sitting at the foot of Division Four. Remaining in football, he then scouted for Manchester United before Walsall named him as successor to Dave Mackay in August 1978.
Ashman spent less than one season at Fellows Park - Walsall were relegated to the fourth division at the end of it - and at the age of 51 he became chief scout of Derby County in October 1979. He later became assistant manager to John Newman at the Baseball Ground, but was dismissed by the Rams in November 1982. The following March he took over as assistant manager at Hereford United.
Released from Edgar Street in July 1987, Ashman then scouted for Plymouth Argyle and Mansfield Town.
FRANK SIBLEY, born in Uxbridge on December 4th 1947, began his career in football by signing as an apprentice for Queens Park Rangers in June 1964. He turned professional at Loftus Road in February 1965 and made his senior debut against Aldershot in the FA Cup.
After gaining England Youth honours as captain of the Under-18s, he quickly established himself in the Rangers' first-team as a forceful wing-half and was an ever-present in the side which won promotion to Division Two and lifted the League Cup at Wembley in 1966/67. The following season he was a member of the England Under-23 party which toured Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. He skippered Rangers and remained a regular first-team player until a knee injury forced him into an early retirement in 1972 after he had amassed exactly 150 League appearances.
A natural leader, Sibley settled into his new career as a fully qualified coach, staying initially at Loftus Road under manager Gordon Jago and his assistant, Stan Anderson. In 1977/78 he was given the manager's job, taking over from Dave Sexton. Unfortunately Rangers struggled in the first division that season, finishing 19th, and it was no surprise when Sibley was replaced by Steve Burtenshaw. In February 1979 he was appointed manager of Walsall - succeeding Alan Ashman - but after barely two months in charge at Fellows Park he was replaced by Alan Buckley, who returned to the club as player-manager following a spell at Birmingham City.
Five years later, in July 1984, Sibley returned as manager of QPR, who had qualified for the UEFA Cup, but again Rangers had a poor campaign, eventually finishing 19th in Division One. Consequently Sibley once more lost his job, being replaced by Jim Smith. He remained as coach under Smith and held the same post thereafter under the stewardships of Peter Shreeve, Trevor Francis, Don Howe, Gerry Francis and Ray Wilkins, thus continuing his long association with the Loftus Road club right through to 1996 when he moved across London to join Fulham's backroom staff. Although he had successful spells as assistant manager at QPR, Sibley was probably the least successful of all Walsall managers, his few weeks in charge producing hardly any points as The Saddlers completed the drop into Division Four.
NEIL MARTIN was born in Tranent, Alloa on October 20th 1940, and as an out-and-out centre-forward he spent 18 years scoring goals, initially in his native Scotland for Alloa Athletic, Queen of the South and Hibernian and then in England with Sunderland, Coventry City, Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Crystal Palace, before retiring to take up coaching and then management, becoming boss of Walsall in 1981, initially in partnership with Alan Buckley.
He moved south from Easter Road to Roker Park in October 1965 and struck 38 goals in 86 League games for Sunderland before transferring to Coventry City in February 1968. At Highfield Road he continued to hit the target, grabbing 45 goals in his 122 League and Cup outings for the Sky Blues, helping them become established in the first division.
He left Coventry for Forest in February 1971 and joined Brighton in July 1975 after adding 28 goals to his overall tally in 119 League games for the Reds. He ended his senior career with a brief spell at Selhurst Park from March to May 1976.
All told he scored 115 goals in his 337 appearances. He was capped three times by Scotland, gained one Under-23 cap and also represented the Scottish League whilst at Hibernian, for whom he scored 40 goals in 1964/65. He was appointed as joint team manager at Fellows Park in July 1981 after having coached abroad in the Middle East for five years. He then took over complete control of the team in January 1982, but was replaced in May 1982 by Buckley again, Walsall avoiding relegation only by goal-difference at the end of his time in sole charge.
Later Martin, who served an apprenticeship as a mining engineer whilst playing for Alloa Athletic, returned to coaching in the Middle East.
TOMMY COAKLEY arrived at the club in August 1986 to cries of 'Tommy who?' from both fans and journalists alike as he was appointed manager following the arrival of Terry Ramsden as chairman. Yet in his first two seasons with The Saddlers, Coakley took the club further in the FA Cup than they had ever gone before and since, and became only the second manager ever to lead The Saddlers to promotion to Division Two.
