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|Full name||Port Vale Football Club|
|Founded||1876 / 1879|
|2012–13||League Two, 3rd|
|Website||Club home page|
|Full name||Port Vale Football Club|
|Founded||1876 / 1879|
|2012–13||League Two, 3rd|
|Website||Club home page|
Port Vale Football Club is an English football club that plays in Football League One, the third tier in the English football league system. They are based in Burslem, Staffordshire, one of six towns that make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent. The club's traditional rivals in the city are Stoke City, and games between the two clubs are known as the "Potteries derby". However, the last derby match took place on 10 February 2002 and with Stoke City in the Premier League, rivalry has increased between Port Vale and other local clubs, namely Burton Albion, Macclesfield Town, Shrewsbury Town, Walsall, Wrexham, and in particular Crewe Alexandra.
Port Vale is 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 formation of the club, which probably occurred in 1879, and is a reference to a valley of ports on the Trent and Mersey Canal, associated with the city's pottery industry. They have played more seasons in the second tier of English football (41) than any other club who have never reached the top tier. They were founder members of the original Second Division in 1892, and founder members of the Fourth Division in 1958. After playing at the Athletic Ground in Cobridge and The Old Recreation Ground in Hanley, the club returned to Burslem when Vale Park was opened in 1950. Outside the ground there is a statue to Roy Sproson, a man who played 842 competitive games for the club. 
The club greatest success was in the 1950s, where they were FA Cup semi–finalists in 1954 and won two divisional titles with Freddie Steele's "Iron Curtain" defence and then Norman Low's more attacking style. Since then, John Rudge was manager from 1983 to 1999 and steered the club through more than a decade of success; under his leadership the club reached eighth in the second tier in the 1996–97 season and enjoyed cup glory and numerous promotion campaigns. Since his reign the club have declined, slipping into the fourth tier whilst entering administration in 2003 and 2012. The decline was arrested when Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite bought the club out of Administration in November 2012; consequently, manager Micky Adams achieved automatic promotion and led the club out of League Two at the end of the 2012–13 season.
Though no precise details are known of the club's foundation, comprehensive research by historian Jeff Kent indicated that it was probably formed in 1879 as an offshoot of Porthill Victoria football club and took its name from its location, in the valley of canal ports. However, the story still given on the club website is that Port Vale F.C. was formed in 1876, following a meeting at Port Vale House, from where the club was supposed to have taken its name. They played their football at Limekiln Lane, Longport and from 1880 at Westport. The club moved to Burslem in 1884, changing its name to Burslem Port Vale in the process, they played at Moorland Road before moving into the Athletic Ground in 1885. In 1892 the club were founder members of the Football League Second Division.
The club dropped 'Burslem' from their name in 1907 – a dark time of financial difficulties where the club were forced to resign from the league. However the club's fortunes soon improved, they moved into their new home of The Old Recreation Ground in 1912 and returned to the Football League in October 1919, taking over the fixture list of Leeds City in the Second Division, who were disbanded because of financial irregularities.
The club saw their first relegation during the 1928–29 season, going from the Second Division to the Third Division North. They came up the following season as champions, the 1930–31 season saw a 5th place finish in the second tier of English football, their greatest league finish ever. After this peak, the club were once again relegated in the 1935–36 season and remained in the third tier until World War II.
In 1950, Vale Park was completed, the club's fifth ground, a year later Freddie Steele became manager. Steele quickly established himself at the club, masterminding the celebrated 'Iron Curtain' defence. The 1953–54 saw Vale storming to the Third Division North title as well as reaching the semi–finals of the FA Cup, losing out to eventual winners West Brom in very controversial fashion, seeing an Albert Leake goal disallowed for offside. Three years later, the club were once again relegated, and once again became founder members of a league – this time the Football League Fourth Division. Their first season in this new division was extremely successful as the club took the title with a club record 110 goals.
