Port Vale Football Club are an English football club currently playing in Football League Two. They are based in Burslem, Staffordshire — one of six towns that make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent. The club's rivals are Stoke City, and games between the two clubs are known as the "Potteries derby"; however, games against Crewe Alexandra are also classed as a derby, although Alex are situated in south Cheshire.
Port Vale are one of the few English league clubs not to be named after a geographical location. The name Port Vale exists on maps pre-dating the 1876 formation of the club, and is a reference to a valley of ports on the Trent and Mersey canal, associated with the city's pottery industry.
The Valiants' rise didn't stop there. After three seasons in Division Three, another promotion, to Division Two, followed in 1988-89. Robbie Earle scored the winning goal at Vale Park to complete a 2-1 aggregate play-off final victory over Bristol Rovers. Also in 1988, Rudge also oversaw the first of three Cup giant-killing acts over the next few seasons when a Vale side, mid-way in Division Three, defeated Tottenham of Division One) 2-1. Ray Walker and Phil Sproson were on target for Vale against Terry Venables' side, which included Chris Waddle and Clive Allen but omitted Ossie Ardiles, apparently due to the heavy state of the pitch, which turned out to be costly for the London outfit.
Following promotion in 1989, Vale had two seasons in the Second Division, and were on course for a third when placed half way up the table at the end of November 1991. They then went into a slump which led to their relegation of the final day of the 1991-92 league campaign.
Taylor became Rudge's first £1,000,000 sale, when Sheffield Wednesday invested in the midfielder. The money was spent on bringing Steve Guppy and Gareth Griffiths to the club during the 1994-95 campaign.
Vale finished seventeenth in 1994-95, avoiding relegation by ten points, and again in spite of the pre-season sale of van der Laan, who Derby bought for £475,000. Jon McCarthy and Lee Mills also joined before the 1995-96 season began.
In the tie with Everton, Vale twice came from behind at Goodison Park to draw 2-2, with Ian Bogie scoring from virtually the last kick of the match. The replay saw Vale Park full to capacity to witness Vale win 2-1.
The victory saw Vale go into the fifth round, in which they would play Leeds United away. Leeds were then a top-ten Premiership side. The game at Elland Road took place on a Tuesday, thanks to various cancellations due to inclement weather. The game finished goalless, and the tie went to a replay in Burslem. Leeds won the replay 2-1, but Vale's cup exploits were to earn them the FA's Giantkillers award for the 1995-96 season.
1998-99 saw Port Vale fare little better, with an early League Cup defeat to Chester City setting the tone. After sixteen years as Port Vale manager, John Rudge was sacked in January 1999 after one of Vale's most successful eras. He was replaced by former player Brian Horton, who had been working at Brighton & Hove Albion. Dwindling fortunes, both on the pitch and financially, put relegation on the cards. Horton made five transfer-deadline day signings costing #1,000,000, and Vale managed a second-consecutive final-day escape after losing just two of their remaining eight games. Although Vale lost by a single goal at Bury, the Valiants stayed up (at Bury's expense) by virtue of having scored more goals (this was the last season before goal difference replaced goals scored as the Football League's separator for teams on equal points).
There was no escape in 1999-2000, however. It was Huddersfield who eventually sealed Vale's fate with a 2-1 win at Vale Park, with Vale ultimately going down thirteen points adrift.
A worsening financial crisis put the club's future in jeopardy by the end of 2000. Vale were in the relegation zone of Division Two, and after a FA Cup first-round defeat to Ryman Leaguers Canvey Island, the team seemed to be heading towards another relegation, with fans once again protesting against chairman Bill Bell. However, there was change in fortunes after the turn of the year, as Brian Horton's team transformed their league form to pull up to a top-half finish while also gaining silverware by beating Brentford in the final of the LDV Vans Trophy. This included a post-war record of sixteen matches unbeaten in all competitions, with Vale eventually finishing eleventh.
After the League Trophy-winning season, the Valiants lost the services of veterans Tony Naylor and Allen Tankard, but young prospects Steve Brooker, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and new signings Stephen McPhee and Ian Armstrong were waiting in the wings. However, Vale suffered from inconsistency, and finished the 2001-02 campaign in fourteenth place.
With further discontentment at the running of the club, a supporters' trust under the banner "Valiant 2001" started moves towards attaining ownership of the club, including several offers that were rejected by chairman Bell.
The next season, 2002-03, was to see Vale's financial problems come to a head. With first-round exits in both cup competitions and another mediocre season in the league on the cards, Bill Bell eventually called in the administrators with the club around £1.5 million in debt.
Valiant 2001 eventually secured control of the club after a long and drawn-out process as the season neared its close. Bill Bratt became the new chairman, and even though the finances were still slim for quite a while, Vale were relatively buoyant. On the pitch, a brief cameo from veteran striker Brett Angell had kept the club above the relegation zone before Christmas with seven goals in fifteen games, and prodigy Billy Paynter helping out with five goals in a young-and-old partnership. However, with the financial problems, the funds were not found to keep Angell beyond November, and after a run of poor form Vale slipped into the bottom four in March.