A Scotsman, born at Belshill on May 2nd 1947, he played for Motherwell before joining Arsenal in May 1966 just in time to go with the Gunners on their close-season tour to Turkey. An orthodox outside-right, he made only nine first division appearances for Arsenal, scoring one goal, before being transferred to Detroit Cougars, moving back into Scottish football with Morton in 1969/70. Then it was on to Chelmsford City and Maldon Town, who he led to the Essex League Championship before taking charge of Bishops Stortford, switching to Fellows Park as a surprise choice as boss just prior to the start of the 1986/87 campaign.
Coakley, though, proved himself as a tremendous motivator and at the end of his first season Walsall finished eighth and then he was voted Barclays Manager of the Month for April 1988 as The Saddlers raced into the promotion play-offs. Unfortunately the sale of David Kelly to West Ham United during the following close season weakened the team for life in the second division and Coakley became more and more isolated after Ramsden's departure although he remained popular with the players.
He came under particular pressure during the first half of the 1988/89 season when Walsall struggled in the higher division, and when they propped up the table, after 11 successive defeats, he was dismissed, allowing John Barnwell to move in early in 1989 after Ray Train had looked after team affairs for a short period.
After leaving Fellows Park, Coakley had a spell in charge of Blakenall and in January 1992 he joined Telford United as coach under Gerry Daly before dropping out of the game in order to pursue his golfing business.
RAY TRAIN acted as caretaker-manager for a month prior to the arrival of John Barnwell.
Born in Nuneaton in 1951, he had 20 years in the game as a player and amassed over 600 senior appearances for nine different clubs. He had two spells at Fellows Park and in between times served with Carlisle United, Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers, Watford, Oxford United, Bournemouth (on loan), Northampton Town and Tranmere Rovers.
He later became coach, first with Walsall and then at Middlesbrough. His brief spell at the Walsall helm did nothing to arrest the club's terrible sequence of results.
JOHN BARNWELL took over as Walsall's team manager on January 17th 1989, just a few weeks after being sacked by Notts County, but he could not prevent our relegation from the second division, a situation already hopeless when he arrived. He lost the job late the following season with The Saddlers heading towards yet another relegation.
Barnwell was born in Newcastle upon Tyne on December 24th 1938, and his playing career as a wing-half or inside-forward spanned almost 20 years, during which time he served Bishop Auckland (1953), Arsenal, signing as a professional in 1956, Nottingham Forest (March 1964) and Sheffield United (April 1970).
He retired through injury at the age of 33 in 1972 to become assistant manager to Colin Addison, his former playing colleague, at Hereford United, having amassed a fine record as a player, appearing in well over 400 senior games, 360 of which came in The Football League (138 with Arsenal and 182 with Nottingham Forest). He also gained England caps at Youth and Under-23 levels.
His time with Arsenal coincided with an unusually mediocre period in the club's history but he helped Forest to become runners-up to Manchester United in 1966/67. From Edgar Street , Barnwell moved in the same capacity to Peterborough United, working under Noel Cantwell, whom he eventually succeeded in July 1977. He resigned his position as manager of Posh after problems over money for team strengthening, and he duly took over at Wolves in November 1978, leading the to an FA Cup semi-final in 1979 and a League Cup triumph at Wembley the following year.
With Wolves he was involved in two big transfers, selling Steve Daley to Manchester City for £1.5 million and then signing Andy Gray from Aston Villa for £1.4 million. Gray repaid him by heading the winner in the 1980 League Cup Final against Barnwell's old club, Nottingham Forest. Whilst at Molineux, Barnwell was involved in a serious car accident, suffering a fractured skull, and after a disappointing start to the 1981/82 campaign he parted company with Wolves.
