Lifelong Saddler visits the club's Training Ground...We’ve all felt the pain of looking forward to a football match only to hear it has been postponed - sometimes, you even get to the ground only to hear the bad news.
You have to feel for Ernie Hodson, then - the North Carolina resident flew over from his Brevard home to watch his beloved Saddlers at the Banks’s Stadium, as he does most years.
The match Ernie came back for this season? The Port Vale game, scheduled originally for March 25 but postponed due to international call-ups.
But his trip was not wasted - Ernie was invited to the club’s training ground in Essington to meet manager Jon Whitney, and was presented with a signed 2016/17 home shirt.
Ernie met the manager, the players and staff and was also presented with a print of Fellows Park by kit man Tom Bradley.
“Prior to me knowing it was postponed, I emailed the club for Jon to say I was making this annual pilgrimage and I want to see a net full of goals!” said Ernie.
“Jon was good enough to answer back and invite us round. He even gave me his cell phone number!
“It’s been fantastic to meet him and all the players and see behind the scenes at the training ground.”
Born in Walsall, the 79-year-old moved to the United States in 1982 - but not before witnessing an historic moment in the Saddlers’ history.
“I started supporting Walsall in either 1948 or 1949,” Ernie added. “In those days it was safe for a 10/11 year old to go to a game on their own.
“I’ve never supported another team. I was there when we broke the ground record at Fellows Park with 23,000 on against Newcastle.
“I saw a lot of ups and downs but they were my team.”
Not that Ernie is the only Saddler in the family any more.
“I used to bring my son, who now lives in Wisconsin,” said Ernie.
“When Walsall qualified for Wembley (in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final of 2015) he called me and said ‘Dad, you’re 77, we’ve got to see them as they might not get there again in your lifetime’.
“So we went to the game and had a great time.
“This time I fixed the visit to see us play Port Vale but, as we all know, it was cancelled.”