For 47 years, Walsall-born Bob Warman has been the face of ITV News Central. He gives us an insight into the town, its people and what's at stake.

So what is it like to be a son of Walsall?

Very often, the subject of derision.

Overshadowed by Birmingham and its Black Country neighbour Wolverhampton, Walsall struggles for recognition and barely acknowledges its own.

The writer Jerome K Jerome of Three Men In A Boat fame, is saluted around the globe, but barely gets a mention in his birthplace as his desk moulders away in the Mayor’s parlour.

As for its football team, being midway in the second league is rich material for those scoffing Villa and Wolves fans.

Little remains of the town’s huge saddlery industry from which the team takes its nickname.

The saddlers’ skills have trickled down the generations to a few workshops still producing the best in the world, mainly for the American market. It’s where the Queen’s handbags are still crafted.

Walsall is famed for its saddle making. Credit: PA

Once, the town was heavy with the stench of leather tanneries and the long gone Highgate Brewery, a heady combination that you could cut with a knife.

The town of my childhood and teenage years was alive with industry.

Workshops forging, hammering, planing and plating. The town vibrating with the sounds of full employment - now replaced by clean air and the whiff of fast food joints, of which there are plenty.

Gone is the weekly newspaper, the heartbeat of the community, gone the Victorian mills that signposted areas of the town, and gone the signature stores like M&S.

Gone too, the twice-a-week thriving market with stalls running the full length of the historic Digbeth hill to the prominent St Matthews Church.

I talk to an estate agent in the town, working at the same offices for the past 56 years. His unrivalled knowledge of the town is a depressing inventory of decline where the majority of shops and offices are empty.

The calamity is breath-taking.

How can it be? He points to mismanagement by local government over several generations. There must be other reasons but the thought lingers.

Covid-19 has compounded the agony.

Plans for the 20th anniversary of the New Art Gallery have been put on ice at a time when it was about to celebrate a clutch of international artists who’ve exhibited there over the years. It is a gem.

The town’s Arboretum, 80 acres of parkland just a short walk from the town centre, is another - and now thankfully open with the strict observance of social distancing.

Musician and actor Noddy Holder and musician Goldie both come from Walsall. Credit: PA

And for a generation who may not have heard of Jerome K Jerome, there is Gorja Smith, the 22-year-old from the town, Brit Awards female solo award winner and now working with the biggest names in the global music business. And that’s something.

Will the embers of this wonderful town that I’m proud to call my birthplace continue to smoulder for another generation? Or is there amongst its townfolk the wherewithal to crackle it into life once more?

Surely yes.

It has huge capital in its educational establishments. From its Queen Mary’s grammar school, founded in 1554 and one of the oldest in the country, the Walsall College, graded outstanding by Ofsted, to the Walsall Academy with its smart uniform policy where tattoos and body piercings are out.

These smart young people, such a resource not to be squandered, must be encouraged to put down roots in the town, take it out of intensive care, and restore civic pride.

C’mon the Saddlers!