He then had a brief spell in charge of the Greek side, AEK Athens (he was banned after making unflattering remarks about the standard of Greek domestic football) before returning to The Football League as boss of Notts County in June 1987. His County side were pipped by Walsall in the third division promotion play-offs in 1987/88, but he was soon to find himself in charge of the players who had previously been chief rivals. Things didn't work out for Barnwell at Fellows Park and following Walsall's relegation to Division Three, when they were replaced by his former club, Wolves, he was dismissed in March 1990, being succeeded initially by his assistant, Paul Taylor before Kenny Hibbitt moved into the camp for the start of the 1990/91 campaign, by which time Walsall had been relegated to Division Four in readiness for the move to Bescot Stadium.
After a period out of the game Barnwell returned as a scout before becoming managerial consultant to Northampton Town in 1993. Three years later he was appointed to lead the League Managers' Association.
PAUL TAYLOR had what must be the shortest reign as the 'permanent' manager of Walsall, holding the job for just over a month prior to the arrival of Kenny Hibbitt.
Born on December 3rd 1949 in Sheffield, Taylor joined his boyhood heroes, Sheffield Wednesday as an apprentice in 1969 and turned professional at Hillsborough in June 1971. A midfielder, he failed to hold down a regular place in the side and after only six League games was transferred to York City in July 1973. Again he failed to establish himself, making only four senior appearances, and after a loan spell with Hereford United - making one substitute appearance in January 1974 - he was loaned to Colchester United in March that year. At Layer Road he was called into action only nine times and then went to Southport in July 1974 where he fared much better, going on to top 100 appearances for the Haig Avenue club, scoring 16 goals in the process.
He then switched to the NASL with Tampa Bay Rowdies in July 1977 but returned to England in 1981 to become assistant manager to Keith Peacock at Gillingham and half-way through the 1987/88 season took over at the Priestfield Stadium helm when Peacock departed. When he was assistant the Gills reached the 1987 Division Three Play-Off Final where they lost to Swindon Town, but his first season in sole charge saw the club flounder and after a terrible start to 1988/89, Taylor was sacked after a 5-0 defeat at Preston. The club went on to be relegated.
He was then taken on as first-team coach and assistant to John Barnwell early in 1989 and replaced Barnwell briefly during another relegation season before Hibbitt arrived. Taylor was promoted to general manager in 1994/95 and has since been given the title of Director of Football which he currently occupies.
KENNY HIBBITT was a fine goalscoring midfielder who amassed an excellent career record of 694 appearances for his four clubs - Bradford Park Avenue, Wolves, Coventry City and Bristol Rovers - as well as gaining one England Under-23 cap, coming on as a substitute against Wales in 1970/71.
A Yorkshireman, born in Bradford on January 3rd 1951, Hibbitt's early football was played in the Bradford area and he joined the Park Avenue club as an amateur in June 1966, turning professional on his 17th Birthday in 1968. He played 15 League games for Bradford Park Avenue before transferring to Wolves for a bargain fee of £5,000 in November 1968. Although homesick at first, he soon settled down at Molineux and the fans grew to love him. Always a grand competitor, he was a key figure in the engine-room of the side for some 16 years up to 1984.
He gained two League Cup winners' medals (1974 and 1980), scoring in the first Final against Manchester City. He also helped Wolves win promotion from the second division on two occasions (in 1977 and 1983) and lined up in the 1972 UEFA Cup Final against Spurs. Given a deserved testimonial by Wolves in 1982, he left the club two years later to join Coventry City after amassing a fine set of statistics; 114 goals in 574 appearances for the Wanderers. He spent two seasons at Highfield Road and in August 1986 went to Bristol Rovers.
A broken leg, suffered against Sunderland in February 1988, ended his playing days and he became Gerry Francis' assistant at Twerton Park, seeing Rovers win the third division title and finish runners-up in the Leyland DAF Trophy Final at Wembley in 1989.
Hibbitt had always wanted to try his luck as a manager and when the opportunity arose to apply of the Walsall job, his ambition came true. But it wasn't all plain-sailing, and Hibbitt's first two seasons (the first two at Bescot Stadium incidentally) were rather disappointing to say the least as The Saddlers finished 16th and 15th respectively in the fourth division. However, he wheeled and dealed frequently in the transfer market, securing the services of some experienced professionals to blend with the up-and-coming youngsters, and from time to time there were some useful performances. However, soon after the start of the 1994/95 season, Hibbitt left, to be replaced by the former Aston Villa and Northern Ireland defender, Chris Nicholl. He later became manager of Cardiff City and then director of football and coaching at Ninian Park.
