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Port Vale F.C. History – All about the Club

In this article, we will talk about Port Vale F.C. history in detail and go over the significant happenings in the club’s lifespan.

Port Vale Football Club is a professional football team situated in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, England, currently competing in EFL League One.

Despite never having played in the top-flight football league, Port Vale holds the record for the most seasons in the English Football League (112) without reaching the first tier.

Vale played initially at the Athletic Ground in Cobridge and The Old Recreation Ground in Hanley before returning to Burslem with the opening of Vale Park in 1950.

Burslem Port Vale, having become a prominent football club in Staffordshire, was invited to be founding members of the Football League Second Division in 1892, one of Port Vale F.C. honors.

They spent 13 non-consecutive seasons in the division, interrupted by two seasons in the Midland League.

Financial difficulties led to their resignation and liquidation in 1907.

However, the name Port Vale continued in the North Staffordshire Federation League, and the club was successfully reinstated into the Football League in 1919.

They spent 16 non-consecutive seasons in the Second Division, including winning the Third Division North title in 1929–30, a fact regarding Port Vale F.C. trophies history.

Despite limited success in the 1960s and 1970s, including a brief tenure under Stanley Matthews, the club faced re-election in 1968 due to FA rule violations.

Carol Shanahan purchased the club in 2019, and manager Darrell Clarke secured promotion out of the League Two play-offs at the end of the 2021–22 season.

Diving into Port Vale F.C. History

  • Full Name: Port Vale Football Club
  • Nicknames: The Valiants
  • Year of Formation: 1876 or 1879
  • Place of Origin: Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, England
  • Home Stadium: Vale Park
  • Owner: Synsol Holdings Limited
  • Chairlady: Carol Shanahan
  • Manager: Andy Crosby
  • League: EFL League One
  • Market Value: €6.38m

When was the Club Founded?

Port Vale F.C. history - When was the Club Founded?
credit: wikipedia

The exact details surrounding the establishment of the club remain uncertain.

While it was previously believed that Port Vale may have originated from an 1876 meeting at Port Vale House, where the club was thought to have derived its name, no evidence supporting the existence of such a named public house has been found.

However, thorough research by historian Jeff Kent suggests an alternative origin.

According to Kent, the club likely formed in 1879 as an offshoot of the Porthill Victoria football club, taking its name from the location in the valley of canal ports.

Supporting evidence includes Vale chairman Robert Audley’s 1907 statement claiming the club had “an organization of twenty-eight years standing.”

Additionally, individuals named John Hood and ‘E. Hood’ were documented scoring goals for Porthill Victoria on 4 January 1879, a team that appeared to disband at the end of that season.

Port Vale F.C. history tells us that the 1879 theory proposes that players from Porthill Victoria broke away to establish Port Vale in 1879 due to the inconvenience of traveling uphill to Wolstanton for their football matches.

Before 1926, occasional mentions in print had indicated the club’s founding year as 1879.

However, during the 50-year jubilee celebrations in January 1926, the 1876 date seemingly became firmly established as the year of the club’s founding, although the organizers’ reasons for this shift remain unknown.

Adding to the confusion, The Sentinel, a local newspaper, continued to print 1879 as the club’s founding date in March 1928 and August 1931, despite reporting on the jubilee celebrations earlier that year.

Other theories on the club’s origins include the possibility that Port Vale resulted from Wolstanton, Middleport, and Burslem St. Paul’s merger. However, there is scant evidence to support this.

Their First-ever Games

Their First-ever Games
credit: onevalefan.co.uk

Another theory suggests Port Vale may have initially been a brickworks team, based on bricks marked with “Burslem Port Vale” and “Port Vale.”

However, these markings seem more indicative of their place of manufacture in the Valley of Ports and often feature a company name, providing no solid evidence linking them to the football club.

The unique name of Port Vale has sparked interest and debate, with players residing near places like Port Vale Wharf, Port Vale Street, Port Vale Corn Mills, and Port Vale House.

The name “Port Vale” was considered a natural choice due to the team playing in the valley below, especially considering the hill-based play of nearby Porthill Victoria.

Another theory suggests the name might have originated from a shortening of ‘Longport Vale.’

