First stop Wembley, then my next goal is Westminster-winger-turned-Walsall winner
They were totally committed to the club which graced the Saddlers’ former home at Fellows Park.
And to prove that loyalty and dedication – here’s a ‘brick in the wall’ at their new Bescot Stadium, showing my family name of Healy.
Born and raised in Walsall, at the age of 21 I helped form a team which launched your very own Walsall Advertiser newspaper more than 30 years ago.
Now I’m off to Wembley on Sunday to watch my childhood sporting heroes – travelling from the stadium which is inside the parliamentary constituency of Walsall South I’m hoping to win for the Conservatives at the upcoming general election on May 7.
It’s a funny old game, as former England striker Jimmy Greaves once joked and it couldn’t be truer in the case of Walsall’s football team, the good people of Walsall town and myself.
Walsall are paying their first visit to Wembley stadium in the club’s 127-year-old history.
The club that helped form the old Second Division of the Football League has never been to Britain’s footballing Mecca and not graced the top flight either. Their best showing was coming 14th in the former Division Two (second tier) in 1961–62.
I sense the whole town has felt the buzz since the Saddlers won their way through to the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and one more massive effort is needed now and hopefully the club will bring the trophy back to the Black Country.
I feel a little bit like Walsall FC – aiming to be the local girl, standing up for the local community who turns into the local champion.
I’m making my debut at Wembley, too, as the Westminster ‘winger’ who is working towards the goal of being the first Tory parliamentary representative in the House of Commons for Walsall South since Sir Henry d’Avigdor-Goldsmid in 1974.
The town is right behind the Saddlers as they make this historic trip.
On Tuesday I watched the Saddlers warm-up for Wembley with my Walsall North prospective parliamentary colleague Douglas Hansen-Luke – an exciting 1-1 home draw against League One play-off hopefuls Sheffield United, managed by Brian Clough’s son, Nigel.
Superstition runs deep in sport and I’ve given Hoppy the hippo a lucky pat. The town ‘mascot’ is red-dy and rarin’ to give the Saddlers one last huge shove along the Wembley trail.
The iconic creature, sculptured by artist Saz Watts, has been temporarily coated in Walsall FC colours as cup fever grips the town.
Walsall FC, Homeserve and the local council have launched the ‘We’re with Walsall’ initiative to encourage people to show their support for the club and borough.
More than 70,000 tickets have been sold for the game against Bristol City and the Wembley final is set to be the best attended football match in the UK this weekend.
The match will draw one of the highest crowds in European football this weekend and may only be bettered by the ‘El Clasico’ in Barcelona, when the Catalans take on fierce rivals Real Madrid.
The rivalry may be tense in Spain but I don’t think either set of supporters will be more passionate for their team than those that head to Wembley from Walsall.
Win or lose on Sunday they have already done Walsall proud and the club is a great ambassador for the borough. We should all unite in wishing them well.