CHRIS NICHOLL was a natural defender, capped 51 times by Northern Ireland and who, during a long career, made 754 appearances in League and Cup football.
Born in Wilmslow, Cheshire on October 12th 1946, Nicholl represented Macclesfield Schoolboys before joining Burnley as an apprentice in June 1963, turning professional at Turf Moor in April 1965. Surprisingly he failed to make the grade with The Clarets and in 1966 moved to Witton Albion, returning to The Football League with Halifax Town for £1,000 in June 1968.
A little over a year later he was transferred to Luton Town for £25,000 and it was with The Hatters where his defensive qualities were first noticed. In March 1972 Aston Villa, who were ready to climb out of the third division, bought Nicholl to bolster their defence, manager Vic Crowe paying £75,000 for his services with another £15,000 to follow once Villa had got back up into the top flight. Nicholl replaced veteran George Curtis in the cenre-half position and the next five years he scored 20 goals in 252 appearances for the Villa Park outfit, helping them reach the first division in 1975 and twice lift the League Cup, in 1975 and 1977, scoring a terrific goal in the second replay of the latter encounter at Old Trafford. He was also voted Supporters' Player of the Year in 1975.
He left Villa Park in June 1977, signing for Southampton for a fee of £90,000. He stayed at The Dell for six seasons, playing in the Saints' beaten League Cup Final side against Nottingham Forest in 1979, a year after helping them gain promotion from Division Two. In August 1983, Nicholl was appointed player-assistant manager of Grimsby Town, and stayed at Blundell Park for two years before retiring as a player in May 1985 to become boss of Southampton in place of Lawrie McMenemy.
In May 1991, after guiding Saints to second place in the old first division - their highest ever League finish - and leading them into the UEFA Cup, he departed, handing over the reins to Ian Branfoot. After a period out of the limelight, Nicholl became Walsall's 25th post-War manager in September 1994 when he replaced Kenny Hibbitt. His reign at Bescot Stadium lasted three years, until the summer of 1997, when the relatively unkown Dane Jan Sorensen took charge.
During his term in office with The Saddlers, Nicholl did reasonably well, taking the club out of the basement division, but he perhaps knew he had done what he could at Bescot and decided to call it a day at the age of 50. After playing plenty of tennis whilst taking a break from the game, he was lured back by the prospect of working with the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad.
JAN SORENSEN was the man chosen by chairman Jeff Bonser to take over from Chris Nicholl, being appointed in June 1997 at the age of 42.
As a hard-working midfielder, Sorensen played for four of Europe's leading clubs - three in Holland, namely Ajax, FC Twente Enschede and Feyenoord, and FC Bruges, who won the 1977 Belgian League Championship and then reached the European Cup Final the following year before losing 1-0 to Liverpool at Wembley. He also starred for Portomonense in Portugal.
Capped 15 times by Denmark, he had been player-manager of Portomonense prior to his arrival at Bescot Stadium. Sorensen had a mixed season with Walsall. He saw his team enjoy excellent runs in all three domestic Cup competitions, reaching the fourth round of the Coca-Cola Cup and FA Cup and the semi-finals of the Auto Windscreens Shield. But he failed to produce the goods in the bread and butter of League football and after The Saddlers had struggled to finish a disappointing 19th, he handed over the duties to Ray Graydon, another former Aston Villa player who, like Chris Nicholl, had played in those two League Cup winning teams in the 1970s. Sorensen meanwhile drifted in and out of the game, having a very brief spell upstairs at Hartlepool United.
RAY GRAYDON was a League footballer for 18 years, during which time he amassed well over 400 appearances in various competitions and scored more than 120 goals.
An orthodox outside-right, Graydon was born in Frenchay, Bristol on July 21st 1947 and signed for his home-town club, Bristol Rovers as an apprentice in July 1963, turning professional at Eastville in September 1965. He gained youth and amateur honours for England early in his career and after netting 33 times in 133 outings for The Pirates, he was transferred to Aston Villa for £50,000 in July 1971, with Brian Godfrey leaving for Rovers.