With the concern of immediate extinction over, and Horton's resourceful signing of experienced Adrian Littlejohn (who scored three goals) the final ten games saw an upturn in form and Vale eventually finish in seventeenth place.
The club made their best start to a season for many a year and found themselves top of the table at the end of September. Vale remained on course to at least be challenging for the play-offs come May. Their position in the table was based largely on the goals of an attacking front four: Billy Paynter and Adrian Littlejohn played on the right and left, while Steve Brooker and Stephen McPhee forming a partnership up front.
Despite a modicum of success, Horton left in March 2004 after the board revealed he would not be given a new contract on the same terms and his budget would be slashed due to cost-cutting after administration. He was to be replaced by former player Martin Foyle, who had been a success as the club's youth-team manager. Horton left the team in seventh place, just outside the playoffs, and this was ultimately where the club would finish after a final day at Rushden & Diamonds' Nene Park. Going into the game, Vale needed a win to overtake either Swindon or Hartlepool in the play-off places and hope they both lost. However, the twist was that both these teams were playing each other and needed just a point to deny Vale a play-off place — unless, that is, Vale won by seven clear goals. Vale dispatched Rushden with a 2-0 win (Steve McPhee scoring both and taking his tally to 27 for the season) but Swindon and Hartlepool played out a 1-1 draw at the County Ground, thus meaning Vale missed out on goal-difference.
Foyle spent almost four years as manager after this, but after Vale continuted to languish in mid-table he was sacked on 4 November, 2007, with Vale in deep relegation trouble. He was succeeded by Lee Sinnott, but Sinnott was unable to prevent the club from sliding into League Two after a 23rd-place finish.
2008-09 is Vale's first season in the bottom tier of the Football League for almost a quarter of a century. Sinnot was sacked on 22 September, 2008, after an unsuccessful start to their League Two campaign, Glover taking over as caretaker-manager for the second time in twelve months.
Vale Park has been Port Vale's home ground since 1950, when the club moved from the Old Recreation Ground in Hanley, which stood on what is now the multi-storey car park for the Potteries Shopping Centre. The Rec had been Vale's home since 1913, at which point they had flitted between several homes in their early years of existence. One of these was the Cobridge Athletic Ground, which was also a dog track for greyhound racing in Cobridge, an area between Burslem and Hanley. Vale Park has a notional capacity of around 22,000; however with all the developments and a switch to an all-seater stadium in recent years, it is more likely around 18 or 19,000 once Lorne Street is completed.
Despite not being the oldest ground in the world, Vale Park has had several upgrades in its history. The original ground consisted of just two stands (The Railway side and the Lorne Street main stand) with banks of terracing at the Bycars and Hamil ends of the ground. Stands were eventually added behind each set of goals during the 1980s and 1990s as the ground began to be modernised. The paddock at the front of the Railway Stand was also made into an all-seated area, with just the Lorne Street side now being left as a standing area. Vale fans stood for the last time on Lorne Street at the end of the 1997-98 season, with the stand being demolished before work began on a new £3,000,000 structure. Work has yet to been finished on this, due to lack of finances and a change in ownership of the club. However, once new owners V2001 had taken care of the financing, work was finally begun on finishing the second half of the stand. It is due to be completed sometime in 2008.
For the computer game FIFA 2000, he provided an original theme song with It's Only Us, on the condition that Port Vale were included in the game, which they were, and are located in the Rest of World section. This song was also featured on the first and only FIFA Soundtrack CD release by EMI.
|Highest attendance||50,000: vs Aston Villa, 20 February 1960, FA Cup R5|
|Largest league win||9-1: vs Chesterfield, 24 September 1932, Division Two|
|Heaviest league defeat||0-10: vs Sheffield United, 10 December 1892, Division Two|
|Largest cup win||7-1: vs Irthlingborough, 12 January 1907, FA Cup R1|
|Most capped player||Christopher Birchall: 22, Trinidad and Tobago|
|Most League appearances||Roy Sproson: 761, 1950-1972|
|Most League goals||Wilf Kirkham: 154, 1923-1933|
|Most goals in a season||Wilf Kirkham: 38, 1926-27|
|Highest transfer fee paid||£500,000: Gareth Ainsworth from Lincoln City, 11 September 1997|
|Highest transfer fee received||£2,000,000: Gareth Ainsworth to Wimbledon, 29 October 1998|
Notable former players include: England
The most senior of the club's youth teams play their matches in the Puma Youth Alliance North West Conference, with Porter and fellow ex-Valiant Mark Grew coaching them. In recent years, the under-18s have gone from strength to strength, winning a number of youth tournaments with more players going onto to earn professional contracts in the first team.
2007-08 was particularly notable, as the under-18s won the Foyle Cup in pre-season, beating Bournemouth 1-0 in the final, before equalling the club record of reaching the quarter-final in the FA Youth Cup, including the giantkillings of Bolton and Tottenham. The youth team finished the season by winning the Midland Floodlit Youth Cup, beating Lincoln City 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Sincil Bank.
2008-09 began with the under-18s adding the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament to the trophy cabinet, beating Sutton Coldfield 3-0 in the final.