For 20 years Colin Harrison dedicated himself to Walsall Football Club and ended up playing 473 Football League games in our colours which has remained a record to this day and may never be beaten. Only Jimmy Walker has made more total appearances for the club including all the cup competitions. Colin was born in Pelsall on March 18th 1946 and was another player to sign for Saddlers from the Ron Jukes production line. Colin takes up the story...
" I was spotted by Ron Jukes who attempted to come into my house but was prevented to do so initially by my dog, a Staffie, who scared Ron however he did gain entry eventually and I signed for Walsall as an amateur. There were three other clubs chasing me - Aston Villa, Wrexham and Peterborough United - but there was only one club I wanted to play for and didn't want to move out the area anyway. I trained with Walsall on Tuesday and Thursday nights - I say trained but I didn't see a lot of the ball at first, they had us running as far as the Three Crowns or the arboretum and back most of the time!"
However Colin got his reward a couple of years later.. "Bill Moore was manager at the time and I was delighted to sign professional forms aged 17 in 1963. I was thrilled to make my first team debut in September 1964 playing on the left wing at Southend. I was so pleased to have actually got into the first team so young and I wanted more of it." Colin went on to make 14 appearances in that first season and for 1965-6 substitutes were permitted for the first time for injured players. This became a double edged sword however that despite being able to come on and get more experience with game time because of his versatility - he could play in any position - he often found himself on the bench as cover.
When asked if he was the victim of being 'too versatile' in those early years Colin replied, "As an example, if the regular right back was injured I would be switched from left back to fill that position. The next game I may find myself pushed up front or on the bench or left out altogether. I had no preferred position I was happy to play anywhere I was asked. As long as I was in the team I really didn't mind where the manager put me."
Over the next three seasons he build up his reputation for being a quality dependable player and his most productive season to date was 1969-70 when he played in 47 league and cup games and was finding the net with some powerful shooting. The first of his 34 career goals was in a game against Norwich in October 1965 in a 3-0 win again playing up front and two of his memorable goals were against Southport in 69-70 as a full back. Regarding his goals the player noted, " When I was in a more advanced position, I used to love to take a pot at goal from just outside the box."
Colin was an ever-present in 1971-2 and missed only two games in 1974-5 as he was simply Mr Dependable. He was twice Player Of The Season - 1971-2 and 1980-1 and was, and still is, highly regarded by those of us fortunate enough to have seen him play. He was honoured to have passed Colin Taylor's appearance record in 1980-1 and said of his team mate, "He was a terrific player and his powerful shooting was just as relentless and fierce in training. He would often leave the imprint of the ball on your legs if you blocked one of his rockets!"
Colin was grateful to have played in so many cup games against top opposition and remarked, "It was brilliant to get drawn away in cup competitions and play at packed grounds like Old Trafford and Highbury etc instead of the usual 4,000's in the Third Division." When asked of the players who impressed him during his time at Fellows Park he singled out the likes of Trevor Meath and Bernie Wright because of their determination and effort and praised the development of goalkeepers Phil Parkes and Mark Wallington who both had long careers in higher divisions. He lists Swindon's Don Rogers as the most difficult opponent he faced.. "You always knew you were in for a tough afternoon against Don. He would go outside then cut inside in a flash."
Regarding contracts at Walsall be revealed, "We were only on 12 month deals with the club deciding each summer if they would keep you on or not. Under Ken Wheldon you would go in asking for a small rise and would end up coming out with a fiver a week less than you were already on!" In his mid 30's Colin was asked to coach as well as play and became reserve team manager whist still turning out for the first team now and then. He enjoyed that side of the game and would play occasionally for the reserves and once went in goal when the keeper was injured and at this level even scored his one and only hat trick!
Colin's exit from Walsall FC was a bitter blow and so unnecessary... "I had a very good relationship with Alan Buckley and he and our wives saw each other away from football. He wanted to keep me on but whilst I was on a fortnight's holiday with my wife in Newquay he rang me to say that Ken Wheldon had decided I had to go as a cost cutting exercise and I was absolutely devastated and we cut our holiday short and returned home. Ironically Wheldon told me previously that I had a job for life at Walsall! There was no animosity on my part just disappointment. Looking back over my time at Walsall I enjoyed every minute.. I didn't want to play for anyone else nor work for anyone else."
"The only club I played for at non-league level was Rushall Olympic and I signed for The Pics as the owner said he would help me find employment for my day job." Colin still comes back to see Saddlers in action from time to time and has attended Former Players days and been guest of honour on several occasions. It was great to see him at the recent Mick Kearns evening and he closed with reference to another team mate Frank Gregg whom he still keeps in contact with, " Looking back players like Frank had it hard in even getting to Fellows Park. When he first arrived at the club, he had to catch three buses from Wordsley to get to training each day. But it paid off for him as he is another one who did so well in his career."
Colin's complete record - Football League Apps 473 - 33 Goals. FA Cup 37 Apps - 0 goals
FL Cup - 19 Apps - 1 Goal. Totals 529 Apps - 34 Goals.
A recent picture of Colin Harrison courtesy of Neil Barrett.