A speedy winger, with good, close ball control and a powerful right-foot shot, Graydon scored Villa's winning goal against Norwich City in the 1975 League Cup Final, cracking home the rebound after his penalty had been saved by ex-Villa 'keeper Kevin Keelan, and then played in the second replay of the 1977 Final when Everton were beaten 3-2 at Old Trafford. Graydon notched 82 goals in 231 games for Villa before joining Coventry City in July 1977. The following summer he had a spell in the NASL with Washington Diplomats, returning to England to sign for Oxford United for £35,000 in November 1978.
After three years as a player at the Manor Ground, Graydon retired to become Oxford's coach, later serving in the same capacity at Watford (1988-89) and then as coach at Southampton and Port Vale. Once he had settled in at Bescot Stadium after his May 1998 arrival, he imposed a strict code of discipline on the players with no earrings, no mobile phones on the team coach, no stereos in the changing room and no caps. It all paid off as he saw his team do tremendously well in his first season in charge, winning promotion from the second division as runners-up to Fulham.
Graydon's squad was made up basically of free transfers, loan stars and youngsters who had developed through the ranks, but he had blended them into a competent unit which not only matched the best that Division Two had to offer but also nearly made it to Wembley in the Final of the Auto Windscreens Shield.
The following season, 1999/2000, saw Graydon lead a brave campaign in the first division in which the club battled gamely, beating many of their local rivals, and only being relegated on the final day of the season. However, Graydon masterminded an immediate return as they spent just one season back in the second division, securing promotion via the Play-Offs courtesy of a never-to-be-forgotten 3-2 triumph over Reading at the magnificent Millennium Stadium in front of almost 20,000 Saddlers' supporters.
COLIN LEE arrived at Bescot Stadium in January 2002 at a time when the club were trying to avoid another instant relegation from the first division after working so hard the previous season to bounce straight back.
After an apprenticeship at Bristol City, a club for which he never made a first-team appearance, he embarked upon a playing career that took in five clubs. Over 13 years, he made a total of 286 appearances for Torquay United - his home-town club - Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Brentford.
With his playing days coming to an end, he moved into the World of coaching and it wasn't long before he was given his first managerial role with a spell in charge of Watford in 1990.
This opened his eyes at an early age how difficult it was in the hot-seat and after learning his trade as assistant to Mark McGhee at Reading, Leicester and Wolves, he eventually took over the Molineux reigns in 1998.
During his two years at the helm, he won 44 of his 115 games but was replaced by Dave Jones in December 2000 after becoming yet another manager who tried - and failed - to bring top flight status back to the club.
Lee's next port of call was to home-town club, Torquay United, who were battling to hold on to their Football League status. Arriving initially in an advisory role, he soon took over as temporary boss and managed to steer the club away from the drop zone on a dramatic final day of the 2000/2001 season.
With the job done, he left to join the coaching staff at Wigan Athletic before the chance came to take over The Saddlers in the wake of Ray Graydon's departure.
Setting about the task of improving the club both on and off the field, he maintained first division status after just three months at the helm then continued the developement the following season as we secured a record-breaking third consecutive season at first division level.
Having to constantly grapple with the finances as he worked with one of the smallest budgets in the first division, he nevertheless managed to secure the services of the likes of Paul Merson and Vinny Samways as he brought about a real first division look and feel to Bescot Stadium.
However, having been within reach of the Play-Offs at the half-way point of the 2003/2004 season, things started to fall away badly both on and off the field after Christmas and culminated with his dismissal with just four games to go after he had spoken to Plymouth Argyle about their managerial vacancy.
It paved the way for Paul Merson to take over initially on a caretaker basis, but he landed the job full-time in May 2004.
RATED as the most significant signing in the clubs history, former England International PAUL MERSON, who has 21 caps to his name, put pen to paper on a two-year playing deal at Bescot Stadium in July 2003 after helping Portsmouth achieve top-flight status.
One of the English games most popular figures, Merson burst onto the scene at Arsenal, signing professional forms in December 1985 and going on to win two League Championships, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup during 12 success-filled years at Highbury.
His next port of call was Middlesbrough as he joined the north-east club for £4.5million and proved to be an important figure in the heart of their side. His displays prompted Aston Villa to pay out £6.75million to secure his services in September 1998 and he went on to achieve legendary status at Villa Park as he became one of the main driving forces in the side.