The team initially played their matches at Limekiln Lane, Longport, and from 1880 at Westport, where they paid £1 for the use of Westport Meadows.

The 1851 Ordnance Survey Map of Longport clearly displays Port Vale Wharf, the adjacent Longport Lime Kilns, and the eponymous lane.

Founded by Enoch Hood, the club quickly surpassed numerous local Burslem clubs, becoming the strongest in the town within a few years.

By 1880, the club had a reserve team and successfully attracted the best players from local rivals, charging admission to their games.

Port Vale F.C. history lets us know that they joined the Staffordshire Football Association on September 6, 1882.

The first recorded line-up occurred on December 9, 1882, in a Staffordshire Senior Cup second-round replay at Stoke, where the match concluded with a 5–1 victory for Stoke, and Enoch Hood scored Vale’s goal.

On February 2, 1884, the club dominated Middlewich 16–0 in a friendly.

Burslem Port Vale

Port Vale F.C. history - Burslem Port Vale
credit: wikipedia

In the same month, Billy Poulson and Charlie Simpson represented Staffordshire, leading The Sentinel to write of “our two local champions – Stoke and Port Vale.”

From that point on, these two clubs defined football in the Potteries.

The club relocated to Burslem in 1884, playing at a newly constructed ground at Moorland Road.

The first game at the new ground resulted in a 6–0 victory over Everton.

Shortly after, the club changed its name to Burslem Port Vale.

In the summer of 1885, they moved to the Athletic Ground and started paying their players regular wages.

In 1888, despite rivals Stoke being among the twelve founders, Port Vale failed to gain inclusion in the founding of the English Football League.

Instead, they joined The Second Combination, a league lasting only one season.

Despite their poor performance, they were not invited to join the new, short-lived Football Alliance.

Progress was made as the club hired their first professional trainer, Joey Law, from West Bromwich Albion.

Port Vale F.C. history says that in 1890, Port Vale became one of the founding members of the Midland League, playing two seasons of football.

A third-place finish in 1891–92 secured their election to the new Football League Second Division in 1892.

The club faced challenges following the death of star striker Frank McGinnes.

On December 10, 1892, they played in a snowstorm and suffered a 10–0 home loss to Sheffield United, a record in Football League history.

Despite finishing eleventh out of twelve, they won re-election to the league.

Over the next three seasons, they struggled in the league and failed to win re-election at the end of 1895–96, resulting in two seasons in the Midland League.

The Complete Dissolution of Burslem Port Vale?

The Complete Dissolution of Burslem Port Vale?
credit: onevalefan.co.uk

Financial difficulties persisted despite their FA Cup victory over eventual First Division champions Sheffield United, leading to survival measures such as selling top players and cutting costs.

The club resigned from the league on June 14, 1907, after an unsuccessful appeal for supporter donations, with the directors deeming the club not viable “in any shape or form.”

Stoke and Oldham Athletic absorbed most of the now-unemployed players.

Burslem Port Vale faced imminent liquidation and ceased operations in 1909.

However, an unexpected turn of events saved the club from extinction.

The North Staffordshire Church League champions, Cobridge Church, entered the North Staffordshire Federation League, a minor league.

We read in Port Vale F.C. history that joint secretaries Millward and E.C. Brundrett, with ambitious plans, sought permission from the Football Association in 1907 to change the club’s name to Port Vale.

They purchased the old club’s Athletic Ground ground and renamed their reserve side to Cobridge Church, playing against teams like Leek United, Newchapel United, and Ashwood Villa.

Despite financial challenges, a buy-out consortium led by former Vale player Sam Bennion revived the club in December 1908, re-signing former players Adrian Copes, Bert Eardley, and Harry Croxton.

In the 1909–10 season, Port Vale clinched the North Staffordshire & District League title but lost key players like Joe Brough (to Liverpool), Billy Cavenor (to Blackpool), and Bert Eardley (to Glossop).

The club was reorganized on July 21, 1911, with J.H. Edwards elected chairman.

Transitioning to the Central League and facing financial crises coupled with issues at their Cobridge Ground, Port Vale moved to The Old Recreation Ground in Hanley in 1912.

