Port Vale Memorabilia Project - 1980's

1982-1983 Tankard signed by Vale Manager, John McGrath. Also special trophy designed and manufactured by Royal Doulton presented to John McGrath on Port Vale’s promotion from 4th division.
Stoke City v Port Vale pre-season friendly programme.
Ground before re-development
1980’s Display Board. Features Phil Sproson’s goal v Spurs in FA Cup, Heavy Metal concert at the Vale, brief history of the decade. Note the quote from Alex Ferguson about John Rudge.
Lol Hamlett Testimonial programme v Luton Town 30 April 1984
Fulham Programme v Port Vale(Jimmy Hill featured) Division 3 16/1/88. Cost 80p
Pro-Set-3 famous players: Dean Glover, Martin Foyle, Mark Grew.

Some Port Vale  Personalities - John McGrath

John was appointed manager at Port Vale in December 1979 and demanded dedication and all-out effort from his players. This project has come into possession of 2 letters John wrote which gives us a flavour of his ideas and humour.
On 27th June 1980 he wrote to all the playing staff as follows:
“It should be noted that because of the abnormal length of paid holidays you will have had by then, facilities will be available for voluntary training from 30th June. If you do attend for training any time between the 2 dates you should report at the normal time and not as and when the mood takes you...... I hope you have enjoyed your holiday so far and that this letter will not spoil the remaining few weeks at home with your loved ones....... I look forward to seeing you bursting with energy and eagerness in early July.

On 7th May 1982 John wrote an “interesting note” to Mr Forbes Phillipson-Masters of Plymouth Argyle. “It has come to my notice that you have associated me with your style of play(that’s a joke). If you do not retract your remarks I will put this matter into my solicitor’s hands. If there is not a retraction in the Ramsbottom and Bacup Advertising Weekly I will take this matter further”
(photo of tankard signed by John and a trophy commissioned by Royal Doulton)


So reported the Guardian on Monday 1st February 1988 after the Vale’s victory against the mighty Spurs at the weekend in front of a full house. Martin Thorpe described the environment as “a bitter wind blowing across the drab ground, and a low grey sky added to the feeling of bleakness”. “The home supporters insulated against the cold by the rare thrill of the occasion, gave the impression that they had been brought up on the notion that toil! played a large part in life as well as football”!

The day before Roy Sproson had predicted  a culture shock for the Londoners “Out of their stockbroker houses and warm, snug luxury coach, straight into a huge cold dressing room”. After 13 minutes Ray Walker scored with a dipping 30 yard shot and Terry Venables might have yearned for the Nou Camp.! After the game Phil Sproson, Roy’s nephew,  said: “They were relying on us to be dumb Third Division players but we were not prepared to let them walk over us”. In fact Phil scored the second celebrating his testimonial year and Spurs were two down.

Half-time talks were crucial-John Rudge reported “it was important to calm everyone down and for the first 2-3 minutes I just let them sit there and said nothing. Venables was worried-“We shouldn’t wait to get hurt before we start fighting” he tried to convince his players. Ruddock did pull a goal back  after 64 minutes but apart from forcing a world class save from Mark Grew, Spurs were never going to force a replay with the Burslem crowd the Vale’s twelth man. Afterwards Phil Sproson reported that he and Bob Hazell(Vale’s captain) had started some kidology shouting to each other in the hearing of the younger Spurs players-“They didn’t fancy it! Afterwards Venables commented on the very heavy pitch-but Terry world class players perform on any surface-don’t they? As the luxury coach pulled away from the mother town with players slumped in their luxury seats, Vale supporters celebrated their day of glory and dreamed of the next giant killing under John Rudge. To sum up the day and all days when the underdog comes out on top we perhaps need to consider Mohammed Ali’s view on sport:
“Champions are not made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill”.