Ray Wiggin Interview.

Ray Wiggin was one of the few players to have actually have been a big Walsall fan from a boy to play for his club. He may only have had a couple of seasons at Fellows Park but he is proud and appreciative to have been given that opportunity...

" I attended Rushall County Primary School and Shelfield Secondary Modern and I played in their teams I also played for Brownhills and District schools whilst just 14 years old. I answered a SOS to play for Rushall Olympic when they were low on numbers. In doing so I became Olympic's youngest ever player at 14 playing with and against men. We were playing Armitage and I scored twice in a 3-2 win."

"I was taken on by Aston Villa as an apprentice in 1958 and also there were Jimmy Mc Morran, Alan Deakin and Mike Tindall who all joined Walsall later in their careers. I was Jimmy Mac's first mate when he came down from Scotland. Jimmy was the best 15 year old I ever saw. He was a game changer. He would drop his shoulder and he was away."

"In May 1959 I left Aston Villa . Joe Mercer had taken over as manager and it was a case of a big clear out by a new man at the helm. One day super scout Ron Jukes knocked on my door and said, 'Mr Bill Moore says can you help me out , I need someone to play in a youth cup match at Port Vale .' I said I will play until we get knocked out. I wrote a letter to Bill Moore asking him to give me a month's trial and if successful to sign me on as a pro or release me but don't keep me hanging on."

"I was a Walsall supporter in the early 1950's and quite passionate with my support. By the time I'd joined Walsall in 1962 I found myself I found myself playing with some of my heroes that I'd seen as a fan. Tony Richards, Albert Mc Pherson, Colin Taylor, Granville Palin, Ken Hodgkisson and George Meek etc."

He appeared as an amateur in a public practice match and the opening reserve games in the Midland Intermediate League. After 3 games at outside left he was switched to centre forward scoring against Albion 'A', Coventry 'A' and Birmingham 'A' . Against Coventry he scored past Bob Wesson and Birmingham Colin Withers.

He was taken on as a professional in September 1962 together with Stan Bennett, Roger Smith and Mick Mason and it wasn't long before he made his first team debut.

" I made my debut v. Charlton away in a 3-2 defeat on October 6th, 1962 but suffered a calf injury that kept me out of the Stoke game . I was so disappointed about that because it meant I couldn't play against Stanley Matthews. That injury kept me out for a few weeks" On returning to fitness there were reserve outings against Leicester 'A' and Stoke 'A' and. first team chanced soon followed. "I scored my first goal in my home debut v. Southampton., scoring in the last minute in a 1-1 draw. I also played in the reverse fixture at the Dell but that was my worst ever game as I was put in an unfamiliar inside left position. One game from that season stands out more than any was- a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge."

"Peter Bonetti made a big mistake in mis-kicking the ball from which Jimmy O'Neill scored and this was the only goal of the game. I have the Sporting Star dated 30.3.1963. It was Grand National day and the headline writer came up with :-

'AYALA 66-1, WALSALL 1000-1'

The significance of this is that the 1963 Grand National was won by 19 year old jockey Pat Buckley on a horse that was an outsider and Walsall were given no chance of beating a powerful Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge. ..

1963-4 was more productive for Ray with him scoring 5 goals in his 10 first team outings including 2 in the 4-1 win against Luton Town plus goals in the away games at Watford and Brentford. Plus against Bristol City in which he was carried off. " I was released at the end of that campaign by Alf Wood which was disappointing for me as I was told I was on the retained list only for the following season. He got me to play in a reserve game against Nottingham Forest whilst not fully fit only for him to change his mind and I was released along with others. I loved my time at Walsall and made life long friends with players some of which I still see today and was honoured to have played for Walsall FC even though my time in the first team saw me play 19 games in which I scored 6 goals."

It appears that the forward was a little unfortunate to be playing in a period when the club was in decline with personnel and team line ups chopping and changing all the time.

"After leaving Fellows Park I played for Cambridge United, Nuneaton, Corby Town and Cheltenham. At Cambridge I was reunited with Graham Atkinson whom I was with at Aston Villa in the late 1950's I worked for Schweppes as a salesman and for 30 years in the toy trade. In 1974, 7 of us were responsible for the development at Rushall Olympic."

Ray was one of a number of former players who attended the ISSA organised special awareness and fund raising evening held at Bentley Moor Club for little Teddie who suffered with Globid Cell Leukodystrophy and he also praised the feeding of NHS workers via the burger van.

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