Mon 10th May

So how do you draw a line under all of this? When is the right time to stop? Do I continue until after the play offs have been completed?

In reality our season is now over and I think this is as good a time to stop as any. There is still the retained list to be announced, season ticket prices to scare me and the play off winners to be found. But I think this is a natural end point.

The retained list should be out next week and it would be really unfair to release anyone because they all deserve a crack at next season. However spaces have to be found to improve and develop the squad so a small release may be inevitable. Whoever is on it they leave with our great appreciation and their heads held high. No return to last season when the French boys scrambled through the back exit or like Hodgey did for the cash.

On the subject of season ticket prices just tell me how much and I’ll find the cash. As for the play off winners, does it matter? A wonderful season has ended with a wonderful achievement. Without question the most enjoyable of all of the ones I can remember.

There wasn’t a day like Old Trafford or the Milk Cup Semi and missing out on the Auto Windshield Final again was devastating but promotion isn’t the worst alternative. We’ve won more games in a season than I have ever seen and collected 87 points into the process. Again this is the most I’ve ever seen. I saw 71 of our 72 goals (63 league) and loved everyone of them.

I couldn’t even choose a player of the season. Walker has been simply outstanding, Marsh and Pointon impeccable, Viveash and Green were so solid, Larrusson and Brissett did the jobs we brought them in to do and Wrack is a born matchwinner. Rammell was the focal point of the team and it is his presence that probably made the difference. Keates has been stunning and there is no adjective to describe the continual improvement in Ian Roper. This though is undoubtedly a team effort and they all have earned and deserve their share of the limelight.

I have always been proud to be a Walsall fan and always will be. However the feelings I have had in the over the past nine months have been special and I am so pleased that they are documented here. Given that promotion wasn’t on the agenda last Autumn I can’t finish with the phrase “mission accomplished”. Perhaps a more appropriate description would be Miracle Accomplished.

I also feel that it'd be fitting to finish this record of the miracle with one statistical sentence... Nine months, fifty six games, nearly seven thousand miles, 2nd place and one Ray Graydon.

Sun 9th May

An added bonus to yesterday’s results was Bournemouth’s inability to beat Wrexham and the fact that Wigan won and snatched the final play off place at the Cherries expense. They join Manchester City, Gillingham and Preston North End.

Now then spiteful southern bastards remind me of what it’s like to nearly get to the party and have the invitation stolen from you at the very last minute. I bet they weren’t on the pitch taking the piss at five to five last night and if I really cared I’d call it poetic justice. Adios Bournemouthy.

The final day of the Nationwide First Division leaves Bury and Oxford making way for the Saddlers.

Bradford City follow up a year of consolidation with promotion to the Premiership (don’t even think about it!) and Ipswich have to settle for the play offs.

The end of season shake up, unfortunately, has to take place without our neighbours though. The tatters home defeat by Bradford leaves them in seventh place and ensures that we have a three strong Black Country tournament to look forward to next season as Albion , wolves and Walsall go head to head for the millennium.

Technically as the season is now over and the new season is preparing itself to start we are above West Brom and the tatters in the new table. It may only be alphabetically but we still lead.

Sat 8th May - Stoke City

A 2 - 0 defeat. The foot was most certainly off the gas and without doubt thirteen or fourteen players were already in the airport departure lounge preparing for tomorrows holiday in Cyprus. It doesn’t matter and it didn’t hurt.

The Stoke fans were right up for it though and proved yet again that if Bristol Rovers had a competitor for the smallest of small town mentalities then the Britannia would be a good place to begin the comparison.

With both sides having nothing to play for we were left with the spectacle of knuckle dragging Stokies being dragged out of their seats and frog-marched in front of us and onto a court appearance. All because they got so hyped up over beating little Walsall, or First Division Walsall as I currently prefer to call us. Inevitably, the sad and predictable “down with the Vale, you’re going down with the Vale” ditty was also reassuringly evident, as was the even more pointless almost continual rendition of “Delilah”. Why? why? why? Indeed.

For the record should we be relegated next season it will have still been worth it. To find a more bitter and spiteful bunch – and I’m including our nearest and dearest in this - would be pretty hard. The first 45 minutes were pretty dull. Nothing really happened apart from a fine elbow by Keates on some irritating little shit and Rob Stiener’s probable final appearance in the Walsall shirt.