In August 2002 he accepted the challenge to try and help Portsmouth achieve Premiership status, becoming Harry Redknapp's highest profile capture and after accomplishing his mission he set his heart on a move to Walsall.
Despite winning virtually everything the game has to offer, 2003/2004 probably ranks as one of the most eventful in Merson's career, which ended with the 37-year-old taking temporary charge of The Saddlers for the final four games.
He could do nothing to prevent relegation but his positive approach to the game didn't go unnoticed, and he was given the manager's job on a full-time basis during the summer of 2004.
It is fair to say that he found the initial going tough, but his performances out on the field did not suffer as a result of the added responsibility and he was still a sublime playing talent, creating the vast majority of The Saddlers' goals in 2004/2005 and earning a place in The PFA Team of the Season at the end of the campaign.
Agreeing a new deal with the club once League One safety was assured in April 2005, he then proceeded to rebuild the side during the summer in readiness for the 2005/06 campaign.
The season got underway in a positive fashion and with numerous youngsters breaking through from the youth team, the future looked bright. However, the side began to slip further and further down the table as the season progressed and with no fewer than 46 different players used in all competitions plus discontent amongst the fans, his tenure came to an end after a 5-0 defeat at Brentford in February 2006.
Merson was replaced on a caretaker-manager basis for three games by Head of Youth MICK HALSALL, but he refused to take the job on a longer term basis and on February 22nd 2006, with relegation staring the club in the face, KEVAN BROADHURST was unveiled a manager initially until the end of the 2005/06 season.
46 year-old Braodhurst was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire but came through the ranks at Birmingham City, where he developed a reputation as a no-nonsense and hard-working defender.
He was handed his first-team debut for Blues at the age of 17 and scored one of the goals in a 3-2 victory over Norwich City. Allowed to move to Fellows Park on loan in November 1979 where he made three appearances for The Saddlers as he helped us secure wins at both Peterborough and Bradford as well as draw at home to Portsmouth.
His playing career was tragically cut short in his mid-20s due to a serious knee injury picked up in a local derby clash with Aston Villa.
He moved into coaching and gained his UEFA A Coaching License before returning to St. Andrews as youth team manager. He secured a similar role at Northampton Town in 1999 after scouting for the club on a part-time basis and did a fine job with The Cobblers' youngsters.
Such was his success that he became first-team coach and then assistant manager at Sixfields Stadium before joining Luton Town as reserve team boss in October 2000.
He was lured back to Northampton as caretaker-manager just under a year later and immediately brought about an upturn in fortunes which saw him land the managers job on a permanent basis. Reviving the fortunes of the struggling club and getting them back on track, he parted company with The Cobblers for a second time in January 2003.
After a spell scouting and helping out at Oxford United, he joined Bristol Rovers as joint caretaker-manager in the final months of 2003/04, once more coming to a struggling outfit and helping to bring about an upturn in fortunes. He eventually left the Memorial Ground in the summer of 2005.
An intelligent, thoughtful and methodical man, he has a wealth of contacts in the game and his first game at The Saddlers' helm came at League One leaders, Southend United where he guided the club to a goalless draw. After masterminding a draw and victory at Swansea and Tranmere respectively, some poor results on home soil saw us crash to the bottom of the table before relegation was confirmed on Saturday, April 22nd - with two games of the season remaining.
Broadhurst was relieved of his duties on April 24th 2006 as MARK KINSELLA took over on a temporary basis until the end of the 2005/06 season.
THE SADDLERS appointed RICHARD MONEY as Team Manager on May 3rd 2006. He commenced his duties forthwith, although Mark Kinsella took charge of team affairs for our final home League game of the 2005/06 campaign against Barnsley.
A man with impressive coaching credentials, together with a wealth of coaching and managerial experience, Money was chosen to mastermind a major promotion challenge to regain League One status at the first attempt.
He made 450 appearances as a player, which included England Under-21 and 'B' International caps, a European Cup winners' medal with Liverpool under Bob Paisley, a first division Champions medal with Luton Town, as well as spells with Scunthorpe United, Fulham and Portsmouth.