During the 1960s, the Vale fans witnessed numerous good cup runs, though never reaching close to their 1954 semi–final appearance. In 1967, Stanley Matthews took over (from Jackie Mudie who spent two years as manager), his reign ended in tears in 1968 as Vale were expelled from the Football League over seemingly 'illegal payments' made to players (this punishment was reduced on appeal to a re-election vote, which the club successfully won).
Gordon Lee took the helm after Vale's expulsion, and soon after the club were back in the Third Division when they were promoted in 1970. However, the 1970s did not prove a successful period for the Valiants, as the club languished in the bottom half of the Third Division for much of the decade. Lee left in 1974, and a succession of managers failed to prevent relegation in 1977–1978. The season ending in 1980 saw Port Vale finish 20th in the Fourth Division (88th overall), the club's worst ever finish. Despite this poor finish in John McGrath's first season, they eventually achieved their first success for thirteen years 1982–83, when Vale were promoted to the Third Division in third place, passing Crewe on the way up.
Following McGrath's dismissal, his assistant John Rudge was appointed manager at Vale Park in December 1983. Though he was unable to halt Vale's immediate return to the bottom tier of the Football League, he succeeded in steadying the ship. Vale were promoted back to the third tier in 1985–86, losing just once at Vale Park they finished in fourth spot, helped by the goals of prolific Welshman Andy Jones. A major cup upset came on 30 January 1988, when Vale side defeated First Division Tottenham Hotspur 2–1, thanks to a superb strike from Ray Walker. After three seasons in the third tier, another promotion, to the Second Division, 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.
They suffered relegation on the final day of the 1991–92 league campaign. In 1992–93, Vale bounced back well, and were in the promotion picture for most of the season, however, they narrowly missed out as runners–up to local rivals Stoke City, when Bolton Wanderers pipped them on the final day. Instead Vale would visit Wembley twice in just over a week. First, in the Final of the Autoglass Trophy – the club's first appearance at the national stadium – Vale ran out 2–1 winners against Stockport County. However Vale then lost 3–0 in the play–off final to West Bromwich Albion. Vale went on to confirm promotion as runners-up on the final day of the following season. That season also included an FA Cup win over Premier League Southampton with a Bernie Slaven goal. Ian Taylor was to become the club's first million pound sale, when Sheffield Wednesday invested in the midfielder. During the 1995–96 season, more FA Cup glory came when holders Everton were defeated 2–1. The team also had some success in the Anglo-Italian Cup, as they qualified for the Final at Wembley, where they lost 5–2 to then Italian Serie B side Genoa. Vale made a slow start to the 1996–97 campaign, with protests forming against chairman Bill Bell, and the sale of Steve Guppy to Leicester City for £800,000. Despite this Rudge masterminded an eighth place finish – their highest in the pyramid since 1931.
In 1997–98, the relegation was avoided on the final day as goals from Martin Foyle, Jan Jansson and Lee Mills secured a 4–0 win over Huddersfield Town, at the expense of Manchester City and Stoke City. The next season was another struggle, and John Rudge was controversially sacked in January 1999. He was replaced by former player Brian Horton, who spent big to secure the club's a second–consecutive final–day escape. There was no escaping the drop in 1999–2000 however, as they were some thirteen points short of safety. Horton led the club to LDV Vans Trophy success in 2001, beating Brentford in the final at the Millennium Stadium, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Steve Brooker getting the goals. Following this the Valiants lost the services of veterans Tony Naylor and Allen Tankard, and a disappointing 14th place finish followed in 2001–02. At the end of 2002, 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.
The club came out of administration in 2003–04 under a new board of fan–ownership. However, Horton left in February 2004, unwilling to accept the financial cutbacks imposed by the new board. Replaced by former player Martin Foyle, his teams 17th and 13th place finishes were followed by a poor start to the 2007–08 season, which resulted in his dismissal in November 2007. He had put together a successful strike partnership in Leon Constantine and Akpo Sodje, but many other signings did not live up to expectation. Succeeded by promising non-league manager Lee Sinnott, the new man proved unable to prevent the club from sliding into League Two after a 23rd–place finish, as well as crashing out to Chasetown (an 8th tiered club) in the FA Cup. Sinnott was sacked in September 2008 after a poor start to 2008–09. Dean Glover subsequently took over as caretaker manager for the second time in twelve months, and was quickly appointed as manager on a permanent basis. Glover failed to win over the supporters, and the 2008–09 season finished with the club in 18th place in League Two. His contract terminated in May 2009, Micky Adams became the new manager.