This relocation allowed the club to host over 10,000 spectators regularly.

Struggling with Money

Struggling with Money
credit: wikipedia

At the end of the 1913–14 season, Port Vale agreed to stand down for re-election to the Football League, favoring stronger rivals Stoke’s chances of re-election, with an understanding that this favor would be repaid.

The club took shape during this period, and around November 1920, chairman Frank Huntbach coined the nickname “the Valiants.”

1921, the club adopted their familiar white and black strip after experimenting with various colors.

The kit changed to plain red shirts with white shorts in 1923, lasting until 1934, when the white shirt, black shorts, and socks kit returned.

Financial challenges resurfaced in the early 1920s, leading to the sale of top striker Bobby Blood to West Bromwich Albion for £4,000 in February 1921.

Despite a financial crisis, Port Vale signed Wales international goalkeeper Teddy Peers in January 1922.

However, the club faced trouble again in June 1923 when former trainer Billy Barr reported illegal payments to players, resulting in fines and punishments.

On November 11, 1923, Tom Butler’s death prompted a benefit fund, raising £700 from Stoke and other clubs for his widow.

Wilf Kirkham became the top scorer in 1924–25, maintaining this position for the next three seasons.

In April 1926, the club’s directors tentatively agreed to an amalgamation with rivals Stoke City, citing financial difficulties and decreasing attendance.

However, Port Vale F.C. history tells us that Vale’s supporters opposed the proposal and threatened to start their own club.

Stoke’s relegation in 1925–26 left Vale in the Second Division and Stoke in the Third Division (North).

Stoke ultimately rejected the proposal in May 1926, leading to the resignation of four Vale directors, including the chairman.

A Brilliant Defense

A Brilliant Defense
credit: wikipedia

Despite considering a move back to Cobridge in the summer of 1927, financial constraints and the city council’s option to repurchase The Old Recreation Ground thwarted the plan.

At the end of the 1928–29 season, the club was relegated to the Third Division North for the first time, and top scorer Kirkham was sold to rivals Stoke for £2,800.

In the 1929–30 season, only the champions of the Third Divisions (North and South) were eligible for promotion.

The sale of Kirkham enabled the team to strengthen in other positions, although they keenly felt the absence of their talisman.

Unfortunately, on September 29, 1929, manager Joe Schofield passed away, leaving the team at the top of the league.

Reserve team coach Tom Morgan assumed responsibility for the first team.

The team’s exceptional form persisted, and they clinched the championship with 67 points, boasting the strongest defensive record in all four divisions, having conceded only 37 goals.

The 1930–31 season in Port Vale F.C. history marked one of the club’s strongest performances, securing a fifth-place finish in the second tier primarily due to a solid defense.

Post-season, the club benefited financially from a mini-tour of the Netherlands, recording two victories.

However, they incurred a loss of £800 for the season.

Top-scorer Sam Jennings, having held the position for two consecutive seasons, was transferred to Stockport County.

Other players, including Phil Griffiths (sold to Everton for £6,000), were moved on or sold.

The new team struggled, prompting the re-signing of Wilf Kirkham from Stoke City in January.

They finished the season in 20th position, narrowly avoiding relegation on goal average.

To improve in 1932–33, the team underwent a reshuffle, bidding farewell to long-serving custodian Bob Connelly and former England international Dicky York.

Selling More and More Players

Selling More and More Players
credit: stokesentinel.co.uk

Port Vale F.C. managers history informs us that former manager Tom Holford replaced manager Tom Morgan.

Despite narrowly escaping relegation, the club had little to celebrate, although they achieved financial profit.

Another overhaul followed, parting ways with underperformers and Kirkham, who chose an educational career over football.

The 1933–34 season witnessed a strong on-field performance, finishing in eighth place.

However, financial troubles ensued, resulting in the release of fifteen players, including Bill Cope, Jimmy McGrath, and Len Armitage.

The 1934–35 season was unremarkable on the pitch, with mid-season discussions about changing the club’s name.

Despite suggestions like ‘Stoke Central’ and ‘Stoke United,’ the settled name was ‘Hanley Port Vale.’

Calls for a name change persisted for a few years before fading away.

Port Vale faced relegation in 1935–36, preceded by selling top striker Tom Nolan to Bradford Park Avenue.

Manager Holford advocated a ‘young players policy.’

The season concluded with a second-from-bottom finish and an appeal for donations to survive financially.

Warney Cresswell took over as manager for the 1936–37 campaign, aiming for promotion.

Tom Nolan returned from Bradford, but after a mid-table finish, Creswell left the club.

Notable player transfers occurred, including Eric Hayward to Blackpool, Ken Gunn to Northampton Town, and Allan Todd to Nottingham Forest.

In December 1937, Tom Morgan resumed the role of manager.

The 1937–38 season saw mid-table mediocrity, with Jack Roberts’s impressive tally of 28 goals being the only bright spot.

Port Vale F.C. history states that approximately half the team was either transferred or released at the end of the season.

New faces for the 1938–39 campaign included goalkeeper Arthur Jepson, defender George Collin, and right-half George Hannah.

The club moved to the Third Division South, hoping for higher gate receipts.

Forced to Sell Their Home Ground

Forced to Sell Their Home Ground
credit: wikipedia

Despite fighting to avoid relegation and injuries hitting the squad, the club failed to make an impact in the division.

With the outbreak of war in Europe and Vale at the bottom of the Third Division South after two games, the 1939–40 season was canceled as Britain and its allies fought against Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.

Stoke-on-Trent was designated a ‘neutral and reception area,’ permitting football throughout the war.

However, financial limitations and player enlistments prevented the club from competing in the war leagues.

A youth team achieved local success, but the death of Major W.M. Huntbach, the club’s chairman, left them in significant debt, an unfortunate event in Port Vale F.C. history.

Forced to sell The Old Recreation Ground to the city council for £13,500, the club became homeless in October 1940.

Initially denied permission to rent the ground, the council later allowed it until a few seasons after the war, extending the deal to June 20, 1950.

By the summer of 1944, the club revived its first team, secured a location for a new stadium on Hamil Road, Burslem, and initiated a fund to raise £30,000.

Jack Diffin was appointed team manager for the 1944–45 season.

Peace was restored after Germany and Japan’s defeat, and the 1946–47 season commenced.

Morris Jones scored 26 goals, leading the club to a respectable tenth-place finish.

It was also the most financially successful year up to that point, with a net profit of over £4,000.

However, Jones’s loss of form in 1947–48 led to his sale to Swindon Town for £2,500 in November 1947.

The club finished eighth but incurred losses in the transfer market and over the season as a whole.

Finding A Permanent Home

Port Vale F.C. history - Finding A Permanent Home
credit: pinterest

Despite finishing mid-table, the forgettable 1948–49 season saw record profits of just over £7,000, with the significant contribution of Bill Pointon’s transfer sum.

The 1949–50 season began with 86 players, of which only 27 were full-time professionals.

The pre-season acquisition of a young Ray King from Ashington proved significant, while the signing of defender Lol Hamlett had greater short-term importance.

Despite another mid-table finish, much talk centered on the upcoming stadium in Burslem.

A substantial £20,000 was raised from the sale of Ronnie Allen to West Brom.

A setback occurred when the government refused permission to transfer a stand from the old stadium to the new, despite local MP Albert Davies’s protests.

Looking at Port Vale F.C. history, we can see that in 1950, they relocated to their new home, Vale Park, and within a year, Freddie Steele assumed the role of club manager.

Steele quickly made a significant impact, overseeing the creation of the renowned ‘Iron Curtain’ defense.

During the 1953–54 season, Vale secured the Third Division North title and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, where they controversially lost to eventual winners West Bromwich Albion due to an offside disallowed goal by Albert Leake.

Three years later, the club faced relegation once again, becoming founder members of the newly established Football League Fourth Division.

Under the management of Norman Low, an attacking philosophy led Vale to the Fourth Division title in the 1958–59 season with a record-breaking 110 goals.

The six-season tenure in the Third Division ended with relegation at the conclusion of the 1964–65 campaign.

In 1967, former Ballon d’Or winner Stanley Matthews succeeded Jackie Mudie as manager.

Will They Ever Get back to the Second Division?

Will They Ever Get back to the Second Division?
credit: onevalefan.co.uk

However, he resigned a year later after Vale faced expulsion from the Football League for allegedly making illegal payments to players, a punishment later reduced to a re-election vote, which the club won.

Gordon Lee took charge after this incident and guided the club to promotion at the end of the 1969–70 campaign.

Despite these achievements, the 1970s were not prosperous for the Valiants, as the club remained in the bottom half of the Third Division for much of the decade.

After Lee’s departure in 1974, a series of managers couldn’t prevent relegation in 1977–1978.

The 1979–80 season in Port Vale F.C. history witnessed Port Vale finishing 20th in the Fourth Division, marking the club’s worst-ever finish.

Despite this, in John McGrath’s first season, they achieved their first success in thirteen years by winning promotion out of the Fourth Division in the third position during the 1982–83 season.

Following McGrath’s dismissal, his assistant John Rudge took over as manager in December 1983.

Although unable to prevent Vale’s immediate return to the bottom tier of the Football League, Rudge successfully stabilized the team.

Aided by the prolific Welshman Andy Jones, Vale earned promotion back to the third tier in 1985–86 after losing just once at Vale Park in the league all season.

A notable cup upset occurred on January 30, 1988, when Vale defeated First Division side Tottenham Hotspur 2–1, courtesy of a superb strike from Ray Walker.

After three seasons in the third tier, Rudge’s Vale secured another promotion in 1988–89 after Robbie Earle scored the winning goal at Vale Park, completing a 2–1 aggregate play-off final victory over Bristol Rovers and marking the club’s return to the Second Division after a 33-year absence.

John Rudge Leading the Squad

John Rudge Leading the Squad
credit: stokesentinel.co.uk

In the 1991–92 league campaign, Port Vale experienced relegation on the final day.

Despite a strong rebound in the 1992–93 season, they narrowly missed promotion as runners-up to local rivals Stoke City, overtaken by Bolton Wanderers on the final day.

However, Vale had notable appearances at Wembley, winning 2–1 against Stockport County in the Football League Trophy final but losing 3–0 in the play-off final to West Bromwich Albion.

The club successfully secured promotion as runners-up on the final day of the 1993–94 season.

Noteworthy achievements in the 1995–96 season included a significant FA Cup giant-killing by defeating holders Everton 2–1 and reaching the Anglo-Italian Cup final at Wembley, where they lost 5–2 to Serie B side Genoa.

The 1996–97 campaign began slowly for Vale, marked by protests against chairman Bill Bell and the £800,000 sale of Steve Guppy to Leicester City.

Despite this, John Rudge orchestrated an eighth-place finish, the club’s highest finsh since 1931.

Relegation was narrowly avoided in the 1997–98 season with a 4–0 win over Huddersfield Town on the final day.

The following season proved challenging, leading to the controversial sacking of John Rudge in January 1999.

Former player Brian Horton took over, spending significantly to secure the club’s second consecutive final-day escape from relegation.

Relegation became inevitable in the 1999–2000 season, with Vale falling thirteen points short of safety.

Under fan ownership in 2003–04, the club emerged from an administration led by Bill Bratt’s Valiant 2001 consortium.

However, financial cutbacks led to Brian Horton’s departure in February 2004, and Martin Foyle replaced him.

Foyle’s tenure ended in November 2007, with Lee Sinnott taking charge, overseeing relegation to League Two and a defeat to Chasetown in the FA Cup.

Recent Times and Constant Struggles

Port Vale F.C. history - Recent Times and Constant Struggles
credit: stokesentinel.co.uk

Sinnott was sacked in September 2008, and after an unsuccessful stint by Dean Glover, Micky Adams became the manager in June 2009.

Adams left in December 2010, with Jim Gannon briefly taking over.

Adams returned at the end of the 2010–11 campaign, but fans demanded a change in the boardroom due to unfulfilled investment promises.

Hopes of promotion in 2011–12 were dashed when the club faced a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs, leading to administration on March 9, 2012.

The club exited administration on November 20, 2012, and Tom Pope’s 33 goals secured promotion back to League One with a third-place finish.

Under new boss Rob Page, stability was achieved in the division until chairman Norman Smurthwaite arranged the departure of Page and his squad for the club’s first foreign manager, Bruno Ribeiro, resulting in relegation back to League Two in the 2016–17 season.

Smurthwaite resigned as chairman, returned the following season, and threatened administration if a buyer was not found by May 2019.

The Shanahan family’s takeover averted this fate.

In the 2021–22 season, manager Darrell Clarke secured promotion through the League Two play-offs with a 3–0 victory over Mansfield Town in the final.

Clarke was dismissed in April 2023 after a prolonged period of unsatisfactory outcomes throughout the calendar year.

Andy Crosby, the New Manager

Andy Crosby, the New Manager
credit: beinsports.com

Crosby assumed the role of interim manager after Clarke’s termination, a decision prompted by a series of two victories in eighteen League One matches.

During the final four games of the 2022–23 season, he secured one win but suffered three losses, expressing his readiness to take on the position permanently.

The confirmation of his permanent appointment as the club’s manager occurred on May 12.

In his new role, Crosby named Nathan Smith, a 27-year-old stalwart, as the club captain, with Funso Ojo serving as vice-captain.

The commencement of the 2023–24 season for Vale was marked by a significant 7–0 defeat at the hands of Barnsley, constituting the most substantial opening-day loss for any team in the EFL since the 1962–63 season, over 60 years ago.

Despite this setback, Crosby’s team rebounded with ten points from the remaining twelve available in August, earning him a nomination for the EFL League One Manager of the Month award.

Under his leadership, Vale reached the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup for the first time in Port Vale F.C. history, securing victories over Fleetwood Town, Crewe Alexandra, Sutton United, and Mansfield Town.

Regarding Port Vale F.C. Champions League history, they have never competed in a European competition before.

Read More: Derby County History – All about the Club

Port Vale F.C. Kit History

Port Vale F.C. Kit History
credit: port-vale.co.uk

In approximately November 1920, the club’s chairman, Frank Huntbach, coined the nickname “the Valiants”.

This distinctive moniker became an integral part of the club’s identity.

Port Vale F.C. jersey history shows that the following year, the team underwent a significant transformation in its appearance by embracing a white and black striped kit.

This change marked a departure from the team’s earlier experimentation with various color combinations, such as plain red, gold, and black stripes, claret, and blue.

Interestingly, between 1898 and 1902, the club even donned the iconic red and white stripes that have since been associated with their rivals, Stoke City, for well over a century.

However, the club’s sartorial journey continued, and in 1923, they opted for plain red shirts paired with white shorts, a style that remained in vogue until 1934.

During this year, the club reverted to the classic combination of white shirts, black shorts, and socks.

Fast forward to the period between 1958 and 1963, and the club explored various designs featuring gold and black hues, providing a distinctive yet evolving visual identity.

Eventually, the club returned to its roots, once again embracing the timeless black and white theme, a choice that resonated with fans and contributed to the enduring legacy of Port Vale’s iconic kit.

They have also introduced orange stripes on their 2023-24 shirts.

Read More: Sheffield United History – All about the Club

Port Vale F.C. Badge History

Port Vale F.C. Badge History
credit: barnsleyfc.co.uk

The original club crest took inspiration from the coat of arms of the Borough of Burslem, embodying a sense of local identity.

However, the crest underwent several transformations over the years, reflecting the evolving narrative of Port Vale F.C. logo history.

Between 1952 and 1956, the club adopted a Staffordshire knot incorporating the letters “PVFC,” signifying a period of symbolic representation.

Subsequently, a more intricate badge emerged in 1960, drawing inspiration from the Burslem coat of arms.

This design incorporated additional elements such as the Tunstall arms scythe, Audley’s fretted cross, and two Josiah Wedgwood pots, weaving together various historical and local symbols.

In 1964, the crest underwent a significant change, being replaced by a monogram featuring the initials ‘P.V.F.C.,’ which endured until 1978.

During the following four years, the club embraced a design portraying a knight on horseback with the inscription “Port Vale” at the top, symbolizing strength and unity.

A notable shift occurred in 1982 when the club introduced a crest designed by a schoolchild who won a competition.

This emblem incorporated a bottle oven and the Stafford knot, symbolizing Stoke-on-Trent’s rich pottery industry and the local area’s historical roots.

In February 2013, the club unveiled the current crest, offering a modern reinterpretation of the design introduced in 1956.

This contemporary emblem retained elements that pay homage to local history, including the Portland Vases representing Josiah Wedgwood, the Scythe from the house crest of the Sneyd family, and the silver cross derived from the house crest of the Audley family.

The Stafford knot positioned above the crest serves as a unifying symbol, connecting the club to its heritage and local identity.

Read More: Brighton & Hove Albion History – All about the Club

Port Vale F.C. Stadiums

Port Vale F.C. Stadiums
credit: pinterest

Upon their entry into the English Football League in 1892, Port Vale found themselves at their fourth home ground.

Their initial venue was the Meadows in Limekiln Lane, Longport, now recognized as Scott Lidgett Road.

Following a brief stint, they transitioned to Westport Meadows in 1881, an area that, although now submerged under Westport Lake, served as their home for three years due to its susceptibility to flooding.

The club’s third residence was the Burslem Football and Athletic Ground, which was built in 1884.

Despite hosting notable events such as a 6–0 win over Everton and the club’s first FA Cup matches, the venue proved insufficient, prompting Port Vale to relocate to the Athletic Ground.

This ground accommodated the club for 27 years, spanning twelve Football League seasons and earning its name due to its dual function as an athletics venue.

From 1913 to 1950, The Old Recreation Ground served as Port Vale’s home.

During World War II, the club faced financial hardships and sold the ground to the council for £13,500 as they grappled with a £3,000 debt.

Vale Park, situated on Hamil Road opposite Burslem Park, has been Port Vale’s home ground since 1950.

Originally conceived as a colossal 80,000-capacity stadium, it was ambitiously named the “Wembley of the North” with an initial capacity of 40,000 (360 seated) for its £50,000 development.

Notably, the stadium’s capacity reached a sell-out of 49,768 during an FA Cup tie with Aston Villa in 1960.

Under the chairmanship of Bill Bell in 1987, various upgrades were implemented with the aim of making the stadium “fit for the Premiership.”

A statue of Roy Sproson, who played an impressive 842 competitive games for the club, stands outside the ground, commemorating his significant contributions.

Read More: Stoke City History – All about the Club

Port Vale F.C. Rivalries History

Port Vale F.C. Rivalries History
credit: theguardian.com

The club shares an intense rivalry with Stoke City, given that Stoke City is based in the town of Stoke-upon-Trent.

However, despite the proximity, only a minority of residents in the town identify as Vale fans, with Stoke City boasting a more substantial fanbase, especially following their promotion to the country’s top division in 2008.

In the 2009–10 season, Port Vale attracted significant support, with 215,206 supporters attending the 46 League Two games, resulting in an average league attendance of 4,678.

Stoke and Vale first clashed on 2 December 1882 and have since engaged in 92 games, with Port Vale winning 26 of those and Stoke City winning 40 and 26 matches, resulting in a draw.

Stoke emerged victorious in the inaugural match with a 1–0 scoreline.

Over the years, Stoke has been the more successful team, finishing higher in the league on several occasions.

Port Vale F.C. history informs us that they also nurture a fierce rivalry with Crewe Alexandra, a dynamic that has gained prominence since Stoke’s elevation to a higher league than Vale at the close of the 2001–02 season.

According to a 2019 study, the Port Vale-Stoke City rivalry was ranked as the joint-28th biggest rivalry in English professional football, with the Port Vale-Crewe Alexandra clash identified as the 14th biggest rivalry.

Additionally, Port Vale maintains rivalries with Shrewsbury Town and Walsall and less prominent rivalries with Burton Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Macclesfield Town.

Read More: Liverpool History- All about the Club

Fan Base & Media

Fan Base & Media
credit: stokesentinel.co.uk

The official matchday program of the club has garnered high acclaim and was recognized as the best in League Two for the 2010–11 season.

In addition to the official program, supporters contribute to three unofficial fanzines.

Among these, The Memoirs of Seth Bottomley originated in the 1990s and is now defunct.

Another long-running fanzine in Port Vale F.C. history is Derek I’m Gutted!, established in August 2000, with its name inspired by a comment from then-manager Brian Horton to local journalist Derek Davis after a defeat to Tranmere Rovers.

The OneValeFan fansite, founded in 1996 by Rob Fielding, is the largest independent Port Vale website.

The Ale and the Vale podcast earned recognition by winning the Real EFL League One Podcast of the Year award in 2023.

Renowned singer Robbie Williams, a Stoke-on-Trent native, stands out as the club’s most famous supporter.

Before the 2012 administration, Williams was a significant shareholder, having invested £240,000 in shares in February 2006.

In acknowledgment of his support, a restaurant at Vale Park is named after him.

In 2005, Williams established Los Angeles Vale F.C., a Super Metro League team in the United States based at his Los Angeles home and named after Port Vale.

Jonathan Wilkes, a TV presenter and Williams’ best friend, is also an ardent Vale fan.

Darts legend Phil Taylor, a 16-time world champion born in Burslem, is another notable fan.

Singer Simon Webbe, part of the club’s youth team as a teenager until a ligament injury at age seventeen ended his sporting ambitions, is also associated with Port Vale.

About Port Vale F.C. mascot history, you should know that the club’s mascot is called “Boomer the Dog”.

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Records

Records
credit: stokesentinel.co.uk

Port Vale achieved their highest Football League placement by securing fifth place in the Second Division (second tier) during the 1930–31 season, while their most notable FA Cup performance involved reaching the semi-finals in 1953–54.

In the 2023–24 season, the team achieved a historic milestone by advancing to the quarter-finals of the League Cup for the first time.

Port Vale F.C. history depicts that the club’s most significant triumph in the Football League came with a resounding 9–1 victory over Chesterfield in the Second Division in 1932, while their heaviest defeat occurred in a 10–0 loss to Sheffield United in 1892, also in the Second Division.

Additional noteworthy scorelines include a remarkable 16–0 win over Middlewich in a friendly in 1884 and a challenging 12–0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Staffordshire Senior Cup in 1891.

Roy Sproson holds the club record for the most appearances, having played 842 matches in all competitions, with an impressive 760 in league fixtures.

Phil Sproson, Roy’s nephew, made a notable 500 appearances across all competitions.

Wilf Kirkham stands as the club’s top goalscorer, netting 164 goals in various competitions, including 153 in league matches and 11 in the FA Cup.

Kirkham’s prolific season in 1926–27, where he scored 41 goals, remains a club record.

Other prolific goal-scorers for the club include Tom Pope and Martin Foyle, both surpassing the 100-goal mark.

Teddy Peers holds the distinction of being the first Vale player to earn an international cap while playing for the club, making his debut for Wales.

With 27 caps for Trinidad and Tobago while at Port Vale, Chris Birchall is the most capped player.

Other Records

Other Records
credit: englandfootballonline.com

Sammy Morgan, who scored for Northern Ireland against Spain on February 16, 1972, became the first Vale player to score in an international match.

Vale Park witnessed its highest attendance of 49,768 in a memorable FA Cup encounter against Aston Villa on February 20, 1960.

Conversely, the lowest attendance at the park occurred with 554 spectators during the EFL Trophy match against Middlesbrough U21 on October 16, 2018.

The club received its highest transfer fee, amounting to £2,000,000, from Wimbledon for Gareth Ainsworth on October 29, 1998.

Notably, Ainsworth also holds the record for being the most expensive player purchased by the club, with a transfer cost of £500,000 from Lincoln City on September 11, 1997.

The youngest player to don the Port Vale shirt is Nelson Agho, who made his debut at the age of 15 years and 262 days against Walsall in the EFL Trophy on November 13, 2018.

On the other end of the spectrum, the oldest player is Tom Holford, who played his final match at the age of 46 years and 68 days against Derby County in the Second Division on April 5, 1924.

An exceptional accomplishment for Port Vale is being the only club in the top four divisions of English football to have triumphed over all other 91 clubs in the Football League and Premier League in a competitive league fixture.

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Damian Cade
Damian Cade
He is an enthusiastic senior writer for Footbalium who leans towards writing and researching the history of football clubs and players' life stories.
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