Much more notable however was the magnificently spontaneous half time disco where for once the police and stewards showed admiral common sense and let the free spirited Saddlers fans let their hair down. Dancing and singing and drinking and beer throwing and more dancing and more singing and you get the drift. For about 200 people there was a release of ten years of frustration and hurt as we celebrated our return to the promised land in the loudest and most jovial way possible.

Memories of this season will live long. Times like the winner at Luton where we realised we were for real, the goal against Stoke at Bescot, Darren Wrack’s run and finish at Bournemouth or the stunning improvement in Ian Roper are all so memorable but for me half time in the Brittania Stadium will never be forgotten. Time will surely only serve to enhance what was a very special fifteen minutes - The legendary half time at Stoke.

The second half offered nothing new and our four year spell in the Second Division symmetrically ended exactly as it had started with a 2 - 0 defeat. At the final whistle when the players had left the field I wanted to stay there. I really wanted to have five minutes more of a remarkable season, I just wasn’t ready to let it go.

As I left the stadium I said goodbye. Goodbye to the likes of Stoke City, the Second Division, to the mess of yesteryear and the ghost of not replacing David Kelly. Next season will be different to 88/89, next season we will start with a manager who has a clue and a team on the up.

Fri 7th May

I suppose it has to end sometime but if only we could drag it out for another couple of weeks.

If only we could go to Northampton or Chesterfield again and show them that there is only one way of doing things. Stoke is undoubtedly the perfect place to round things off though.

They really thought that they would be there at the end of this season and having built an expensive squad have flopped in a way that only teams like this can. The chip on the shoulder, the we’re a big club mentality, the how crap are you attitude that has served the Claret and Blue Brigade so well since Christmas is also very evident here.

In reality Stoke, like Villa, are pretenders to the big boys. A League Cup here and there but naff all else to show for god knows how long. Perhaps Stoke should also apply for the Inter Toto Cup.

As for tomorrow it could go either way. We could relax and destroy them or we could ease the pedal off the gas and get buried. Whatever happens wont matter though because our business is done. We're going to finish 2nd and they're certain to take 8th. Just the 6 places below us the.

For once the result is irrelevant, let’s enjoy the party.

Thu 6th May

Jason Brissett is in trouble again. This time the FA have banned him from receiving Cup Final tickets after one of his from last season ended up in the hands of a tout. Well done Jase. He’s following in a fine tradition of Saddlers forwards who have been caught up this stuff.

In reality all Jason was doing was ensuring that a fan got to go to the game which is obviously in direct contrast to the FA’s cup final ticket allocation policy.

Wed 5th May

A 5 - 0 win at Chester City secures promotion for the reserves. With the Youth Team also reaching the Midland Youth Cup Final it’s been a really successful year. Long may it continue.

Tue 4th May - Fulham

The runners-up host the Champions in a pat each other on the back and mutual congratulatory fixture. The only gatecrasher being the home town leg breaker.

The Saddlers entered the pitch through a Fulham guard of honour which was so very Kevin Keegan and took a deserved standing ovation from all four sides of the stadium.

The match itself resembled a friendly as both sides had nothing to gain from a victory or a broken leg (with the exception of SH) - isn’t it ironic that his initials are the first two letters in the word shit.

Rob Stiener opened the scoring before former wanderer Jamie Smith levelled following some neat work from the impressive Coleman. Ian Roper restored our advantage late on before the leg breaker levelled matters from 25 yarder. He then proceeded to put his hand to his ear to mock the Alsop End, before scarpering for his life at full time as half of the Alsop End looked to put their hand on his ear.

The players returned shortly after to receive their runners up medals and did a lap of honour. At times like these you realise why you went to Wigan and stood in the pouring rain watching another away defeat.

Not being a glory hunter I’m not sure what it’s like for the ‘twice a season brigade’ when the good times come. Does it mean as much to them as it does to me? I doubt it can but it must mean something or they wouldn’t come.

Runners up eh. Who would have believed it?

Mon 3rd May

The papers are full of us. Promotion front covers everywhere and quotes galore. My personal favourite is one from Darren Wrack. “It’s not until now that everyone’s realised what we’ve achieved. But this beats Wembley. You can’t beat going up.”