His coaching career has included appointments as youth coach at Aston Villa and manager at Scunthorpe United. He went on to work with Frank Clark at Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, where he was Head Coach before joining Coventry City, initially as Academy Director and then as first-team coach.
He holds both an Academy Directors Licence and a UEFA Pro Diploma, the top UEFA coaches licence and an essential qualification to be able to manage in premier European Leagues. This enabled him to be appointed manager of one of Scandinavia's top clubs, AIK Stockholm, whom he helped secure fifth position in the League in 2003/04 and a place in the UEFA Cup.
His managerial career continued with short spells at Swedish club, Vasteras, where he helped them avoid relegation, before the 2004/05 season saw him take over at Australian outfit, Newcastle Jets, guiding them to a play-off position before returning to these shores with The Saddlers.
He led Walsall to the League Two Championship at the end of his first season at the helm in 2006/07. It was our first Title triumph in 47 years as Money followed in the footsteps of the legendary Bill Moore.
The following campaign saw The Saddlers recover from a slow start to sit in the play-off zone with a youthful team. Our play-off hopes stayed alive until three games from the end of the season and on Tuesday, April 22nd 2008, Richard Money announced his resignation with immediate effect.
JIMMY Mullen arrived at the Banks's Stadium in September 2007 and his appointment as assistant manager coincided with the club losing just one game in 23 outings.
Having taken over the reigns on a caretaker basis in the wake of Richard Money's departure, he was handed the manager's job on May 22nd 2008.
During his playing career he represented the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United before linking up with Ian Porterfield as assistant manager at Aberdeen in 1986.
In 1989, he was appointed manager of Blackpool before moving to Burnley as assistant manager a year later. After the departure of then boss, Frank Casper, Mullen took over as manager and, during his five-year stay, enjoyed two promotions with the Clarets.
He also spent time at the helm of Irish outfit, Sligo Rovers and widened his coaching experiences with the Welsh FA where he spent a number of years in a youth development role working with Welsh Under 16-19 Internationals.
An enthusiastic and hard-working character, he made a solid start to the 2008/09 campaign with the club sitting in the top five after the first nine League games.
However, results were inconsistent after that and with the club out of the Carling Cup, FA Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy, it was decided to terminate his contract with immediate effect on Saturday, January 10th 2009.
First-team coach, JOHN SCHOFIELD was given the manager's role on a caretaker basis upon Mullen's departure and he took charge of the 1-0 defeat at Peterborough United before being relieved of his duties on January 19th 2009.
IT PAVED the way for former Walsall captain, CHRIS HUTCHINGS to take over the following day with another Saddlers' skipper, Martin O'Connor installed as his assistant.
Managing in the Premier League with spells at the helm of both Bradford City and Wigan Athletic, Hutchinngs, a UEFA Pro License holder, began his coaching career at Rotherham United as youth team coach after bringing the curtain down on his playing career whilst at Millmoor.
He then moved on to Bradford City, initially as assistant to Chris Kamara, before working for the first time with Paul Jewell.
During his time with The Bantams, he heled the club rise from the second division to the top-flight before following Jewell to Wigan Athletic in 2001.
Spending six years with The Latics, he played a key role in helping the Lancashire outfit establish themselves in the Premier League.
Moving on to Derby County in April 2008, again under Jewell's stewardship, he was in charge of The Rams for one game on a caretaker basis before accepting the challenge here at Banks's Stadium.
Hutchings was, of course, no stranger to The Saddlers having made 40 League appearances in our colours during the 1990/91 campaign.
His professional career started at Chelsea where he emerged as a talented a reliable defender whose performances belied his tender years. He then served Brighton & Hove Albion well in over 150 outings before his next port of call took him north to Huddersfield Town in 1987, from where he signed for Walsall during Kenny Hibbitt's tenure.
Upon leaving Bescot Stadium, he brought his playing career, which had seen him make alomst 500 League appearances, to a close at Rotherham United.
Leading The Saddlers to a tenth place finish in 2009/10, a disappointing start to the following season saw him relieved of his duties, along with assistant, Martin O'Connor and Chief Scout, David Hamilton, on January 4th 2011.
Head of Youth, DEAN SMITH took temporary control of team affairs before being appointed on a full-time basis in January 2011.