Adams quickly endeared himself to the supporters with wins over the Championship's two Sheffield sides in the League Cup, United and Wednesday, before they lost out to Scunthorpe United in the Third Round, after extra time. Arriving into the play–off places for the first time in the season with just two games remaining, they stumbled at the finish to end up in a respectable tenth place. History repeated itself for the start of 2010–11, with new signing Justin Richards scoring a brace in a 3–1 win at Queens Park Rangers in the League Cup First Round. Adams left the club in December 2010, with Vale second in the table, and it was left to Jim Gannon to finish the promotion job. Gannon's remarkably turbulent reign ended after just 74 days. During this time he got into a bust-up with assistant manager Geoff Horsfield which received national press, alienating fans and players alike in the process. Mark Grew failed to lift the club back into the play-offs, though at the end of the season supporters were delighted to learn that Micky Adams would be returning as manager. However the club continued to lose money, and fans demanded a change in the boardroom after a series of promised investments failed to bear fruit. Genuine hopes of promotion in 2011–12 were brought to an end after the club were issued with a winding up petition by HM Revenue and Customs on 29 February 2012; the club were by this time unable to pay tax bills, creditors, or staff wages. The club entered administration on 9 March. The ten-point deduction left the club in mid-table, and the club remained without an owner for the start of the 2012–13 season. Paul Wildes completed his takeover of the club on 20 November 2012. Tom Pope scored 33 goals to fire Vale to promotion back to League One with a third-place finish – a remarkable achievement for a club that began the season in administration.
In 1921 the club adopted their familiar white and black strip after having experimented with numerous colours, including; plain red, gold and black stripes, claret and blue, and even during 1898–1902 playing in the red and white stripes now used by rivals Stoke City for over a century. However, the kit soon changed to plain red shirts with white shorts in 1923, a look which lasted until 1934, where the white shirt, black shorts and socks kit once again was adopted. Between 1958 and 1963 the club adopted various gold and black designs, before once again returning to the black and white theme.
The club crest first featured on the kit in 1956, which at the time was modelled on the coat of arms of the Borough of Burslem. It featured the scythe of the Tunstall arms, the fretted cross of Audley, and two Josiah Wedgwood pots. The crest was removed in 1964, and replaced by a 'P.V.F.C.' monogramme, which in turn was abandoned in 1981.
The eighth cumulative crest was introduced in 1983. The two symbols on the club's badge were a bottle oven and the Stafford knot, associated with the city of Stoke-on-Trent's pottery industry and the history of the local area.
The current crest was introduced towards the end of the 2012–13 season as part of initiatives by the new owners Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite to launch a new era at the club. Fans were offered the chance to vote on a proposed new design, which was a modern rehash of the crest the club introduced in 1956; it included local historical references – the Portland Vases representing Josiah Wedgwood, the Scythe appearing verbatim from the house crest of the Sneyd family, and the silver cross appearing verbatim from the house crest of the Audley family. Fans voted in favour of the new crest and it was formally introduced, with a few minor changes (the addition of the Stafford knot above the crest) in February 2013.
Before joining the Football League, the club started its existence at The Meadows in Limekiln Lane, Longport – now Scott Lidgett Road. A basic ground, the club moved on in 1881. The club's second ground was Westport Meadows, where they played for three years. An area prone to flooding, today Westport Lake now lies where the ground once stood. In 1884, the club moved to its third ground, they stayed at Burslem Football and Athletic ground for just two years. Located close to Burslem railway station, the club took the area's name. The first match was a 6–0 win over Everton in a friendly, though the club would also host FA Cup matches for the first time at the ground. Proved to be inadequate, the club moved on to the Athletic Ground.
