Former defender returns with Scotland Under-19s this afternoon...THE SADDLERS play host to the Scotland Under-19 team this afternoon as they take on Montenegro in a UEFA Under-19s Elite Round Qualifier (kick-off 3.00pm).
At the Scottish helm is a no-nonsense former Walsall defender who appeared in all but one of our games in 1979/80 as we secured promotion from Division Four as runners-up.
Ricky Sbragia started his playing career with Birmingham City, where he came through the ranks to sign professional forms in 1974.
Unable to establish himself at St. Andrews, he was loaned out to Morton before making the switch to Fellows Park in October 1978 for a fee of £15,000.
Making his debut in a 1-1 home draw with Southend United, the tough-tackling Scot went on to appear in a total of 84 games for The Saddlers, including 51 outings during our promotion-winning campaign of 1979/80 where he was a key figure in the heart of the back-line.
The summer of 1980 saw him leave the club to link up with Blackpool, where he was to spend a couple of years before joining York City.
Helping The Minstermen secure promotion out of the fourth division, he also scored their equaliser in an FA Cup fifth round clash with Liverpool in 1985 and became a popular figure both on and off-the-field at the club.
When a back injury ended his playing career, he moved into coaching, initially with the York City youth team, and then moved on to Sunderland in a similar capacity before progressing to reserve team coach with the north-east outfit.
Moving on to Manchester United in 2002, he built up a successful reserve team as his reputation for developing emerging talent grew.
Appointed first-team coach at Bolton Wanderers in October 2005, he stayed at the Reebok Stadium for just over two years before making a return to Sunderland, where he was eventually appointed as caretaker-manager in the wake of Roy Keane’s departure.
He landed the position on a permanent basis following a successful run of results, but after guiding the club to Premier League safety at the end of the 2008/09 campaign, he resigned from his position as manager but remained at the club as Chief Scout.
Taking over as Head Coach of the Scotland Under-17 team in August 2011, he moved up to the Under-19s at the start of 2012/13 and we extend a warm Banks’s Stadium welcome to him on Thursday.
Tickets for the game are on sale now at just £3 (adults) and £1 (concessions). They can be purchased from the Banks’s Stadium Ticket Office or by calling 01922-651 414/416.
Don’t forget that 2013/14 or 2014/15 Walsall FC season ticket holders can have a free ticket to the game on production of your season ticket booklet at the Ticket Office (one ticket per booklet).
This will be the third and final Under-19 International to be staged at the stadium this week after England beat Montenegro 6-0 on Saturday and Ukraine chalked up a 4-0 victory over Montenegro on Monday.
See Saddlers Wall for a gallery of images from Rick Sbragia’s time with The Saddlers (with thanks to Dave Evans).