Paul Leadbeater (pictured above, red shirt on the right) to reach landmark this evening...For lifelong Saddlers supporter Paul Leadbeater, this evening’s match at Barnsley isn’t just another game.
The 59-year-old has followed his hometown club for almost half a century – and tonight he will attend his 2000th Walsall match.
Paul, who is a season ticket holder in the Homeserve Stand, has watched the Saddlers since 1967 and travels to every game home and away.
Ahead of his landmark match at Oakwell this evening, the Walsall fanatic spoke to saddlers.co.uk to discuss his remarkable milestone.
Q: So Paul, how does it feel to be about to reach 2000 Walsall games - and how have you kept track?
PL: I feel very lucky, it’s been a rollercoaster and really good fun. From an early age I’ve kept a scrapbook and I’ve listed every game I’ve been to. I’m well into my second book now! I don’t know why I started doing it but I’m glad I did.
Q: What was your first game?
PL: Walsall vs. Darlington at Fellows Park in February 1967. My dad took me to the game and he wanted us to leave early to beat the traffic. We were losing 1-0 when we left the ground and as we were walking to the car we heard this roar. We got in the car, put the radio on and found out we’d drawn 1-1!
Q: What was it that got you hooked?
PL: I’ve lived in Walsall for most of my life and all of my pals at school were Walsall fans. My dad was actually an Albion fan – he said it was the biggest mistake of his life that he didn’t make me an Albion supporter! There were a lot of Walsall games on Friday evenings in the 1970s which suited me. I started going to those games and I got hooked. I bought my first season ticket in 1971/72 – and that was it!
Q: What has been your favourite Walsall game?
PL: The Milk Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Anfield (2-2 draw in 1984) was just sensational. I’ll never forget a game against Bristol Rovers in 1973; we were losing 3-1 with about five minutes left and came back to win 4-3. The 4-4 draw at Watford in the FA Cup (1987) was also a great match.
Q: Which season has been your favourite?
PL: Probably getting promoted to the Old Second Division in 1988 under Tommy Coakley. Although the football wasn’t always the prettiest to watch, he was very successful. The first time we won promotion with Ray Graydon in 1999 was fantastic as well.
Q: You’ll have seen a lot of great goals over the years – do any stand out?
PL: Roger Boli’s overhead kick against Southend. We won 3-1, it was quite early in the in the 1997/98 season. Anyone who went to that match will remember that goal – it was stunning.
Q: Which away ground have you most enjoyed going to?
PL: Wolves – we always do well at Molineux. The atmosphere and support we have there is always fantastic. I always enjoy going to the Midlands grounds.
Q: Finally, we’re playing Barnsley away tonight, how nice would it be to get a win in your 2,000 match?
PL: It would be superb but all wins are good! I’m really enjoying this season. Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly are working so hard. We’ve got a lot of young lads coming through and you can see there’s a good camaraderie in the team. I’m optimistic that we can have a good season.