After 33 years of outstanding service, kit man Tom Bradley has retired from his role after Walsall’s 3-2 victory at Crawley Town.
Bradley joined the club as a physio before moving into the role of kit man.
We caught up with him prior to his departure to relive some of the memories during his tenure at the club.
Tom, we’re all really sad to see you leave, when did you make the decision to retire?
“It was at the start of August and I said ‘gaffer, I think it’s time I left, the time is right.’ I must have been the oldest kit man in the world!”
The kit man plays a vital role at any football club. You’ve certainly worked hard during your time in the role.
“It’s a very stressful job but if you don’t worry about the job you’re doing there’s something wrong. Everything you do from Monday to Friday all hinges on matchday. The moment I stop worrying is when the players walk onto the pitch and I know everything is right. I think if a kit man doesn’t think that way then there’s something wrong. You have to prepare properly. “
You first joined the Saddlers in 1986, can you recall the day you joined the club?
“I was at Worcester City at the time and I had a phone call to say there was a job going at Walsall so I phoned Tom Coakley, who was the manager at the time and asked if I could go and see him.
“I went in for a week where they can look at me and I can look at them and I was then offered the job.”
You have worked with so many players and managers over the years as well.
“I did yes. I find you don’t get many gentlemen in football but I’ve met a few.
“There was Tony Grealish for example, he was an absolute gentleman. Phil Hawker was probably the nicest man I’d ever met in football, and I’ve met some nice guys. I’ve had some very good managers as well.
“People analyse football a lot. The Premier League has glamorised it a lot, it’s a lot different in the lower leagues. They are just ordinary young men doing a job that they get paid for. It’s not a glamorous job in the lower leagues. I’ve met some lovely players, especially in the last few years.”
You’ve seen just about everything at the football club, including our first ever trip to Wembley in 2015, how special was it for you to be involved that day?
“That was wonderful, it’s such a lovely day and the people are so nice and friendly towards you there.
“I wouldn’t have expected it, I’d never been to Wembley and it was awesome. The changing rooms were something else and it knocks you back!
Are there any other memories that stand out?
“I have a lot of fond memories. We’ve had good times and bad times. In terms of specific memories though, what went on between the players and I, stays between the players and I. There are a lot of happy memories though that’s for sure.
Will you still be keeping an eye on the Saddlers?
I’ll keep an eye and will show my face from time to time.
Do you have one final message before you leave us?
“I wish to thank everybody involved in the football club from top to bottom. Especially the fans because we have such a tight fan base compared with other clubs and they’ve all been fantastic."
Tom will be presented with a trophy at half-time during the Salford City match this weekend.
Everyone at Walsall Football Club would like to thank Tom for all his hard work during his time with the Saddlers and wish him a happy retirement.