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SPECIAL MEMORIES

16 May 2014

Saddlers to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our 1994/95 promotion...

BELIEVE it or not, the 2014/15 campaign will see us celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our promotion out of The Football League’s basement division under the guidance of Chris Nicholl.

It’s seen as a seminal moment in our recent history as it signalled the end of a downward spiral and start of an upturn in fortunes that saw us go on to enjoy the most successful period in the club’s history.

“I was lucky enough to enjoy three promotion seasons with the club,” recalled Chris Marsh. “They were all very special in their own right and conjure up their own particular memories and highlights.

“What stands out most about 1994/95 was the tremendous team spirit. On the pitch I was really enjoying my football and off it there was such camaraderie – they were great days.

“Back then we were allowed to have a few beers to relax and it certainly stimulated a sense of togetherness amongst the lads.

“I totally understand the various reasons why this can’t happen in the modern game, but back then the social side of things went hand-in-hand with everything else and it worked for us.

“Ask any ex-professional footballer and it’s the daily banter that they miss most of all. I hung my boots up over ten years ago now but I still miss it and that’s why events like the forthcoming CAT Communications’ Charity Game are good because we get to see some old faces and rekindle that magic, albeit for a few hours.

“It’s no coincidence that a lot of that 1994/95 team will be back here for that Charity match.”

The 1994/95 season started with the departure of manager, Kenny Hibbitt, who was sacked less than a month into the campaign.

He was replaced at the helm by Chris Nicholl whose no-nonsense style and determination was an instant hit.

“Chris Nicholl came in and right from the word go the only thing he talked about was promotion,” added Marsh. “He hit the ground running and got us working to his style straight away.

“It may have been a more defensive style than we were previously used to, but it worked and got us results when it shouldn’t have, especially away from home.

“We were a well-drilled and well-organised unit and it was epitomised on the night that promotion was secured at Bury where we got the point that we needed from a goalless draw which frustrated our hosts, who themselves were in the promotion frame.

“We went there with a plan and carried it out almost to the letter. In fact, I am sure that I saw a tear in Chris Nicholl’s eye at the end, even though he would never admit to it!

“What a season it was and what characters we had in the side. I remember hugging Colin Gibson on the pitch at Gigg Lane after our final game; here was a player who had played at the very highest level for the likes of Manchester United and Aston Villa, yet it meant so much to him.

“That summed up what a special achievement it was for us all. I just can’t believe that it happened 20 years ago, how frightening is that?”

We will be running a regular feature on that memorable 1994/95 campaign in next season’s new-look Matchday Programme, so look out for that...

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