Event at the Banks's next week...Join us for an evening with Ray Graydon and members of the 2000/01 Second Division promotion-winning team here at the Banks’s Stadium on Friday, 15th April.
Fifteen years on from that unforgettable campaign, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to celebrate one of the most successful seasons in Walsall’s 128-year history.
Doors open at 7.00pm, with food served at 7.30pm.
Prices are £15 for season ticket holders and £20 for non-season ticket holders. Prices include admission, steak and ale pie, chips, and a pint or soft drink.
Book your tickets now by calling our ticket office on 01922 651 416 or visit www.eticketing.co.uk/walsallfc
Ahead of the event, saddlers.co.uk caught up with Darren Byfield, the scorer of our promotion-winning goal, to find out more…
Q: So Darren, how proud are you to have been a member of that promotion-winning team?
DB: Very proud and, to be honest, I’ve probably watched the highlights from that season and the play-off final more in the last three or four months than I ever have. That’s probably because of Twitter as well, because people are always putting it on there. But every time I watch it I still get excited. I’m probably more excited now because when you’re a young boy you just think it’s the norm. But I only got to one more play-off final after that. So for me, it’s probably the best day I had in my football career. It was something very special.
Q: You’re remembered mainly for your contribution in the play-off final, what are your memories of that day?
DB: I remember being really worried that I wasn’t going to be involved. I don’t think I knew until I got to the stadium that I was sub. But I always knew that if I was sub that I was going to come on and score. I just knew I was going to get it and the lads kept saying it as well. It was a brilliant day.
Q: So talk us through your goal.
DB: I remember Matthew Gadsby picking the ball up from the right back position and I’d made a run to go down the channel. I checked back and he played it into my right foot and I took a touch, put it onto my left and just hit it. It skipped along the greasy surface and went into the bottom corner. It was unbelievable.
Q: Is scoring that promotion-winning goal one of the highlights of your career?
DB: Definitely, 100%. It doesn’t get any better than that. I had some great days in my career – making my international debut for Jamaica was a big thing for me - but at club level, to do that, was unbelievable. It was great knowing that I’d contributed to making so many people happy. Even today, I get messages on social media saying it was the greatest day of their life. But it wasn’t just about me, you’ve got to think about the boys who got us there, who played regularly and put in a massive shift to get us to extra-time in the play-off final. But to contribute to the team’s success was brilliant.
Q: What qualities did that team have that made it successful?
DB: We had a mix of everything as a team. We had the skill of Pedro Matias, players who could play like Gaby Bukran in midfield, people who put their foot in like Fitzroy Simpson and Dean Keates. Jorge Leitao never stopped running. At the back we had Tony Barras, Ian Roper, Ian Brightwell, Zigor Aranalde – people who won everything and refused to lose. And then there was one of the best keepers I ever played with in Jimmy Walker. I know there are people I’ve probably missed out, but we had everything.
Q: Did you believe at the start of the season that you could win promotion?
DB: I don’t think we were really looking at it at the start but we got stronger as the season went on. After a few games it was like ‘wait a minute, we’ve not seen anyone better than our team yet’. We played on and played on and we still hadn’t. We’d played everyone and thought ‘there’s nothing to be scared of, let’s go for it’. No-one really spoke about it (promotion) but within the group we knew we were a good side. Training was intense – there was no letting off with each session treated like a match. Ray Graydon wouldn’t accept anything less!
Q: So tell us a little bit more about Ray Graydon. What was he like to work for?
DB: Very hard! He was a very strict disciplinarian. If you had to say who was going to be late for training, it was always me. So I was probably going to get fined more than anyone else! I’ve always been like that right throughout my career – it’s not a problem attitude wise – I’m just always late! But Ray got the best out of us. I saw him last year and it was really good to see him.
Q: So finally, how much are you looking forward to seeing Ray and all your old teammates at our upcoming event?
DB: I can’t wait. It’s going to be really good and I’m sure there’ll be a few good stories told which people have forgotten about. I can’t wait to see them. What a group! There’ve only been a couple of clubs I’ve been at where they’ve had a group like the one we had at Walsall. I’m really excited about seeing them and seeing what they’re up to now.