Who Are These Jobbers?
How many hours in your life have you spent thinking about Walsall? How many hours did you ever think you would have to spend contemplating a post-industrial town in the West Midlands? Well, for the next week you’ll be thinking about it a hell of a lot because we’re going to Walsall not once, but twice!
That’s right, folks. For consecutive weekends we are the lucky buggers that get to spend our Saturday afternoon in a stadium next to the M6. Gather your loved ones together, hold them close for these are the moments we wish for in this bleak, bleak world in which we live in. We are the chosen ones.
So, Walsall FC, whatcha got then? Oh yeah, I see your 14th position in the Second Division in 1962 as your highest ever finish, I see your League Cup semi-final appearance in 1984, I see your Johnstone’s Paint Trophy runners-up medal in 2015, I see your fifth round of the FA Cup in 2003 - yeah, what of it?
Like many of our brethren in this hellscape league, Walsall are not one of the ole success but what they are good at, however, is creating quite jarring Wikipedia pages. The good people in Silicon Valley must’ve let one slide as they allowed the fine users of the internet post selected pictures of Walsall’s player of year and top goalscorers from the mid-2000s.
What it has created is that two-time winner Anthony Gerrard (05/06 and 07/08) and man-whose-about-to-arrange-your-new-current-account Ian Roper (02/03) are honoured yet the likes of Will Grigg (12/13), Troy Deeney (09/10) and two-time winner Andy Butler (10/11 and 11/12) are left on the shelf.
To further incense Saddlers’ supporters and baffle handsome columnists is that Michael Ricketts (11 goals in 99/00) is pictured while Roger Boli rattled in 24 in 97/98 and both three-time winners Kyle Lightbourne and Stuart Rimmer are not featured. Absolutely no complaints for sticking perennially at Watford big dawg Tommy Mooney up there, however.
Aside from being the only team Papy Djilobodji faced in a Chelsea shirt, the one thing Walsall gave to the world was the excellent deleted tweet after beating rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers. A clearly overjoyed admin staff took it upon themselves in the aftermath of the aforementioned Butler smashing home a 1-0 win to accuse their adversaries of having sexual intercourse with members of their family, having an extra digit on their hand and being “dingle bastards”.
The explanation? A hacked account. Of course, Walsall, of course. Don’t be ashamed of your elite dawg behaviour.
What’s The Ground Like?
Hey, you know what you really want to hear when you open your shiny new stadium? That it resembles somewhere in Scunthorpe. This is the absolute bodying The Football Ground Guide dished out to Walsall when they unveiled the Bescot Stadium in 1990. It is one of the four stadiums that the Saddlers’ have called home in their history, and was opened by Sir Stanley Matthews for some reason.
Unlike Scunthorpe, the Bescot has been a regular feature on the M6 for as long as this esteemed columnist can remember. Passing the flash of red seats would signal that we were closing in on Birmingham and, in turn, a day of fun at Cadbury’s World.
Also, unlike Scunthorpe, it is an all-seat affair with The Homeserve Stand (or Tile Choice Stand) spreading over two tiers. Away supporters are housed in the University of Wolverhampton Stand behind the goal, and because we’re absolutely git mint fans and sell loads of tickets we’ve got part of the Community Stand as well.
How Do I Get There?
Listen up at the back, because I’m only going to be saying this once as we’ve got to do this all again next weekend. The Bescot Stadium (or Banks’s Stadium for you capitalists) is pretty simple to reach, so let’s get this goddamn show on the road.
The most straightforward way by road involves the M6 Toll, so that’s the way we’re going - feel free to find a different route if you don’t fancy stumping up. Anyway, smash the A1 (M) until junction 35 before taking the M18 and M1 until junction 28 where you exit for the A38 heading towards Derby. At the roundabout for the A5148 turn onto the M6 Toll exiting at junction T8 joining the M6 at junction 11.
From here it’s all plain sailing until junction 9 when you exit onto Bescot Lane and follow the signs for the ground. Parking is available at the stadium priced at £4 a car.
If you get lost plop WS1 4SA into your sat nav.
The kind folks at Walsall sure have thought of everything, not only is the Bescot Stadium right next to the motorway it even has its own train station with services from Birmingham New Street leaving every 15 minutes.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 8am with return fares priced at £30. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
I know, I know. I can already hear you moaning on “we’re just going to drink in Birmingham, there’s not much in Walsall” and, quite frankly, I’m disgusted. We are not the bourgeoises that swan around the big cities, that attitude is so very Newcastle. Instead, we toast with our fellow proletariat and embrace our compatriots of another post-industrial town.
Also, it’s now Christmas market season which turns Birmingham into literal Hell and brings the entirety of the city to a standstill. So, you’re much better searching out liquid refreshment in the fine surroundings of *checks notes* Walsall.
A quick scan of the ole ‘Git Good Boozers in Walsall’ directory brings up The Black Country Arms on High Street which has been serving the good people of this town since 1627 and luckily for us it is now “newly-refurbished”. The Pretty Bricks on John Street serves a fine selection of Black Country Ales while I’m reliably informed that The Tap & Tanner on Darwall Street is “cheap as shit” and there is even The Pitch Sports Bar & Grill on Bridge House which looks bloody fantastic.
Walsall have kindly shut the Saddlers’ Bar at the ground to away fans so if you’re really gagging for liquid refreshment you’ll have to find it in the nearby Park Inn Radisson.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
In my extensive research for this piece, dear reader, I tracked down the top five things to do in Walsall. Number three was the Grosvenor Casino and number five was the Bescot Stadium so here is everything else you need to do in this happening hamlet.
Are you into leather? Do you sit in work thinking about all the things you can do with leather? Is your mind fixated on the various ways leather can utilised? Well, get your head out of the gutter and get yourself to the Walsall Leather Museum. For over 200 years, this fine town has been making a range of leathery goods from purses and wallets to saddles for royalty.
Don’t just take my word for it - check this sh*t-hot review left on Walsall Council’s website:
Fantastic museum. We spent nearly two hours there and learnt so much about Walsall history and leather history from the fabulous displays and friendly staff.
Hasn’t that got you goddamn pumped?!
Not enough for you? Then get yourself down to Walsall Arboretum (that’s a Victorian public park to you and me) which is not only bloody lovely but is also one of the oldest parks in the bloody region! They’ve got it all here. Feed ducks! Have a picnic! Swig some White Lightning (if they still make it)! Contemplate the futility of modern life! Play on the swings!
When you thought you were too full of excitement, you could swing by The Aston Manor Road Transport Museum. Stare in amazement at double decker buses from a bygone era and other fascinating transport memorabilia that may serve a Northern Rail route back home.
If you don’t have time to see it all, don’t worry, you’re coming back next week!