Date: 7th October 2011 at 1:18pm
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Next up for the Wanderers is a visit from Walsall for what looks like another crucial battle to avoid a relegation battle this season. Perhaps it`s a little early to say that but with the Saddlers also suffering from a terrible run of form both sides are desperate for three points to kick start their campaigns. New loan signing Grant Basey and wunderkind Jordan Ibe could be the ones to provide the spark for the Chairboys.

If the current form of the team provides the players with a similar lack of motivation / inspiration that I currently have writing this article then I can fully empathise with them. I too shall collapse after ninety minutes covered in sweat and bruises. At least I shan`t be given derogatory nicknames and have this pile of gash given a rating out of the ten on the Gas Room.

In modern times Walsall is rightly or wrongly always considered part of Birmingham but its name is thought to have derived from the words ‘Walh halh’, which means ‘valley of the Celtic speakers.’ It grew to become a small market town in the early 13th century and is known as ‘the town of a hundred trades’.

The Industrial Revolution completely changed the town of Walsall and it was renowned for the manufacture of saddles, chains, buckles and plated ware. Naturally it became a favourite of deviants and sexual fetishists. Its other claim to fame is the limestone that can found nearby and which has ensured the town prospered for generations. At the turn of the 21st century Walsall has undergone urban regeneration.

Author Jerome K. Jerome was born in Walsall as was England Women`s International Rachel Unitt. Boy George spent much of his youth there whilst Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford and Slade front-man Noddy Holder were also both born in the town. I am however somewhat at a loss to discover any famous supporters of the Saddlers.

Walsall Town Swifts were formed in 1988 when Walsall Town and Walsall Swifts merged. They became founder members of the Football League Second Division in 1892 but failed to be re-elected in 1895 and joined the Midland League. They changed their name to the current Walsall F.C. and were re-elected back to the Football League in 1896.

They failed to be re-elected again in 1901 and spent time back in the Midland League, the Birmingham League and the Southern League before becoming founder members of the Third Division North in 1921. They were Fourth Division Champions in 1961 and moved grounds in the same year as the Wanderers. They left the wonderful Fellows Park (R.I.P.) for the dreadful pillar-laden Bescot Stadium.

In April 2010 followers of the Saddlers started a protest group, named ‘Unity’, which argues that the ownership of the Bescot Stadium site, on which the club paid a rent of £462,000 to a Self Invested Personal Pension (of which one of the trustees is club owner Jeff Bonser) last year is a situation which some fans feel is damaging the club. A situation we could find ourselves in soon, but let`s not go there.

A whole host of players have worn both red and blue. They include Chris Marsh, Chris Westwood, Darren Rogers, Gus Uhlenbeek; David Perpetuini, Dean Keates, Stefan Oakes; Billy Coward, Chris Palmer, Gareth Ainsworth, Jermaine McSporran, Kevin Betsy, Paul Sanderson, Tom Williams; Andy Rammell, John Kerr, John Williams, Neil Davis, Reuben Reid, Sam Parkin, Steve Claridge and Tommy Mooney.

We have hosted the Saddlers on eight occasions in Sands. They have come away with a trio of victories, we have won four and there has been one (goal-less) draw. Our first meeting at Adams Park came in April 1994 when we were chasing promotion from Division Three. Wycombe claimed a 3-0 win but manager Martin O`Neill admitted afterwards that his team had been “played off the field.”

There were less than twenty minutes remaining when the Wanderers snatched the lead against the run of play. Dave Carroll`s left-wing corner was headed past goalkeeper James Walker by striker Simon Garner. With the visitors looking for an equaliser the Blues counter-attacked through midfielder Steve Thompson. He played the ball across to substitute Tony Hemmings and he in turn found Carroll who coolly slotted the ball past Walker.

Hemmings got his name on the score sheet in the final minute when Walker kicked his clearance straight to the winger and he shot low into the bottom corner of the net. The three points left the Chairboys well-placed for promotion but were unable to win any of their final five league games and had to settle for a play-off place. After winning promotion O`Neill said ‘If you had told me then that we wouldn’t win another league game, I would have definitely cut the old throat.’

The next win came on a cold October evening in 1997 when the lowest home crowd for a fixture between the two sides were treated to an exciting encounter which the Blues won 4-2. Striker Mark Stallard claimed the match-ball with a hat-trick with his first coming after just eleven minutes, heading Carroll`s free-kick into the net at the far post. He tucked home a Jason Kavanagh cross to make it 2-0.

With less than half an hour played striker Paul Read side-footed home from Steve McGavin`s right-wing cross to put the hosts three-up. Yet Walsall responded inside two minutes with defender Adrian Viveash heading home Jeff Peron`s left-wing corner. Ten minutes later they pulled another goal back in almost identical fashion with Andy Watson`s header finding the net via the far post.

Any home nerves were eased inside two minutes of the restart. Carroll surged into the visitors half and then squared the ball for Stallard who made no mistake from six yards to put the Wanderers 4-2 up. That was the end of the scoring although both substitute Mo Harkin and Stallard could have added to the home sides` tally.

The highest home crowd between the two sides was recorded in October 2000. 5,564 were at Adams Park to see the Wanderers knock Walsall off the top of the Third Division table. Lawrie Sanchez had just signed a new four-year deal and he gave Keith Ryan his first start of the season. The home side were led by an inspiring performance from Steve Brown.

The lead came just before the half hour in slightly fortunate circumstances. Michael Simpson whipped a free-kick into the box and with no-one getting a touch on the ball it hit the post before nestling into the back of the net. It didn`t take long for the visitors to level. Pedro Matias` left-wing cross was met full on the volley by Darren Wrack and the ball screamed past a helpless Martin Taylor.

Sanchez switched to a 3-5-2 formation at the break and Wycombe restored their lead inside seven minutes of the second half. Jermaine McSporran raced down the right before crossing low for former Saddler Andy Rammell to smash home. Taylor then pulled off a stunning save to tip Tom Bennett`s strike over the bar. Rammell then sealed the win with his second of game, heading Simpson`s corner into the net to make it 3-1.

The last meeting came almost two years ago and will be remembered for a spectacular first half brace from loan midfielder Scott Davies which was then followed by a spectacular collapse in the second half. Davies sailed a quickly-taken free-kick from fully 40 yards over the head of Saddlers goalkeeper Clayton Ince. He then swept home Matt Phillips` right-wing cross from the edge of the area to give the Wanderers a 2-0 half-time lead.

Sadly the hosts suffered a nightmare second half with Steve Jones halving the deficit inside ten minutes. Mark Hughes levelled the scores with ten minutes to play and three minutes later Alex Nicholls fired a low shot past Scott Shearer and into the bottom corner to give Walsall all three points and give recently appointed manager Gary Waddock an idea of the task that awaited him. It was to get a lot worse. But let`s not go there.

“All that`s left are memories”