Located opposite the church on Waterloo Road, directly on the Hanley and Burslem tram line, it played host to the club for 27 years, including twelve Football League seasons. It was named due to the fact that it also hosted athletics.
The Rec was Vale's home from 1913 to 1950. The Old Recreation Ground was located in Hanley and stood on what is now the multi–storey car park for the Potteries Shopping Centre. The club endured hard financial times during World War II, and sold the ground to the council, who were reluctant to allow the club to rent it back.
Vale Park has been Port Vale's home ground since 1950; it is located on Hamil Road, opposite Burslem Park. Originally planned to be as massive as an 80,000 capacity stadium, the development was known as the "The Wembley of the North". However the £50,000 project opened at a capacity of 40,000 (360 seated) – still highly ambitious. The capacity was increased to a sell-out 49,768 for an FA Cup tie with Aston Villa in 1960. However over the years more seats were installed at the expense of standing room, and the stadium became an all-seater venue following the Taylor Report, published in 1990. Fans stood for the last time on Lorne Street at the end of the 1997–98 season. With a decline in attendances following John Rudge's departure corresponding with a halt in work on the now half-finished Lorne Street stand, the current capacity is only an estimate of 19,052 – though the stadium has rarely come close to half-full in the 21st century.
Vale get most of their support in the north of Stoke-on-Trent, particularly the towns of Tunstall and Burslem. The club also enjoys support from fans scattered all over the city, and the local area in general. The club has a healthy rivalry with Stoke City, as City are based in the town of Stoke-upon-Trent, only a small percentage of residents in the town are Vale fans. Stoke City also enjoy a higher support base in the city as a whole, especially in recent times when they have achieved promotion to the country's top division.
With 215,206 supporters turning out in 46 League Two games during the 2009–10 season, Vale attracted an average league attendance of 4,678. The club enjoyed the best away support in proportion to home support in the Football League in the 2012–13 season.
The club's official matchday programme is highly rated, and was voted the best in League Two in 2010–11. Supporters also produced three unofficial fanzines. The oldest are "The Memoirs of Seth Bottomley" printed in the 90's and the Vale Park Beano, which has been printed since 1997. Derek I'm Gutted! is also a long-running fanzine, and has been printed since August 2000; the name was inspired by a remark by then-manager Brian Horton to local journalist Derek Davis following a defeat to Tranmere Rovers. The club's official website is ran by the club. Independent fan-run websites include One Vale Fan, North London Valiants, Vital Port Vale, PortValeOnline.com, and the Port Vale Supporters Club.
The club's most famous fan is singer Robbie Williams, who was raised in Stoke-on-Trent. Before administration in 2012, he was a major shareholder, having in February 2006, bought £240,000 of the £250,000 worth of available shares in the club. Castle Comfort Stairlifts, the club's sponsors, at the same time bought the remainder for £10,000. For this investment, a restaurant at Vale Park is named after him.
For the computer game FIFA 2000, he provided an original theme song with It's Only Us, on the condition that Port Vale should be included in the game, which they were, located in the Rest of World section. This song was also featured on the only FIFA Soundtrack CD release by EMI. In 2005 Williams founded Los Angeles Vale F.C., a Super Metro League team in the United States, named after Port Vale and based at his L.A. home. His best friend, TV presenter Jonathan Wilkes, is also a Vale fan.
Another famous fan is darts legend Phil Taylor; Burslem born, "The Power" is a 16 time world champion of the sport. The local Member of Parliament Joan Walley is also a supporter. The singer Simon Webbe was signed up to the club's youth side as a teenager until a torn ligament at age seventeen put an end to any sporting ambitions. The noted children's illustrator and author Bob Wilson, a Stoke native, is also a fan. His well–known Stanley Bagshaw series of books is set in an area based on Stoke, and the protagonist supports a thinly–disguised version of the Vale; even basing a book on their 1954 Cup run – albeit with a successful conclusion (Stanley Bagshaw and the short–sighted football trainer). American-born artist Paine Proffitt has settled in the area and his largest series of vintage poster pieces focuses on his adopted club, Port Vale. England Ladies cricketer Danielle Wyatt comes from a family of Vale supporters. Many former players also still follow the club and attend games. Fans that have gone on to play for the club in recent times include Tom Pope, Adam Yates, Ritchie Sutton and Chris Birchall.
