Port Vale archive classic – Gordon Lee’s men see off Charlton


Port Vale were pushing for promotion when Charlton arrived on April 7, 1973.

The Addicks had never played in Burslem before, the teams having played in Hanley when they were last away to the Vale 40 years previously.

More pertinently, the Vale needed the win to keep themselves in the reckoning to go up from the old Division Three under Gordon Lee.

Having finished 15th the previous season, the Vale were sixth, Lee having put together a largely youthful, promising side.

Forward Mick Morris and keeper Keith Ball – two of the promotion team from 69/70 – had been released the previous summer while newcomers included Ray Williams, signed from Stafford Rangers.

The fee was £3,000 but Lee was prepared to back his judgment on a player who had scored 47 goals for Stafford Rangers the previous season in the Northern Premier League.

So, Williams had joined a forward department that also featured Northern Ireland international Sammy Morgan, John James, Tommy McLaren, Bobby Gough and Bob Mountford.

Vale clicked under Lee in 1972/73, coming back from early setbacks such as a 7-0 defeat at Rotherham in the August. In fact, they had hit the top of the table by mid-September only to be knocked off by a customary defeat at old rivals Walsall.

Off the field, however, the club were concerned about attendances. In fact, by the October, Vale were reporting the then average of 4,457 was nowhere near their break-even figure of more than 6,000.

Radical solutions were suggested and, when the club unveiled new £7,000 floodlights in the October, more night games were even floated as a solution.

Chairman Mark Singer told The Sentinel: “I do not wish to commit myself but a switch to Friday night football is something we may have to think about for the future.”

Vale ran West Ham close in the FA Cup before going down 1-0 in front of 20,000 at Vale Park, not bad considering Ron Greenwood’s side included Frank Lampard snr,  Billy Bonds, Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking.

But the board said poor league gates were a reason they had to sell the popular John James to Chester City for £5,000 in the February, although Lee was able to bring in forward John Woodward from Walsall for £2,000 later that month.

Lee’s side had picked up enough points to consider themselves contenders by the time Charlton arrived.

They won, but had to do it the hard way – Charlton taking the lead on 20 minutes after a foul by Brian Horton on Colin Powell. From the free kick, Bob Curtis found the unmarked Dave Shipperley for a simple header.

However, the Vale levelled a minute before the break when Horton did well to knock the ball to Ray Williams who, despite being crowded out and with his back to goal, still created room to shoot to give keeper John Dunn no chance.

Vale took the lead a minute into the second half when John Brodie’s free kick picked out Sammy Morgan to head home. Better was to come a minute from time when Williams, on the left, made his way to the edge of the box and his low cross was flicked into the net via the far post by Woodward. 

The goals were the tenth of the season for both Williams and Morgan to keep Vale in with a shout of promotion, but they would fall short, eventually finishing in sixth.

Williams would finish the season by being voted player of the year, becoming the sixth annual winner of the award, following Roy Sproson, Ronnie Wilson, John Green, