WALSALL 1998-99 SECOND DIVISON RUNNERS UP
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
CHRIS MARSH won promotion four times in his 14 seasons at Walsall but says the penultimate was the most unexpected of the lot.
Marsh made three substitute appearances in 1987-88 when the unfashionable Saddlers won promotion from Division Three.
He was a regular when they finished runners up behind Carlisle United in 1994-95 and left towards the end of the 2000-01 campaign after failing to hold down a first team place.
But in 1998-99 he was Ray Graydon’s automatic choice at right-back and admits that the club with the smallest budget in the Second Division were favourites for relegation at the start of the season.
“We had the smallest budget in the league and were favourites to go down but we spent the whole season going to good clubs like Fulham, who finished as champions, and Manchester City and getting points.
“We went to Gillingham for the first game of the season. I hit a long ball into the box and a lad called Darren Carr headed it into his own net and it snowballed from there.
“We just kept on picking up results. Individually we weren’t the best but as a team we were brilliant.
“We worked endlessly all week on defending and counter attacking. And that worked well against good teams who liked to play but we could also dig out results.”
Walsall had the best away record in the country, winning 13 games, seven of them by a single goal, and were scarcely out of the top three all season.
Graydon had to sell French stars Roger Boli and Jeff Peron before the first ball was kicked and had to find bargain replacement to compete with Fulham and Manchester City.
Darren Wrack arrived from Derby County reserves and Andy Rammell, once signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United, came from Southend United.
Rammell rewarded Graydon by scoring 18 goals, one of only four times he reached double figures in the league in a 16-season career.
“Rams is a hero,” says Marsh. “He wasn’t a prolific scorer but he got important goals
“In the season we won promotion he was brilliant. He is down in Walsall folk law and rightly so.
“He always said that he was a ten goal a season man. He was a battering ram and there was so much more to him than goals, like bringing people into play.
“He was good in the air and gave defenders nightmares. Rams was very, very good for us that season.”
As well as winning promotion Walsall almost made a Wembley appearance but were beaten by Millwall in the area final of the Auto Windscreen Shield.
“Neil Pointon missed a penalty down at Millwall which would have been really important,” Marsh says. “It would have been brilliant going to the Old Wembley but that was the only disappointment for us that season.”
1. Tom Bradley: The one-time physio is still working in the Saddlers dressing room looking after the kit.
2. Neil Pointon: After short spells in non-league management, he has remained in the North-West and is working as an academy coach at Bolton Wanderers
3. Andy Rammell: Based in Wareham, Dorset and retired four years ago after spending seven years working for the Royal Mail in Kidderminster.
4. Adrian Viveash: After managing Cirencester Town for 16 months he went to work for Chelsea and is currently in charge of their U21s.
5. Clive Platt: Retired through injury in October 2014 and is financial business development manager for Pro-Synergy Wealth and Tax Management Ltd.
6. Danny Naisbitt: Based in Old Harlow, Essex and a sports agent running Mint Sports Management.
7. Jimmy Walker: Walsall’s alltime record appearance holder is now the goalkeeping coach at League One Peterborough United.
8. Ian Roper: Has been working for the Nuneaton and Bedworth Leisure Trust as a community sports coach for the last two years.
9. Michael Ricketts: A striker who was capped once by England, he has returned to the West Midlands and lives in Birmingham.
10. Matt Gadsby: He collapsed and died while playing for Hinkley United against Harrogate in September 2006 aged 27.
11. Neil Davies: Is still living and working in his native Bloxwich after finishing his career in non-league football
12. Bill Jones: Bill served Walsall as youth liaison officer for many years.
13. Jason Brissett: Believed to be back living in the London area and was last known to be working as a coach and a football consultant.
14. Wayne Evans: After working in Canada for a couple of years he returned to the UK where he became academy manager for Shrewsbury Town.
15. Jean Francois Peron: Is now back living in his native France where he has coached SC Hérouville, As Caen and USON Mondeville.
16. John Keister: After a stint as player-assistant manager of Margate he was technical director of the Sierra Leone FA before becoming coach of Freeport-based FC Johansen.
17. Chris Marsh: Coached in Aus- tralia and America and is now running his own coaching company Marsh Sports Management in Warwickshire.
18. Ray Graydon: Went on to manage Bristol Rovers and hold a number of other coaching posts. He now lives in Southampton and works for the Premier League
19. Dennis Booth: Has had coaching roles with Aston Villa, Bristol Rovers, Huddersfield Town, Port Vale, Nottingham Forest, Preston and Carlisle where he was head of football affairs.
20. Dean Keates: Is still playing for Wrexham in the Conference and will be celebrating his 37th birthday at the end of the season.
21. Wayne Thomas: Is playing for Worcester City and kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win at Harrogate in October as an emergency goalkeeper.
22. Darren Wrack: He is now scouting & recruitment manager for Brighton & Hove Albion after he retired from playing aged 34.
23. Gary Porter: He entered sports management and is now working as a players agent for the Base Soccer agency in London.
24. Andrew Watson: Is back living in his native Leeds and has been working as a personal trainer for Virgin Active for the last seven years. NOT PICTURED
Colin Cramb: Lives in Bishopsworth, Bristol. He is the only player to have played in all four divisions in England and Scotland. He works as a surveyor.
Siggi Eyjolfsson: Coached the Iceland’s national woman’s team and was technical director of the Icelandic FA. He is now assistant coach of Lillestrøm.
Darko Mavrak: Settled in Sligo in the Republic of Ireland where he runs his own restaurant business.
Walter Otta: Back living in his native Argentina where he is coaching Buenos Aires-based club Atlético Acassuso.