Football League Third Division North: 2 (3rd tier)
|Highest home attendance||49,768: vs Aston Villa, 20 February 1960, FA Cup (Round 5)|
|Highest home gate receipts||£170,349: vs Everton, 14 February 1996, FA Cup (Round 4)|
|Largest league win||9–1: vs Chesterfield, 24 September 1932, Second Division|
|Heaviest league defeat||0–10: vs Sheffield United, 10 December 1892, Second Division|
|Largest cup win||7–1: vs Irthlingborough Town, 12 January 1907, FA Cup (Round 1)|
|Most capped player||Chris Birchall: 24, Trinidad and Tobago|
|Most League appearances||Roy Sproson: 761, 1950–1972|
|Most appearances in all competitions||Roy Sproson: 842, 1950–1972|
|Most League goals||Wilf Kirkham: 154, 1923–1933|
|Most goals in all competitions||Wilf Kirkham: 164, 1923–1933|
|Most goals in a season||Wilf Kirkham: 38, 1926–27 (Second Division)|
|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|
Highest Football League finishes
Best Cup runs
Where a player has not declared an international allegiance, nation is determined by place of birth. Squad correct as of 26 November 2012.
|7||Midfielder||Doug Loft (captain)||England|
|20||Defender||Jack Grimmer (on loan from Fulham)||Scotland|
|25||Midfielder||Florent Cuvelier (on loan from Sheffield United)||Belgium|
|26||Midfielder||Chris Birchall||Trinidad and Tobago|
|28||Midfielder||Billy Knott (on loan from Sunderland)||England|
Where a player has not declared an international allegiance, nation is determined by place of birth.
|23||Midfielder||Kaid Mohamed (at Bristol Rovers until 30 June 2014)||Wales|
|36||Defender||Ben Jefford (at Southport until 9 February 2014)||England|
|41||Midfielder||Gary O'Neill (at Southport until 24 February 2014)||Ireland|
|Assistant Manager:||Mark Grew||English|
|Chief Scout:||George Foster||English|
|Youth Coach:||Dean Glover||English|
|Youth Coach:||Michael Ede||English|
The club has run a reserve team for most of its history, they originally joined the Cheshire County League in 1923 with their most successful period coming in the late 1920s early 1930s when they won the league five times (four times consecutively) and also did the league and cup double in 1931. Despite one season in the Birmingham League in 1933–34, the reserves remained in the Cheshire division for nearly 50 years, eventually leaving the league for good in 1971 to join The Central League. Recent success includes an appearance in the Staffordshire Senior Cup final in 2010.
Vale did have a period without a reserve outfit after the club came out of administration in 2003 due to cost cutting. However it was started up again in time for the 2006–07 season. Vale's reserves currently compete in The Central League Division One Central. The team is usually made up of a combination of fringe players and youth players in the last year or two of their scholarships. Centre-back Gareth Owen was appointed reserve team manager at the start of the 2011–12 season.
The most senior of the club's youth teams play their matches in the Football League Youth Alliance North West Conference. The club's best performance in the FA Youth Cup is a quarter-final finish, which was achieved last in 2007–08, under the stewardship of Andy Porter; that season also saw the under-18s win the Foyle Cup and Midland Floodlit Youth Cup. The club's Centre of Excellence was established in 1987, and has since produced more than fifty players who have forged careers as professional footballers, recent examples include: Joe Anyon, Chris Birchall, Anthony Gardner, Chris Martin, James Lawrie, Danny Glover, Sam Morsy, and Billy Paynter. The club holds the Football League's Category Three Academy status.
Cheshire County League Challenge Cup: 1
Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament: under–18s: 1
Midland Floodlit Youth Cup: 2
Foyle Cup: under–18s: 1