Revenge was so sweet for Walsall's Andy Butler
Walsall have only beaten Black Country rivals Wolves once this century – walking away victorious in four out of the 16 meetings between the clubs altogether.
Their latest win came on September 17, 2013, from an Andy Butler header.
Two weeks before the 1-0 victory at Molineux, newly-relegated Wolves beat Dean Smith’s Walsall on penalties in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy
Saddlers fans still sing about Butler’s finish and their beloved former defender to this day and for the man himself, it was a special moment.
“It was one of the best moments of my career, it was brilliant,” Butler told the Express & Star. “We’d just lost to them in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy a couple weeks before and their goalkeeper Aaron McCarey, who had just been on loan to us, made a massive deal about saving a penalty and celebrated like he’d won the World Cup.
“It meant even more to us as players and on the day both teams had a couple of chances but we more than deserved to get the three points off them and we really did enjoy it.
“I was pleased for the rest of the players because the work rate they put in was brilliant.
“You look back at your career and pin-point moments and this is one. An artist did a picture for me of the celebration with the time and date and it’s on my wall now.
“It’s a fond memory and the Walsall fans still sing to me about it now when I play against them.”
Butler spent four years with Walsall after being signed by manager Chris Hutchings in 2010.
Within months, however, Hutchings had been sacked and was replaced by Smith, who came up from his role as head of youth.
The new boss instantly made Butler captain, despite having played only seven games, and in his first match as skipper, the defender scored an injury-time equaliser in a 3-3 draw away at Tranmere on January 8, 2011.
“The gaffer was brilliant for me, he’s a down to earth guy that loves football and he had some good staff around him,” Butler added. “It was a nice atmosphere to train and work in every day.
“In my first game as captain I scored last minute in a 3-3 draw with Tranmere, so that was quite fitting.
“Dean Smith is a brilliant manager and I really enjoyed working with him.”
Butler’s first season with the Saddlers came to a head on the final day with the club on the brink of relegation from League One.
Playing away at Southampton on the final day, they either needed a result or for Dagenham & Redbridge to lose.
Walsall fell to a 3-1 defeat, but Dagenham also lost – hammered 5-0 away at Peterborough – meaning the Saddlers survived by a single point.
“We were bottom by Christmas so it was quite a scary time to be in the football club,” Butler added. “But you don’t play games of football if there’s nothing to play for. I’m sure teams saw us as easy targets to get three points and we had to prove people wrong.
“It was stressful but enjoyable and in the last game we knew Dagenham had to beat Peterborough.
“We’d heard rumours that the Dagenham and Peterborough chairmen were both friendly with each other, so we were worried at the time that something might have been worked out between them.
“We went down to Southampton and losing at half-time we heard cheering because Dagenham were losing 3-0.
“It was looking pretty good for us and then the crowd was chanting 5-0, I just thought ‘thank God for that’.
“The players went into the stand afterwards, I got into a fight with a steward because I wanted to celebrate with the fans after a tough season.
“Dean was brought in to keep the club in League One and he did his job, so that was a reason to celebrate.
“Personally I enjoyed it because we owed the fans and they took to me quite well.”
Butler’s remaining years with Walsall each ended in survival from relegation or mid-table mediocrity.
He believes, however, that those years were important for the club to build towards a promotion push in 2015/16, after butler had left.
“It was a building stage for the club, there’s no quick fix,” he said. “We had a lot of trialists and not many players signed on, it takes time to build teams and relationships.
“The club had done well to stay up.”
With Walsall fans still showing their appreciation for the 36-year-old, he looks back on his time at the club with fond memories.
“I met a lot of good people at Walsall and have a lot of time for the people working there,” Butler added.
“The fans have been brilliant with me, I haven’t got a bad word to say about them.”