Saturday’s final match of the season against Swindon Town will see three members of our PA team retire from their roles and embark on their final matchday at the Banks’s Stadium.
David Bathurst, Michael Day and Gavin Drake have all given excellent service to the club over a lengthy period of time and are familiar faces and voices to Saddlers fans.
David (right in picture) has been working in the PA team for 45 years, having started at Fellows Park before transitioning into the current PA room at the Banks’s Stadium.
As stadium announcer, David has been a prominent voice at all Walsall FC home games and other on-field events at the football club; co-ordinating and planning matchday schedules and relaying important information over the tannoy to supporters. In more recent years, David has also been present for games at the Banks’s Stadium where we have hosted Aston Villa Women.
David has many fond memories and has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the role.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” he said.
“It’s been 45 years of service to the club and its supporters which I shall look back on with immense pride and pleasure. Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end and my commitments and health as such tell me that now is the time to call it a day.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes; it’s not just a case of turning up on the day so to have managed some of the bigger/high-profile matches over the years such as Liverpool in the second leg of the semi-final of the Milk Cup efficiently is something I look back on fondly. Those sorts of matches were always traumatic but to overcome them was very rewarding. As long as I knew I had done my job and provided the public with the service required I was happy, as it’s a huge responsibility to be the main speaker to everyone on a matchday.”
David will continue to attend matches as a supporter over the coming seasons and is thankful to have built many positive relationships over the years.
“My father started taking me to the ground when I was young, but my real passion for Walsall started before I became an announcer; that was watching the two matches against Sunderland and Newcastle United in 1961 when we elevated to the then Second Division which to me are two of the finest matches I have ever seen and will ever see.
“Colin Taylor as a footballer was somebody I will always remember watching. Those who watched him from the stands won’t need reminding of how powerful his shot was; I’ve never seen anything like it since in any level of football.
“There are many memories that I have made at Walsall and I thank some colleagues of mine who are no longer with us who have assisted me over the years.
“I’ve had a very good rapport with almost everybody I have dealt with during my time at the club and I thank them for their continued support. I’d also like to personally thank my colleagues Michael and Gavin for everything they have done. We’ve had a fantastic working relationship which has been built on for a number of years and their input and support has made my experience far greater; we make quite the team if I say so myself!
“My ambition now is to see the club continue to strive and do well both on and off the pitch in the seasons to come; that would please me very much.”
Michael (left in picture) has been an employee for 35 years and has overseen a number of roles during that time.
Joining the PA team officially in 2006, Michael is responsible for operating the electronic scoreboard as well as curating suitable music for the matchday playlists.
Michael has relished working for the club over the years and is thankful for the opportunity.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of the set up here,” he said.
“This will be my 35th season working for the club and that in itself is something that I’m immensely proud of. I’ve had a lot of roles during that time, starting by helping out with the mascots on matchdays and then eventually going into photography, working on the programme and things just progressed organically since then.
“Knowing the guys in the PA team already, I used to sit in with them and help out when they were short-staffed and eventually the position was made official. It’s something I’m hugely proud of and the fact that my dad was a registered player at Walsall back in the day makes it sweeter as he was always proud of me for working for the club just as much as I was proud of him.
“From a personal point of view, it’s somewhat sad that Saturday will be my last game.
“It will be an emotional day and I’m deeply sad to be leaving but I will reflect on a very happy time supporting the club through its ups and downs and being an employee and playing what I’d consider to be a fairly important role. I’d like to thank all the staff I’ve dealt with and the supporters; I’ve made some great friends and they’ve offered me lots of encouragement and positive feedback during my time and that in itself has also been rewarding. I’ll still be attending games at the stadium, when possible, but in a different capacity and just as a supporter.
“Let’s hope we can finish the season off with a win in front of a big crowd; up the Saddlers!”
Gavin (middle in picture) has been at the club for just over 18 years in the role of pitchside announcer. He has also covered for David and occasionally hosted in the Stadium Suite.
He has many fond memories of his time with the Saddlers but feels that the spirit and togetherness of the club has stood out the most.
“The key memory for me, which was so humbling, was when young Teddie Phillips was mascot,” he said.
“To see a family who had received such devastating news about their son and were determined not to let that be a year of misery but a year of joy, that for me was the most striking memory.
“There is a club atmosphere at Walsall and a sense of belonging that you don’t always get with bigger clubs. That was evident when my first wife died. She was a well-known campaigner and her death was national news.
“When she died, I got a phone call from Jon Whitney, the manager at the time. It meant a lot that the manager cared enough to phone me personally. I got cards and messages from the players and the club treated me really well. On Jill’s birthday – a few days after her death – my family and I were invited to watch the match as guests of the club. They really looked after me - that was really special. When people face tragedy, the club knows how to look after people well and I think that’s something the bigger clubs struggle with.
“Fans may wonder why three announcers are going at the same time, but we’re all going for different reasons. We’re not abandoning the club; we were Walsall fans before and we will be Walsall fans after we’ve done this.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and thank everybody for their kind words and support throughout these past 18 years.
“Good luck to whoever is next in line and I hope the fans continue to get behind the club and the players in the coming seasons.”
Everyone at Walsall Football Club would like to place on record its thanks to David, Michael and Gavin for their fantastic years of service and upmost professionalism to their duties in the PA team and we look forward to welcoming them back to the Banks’s Stadium for future matchdays.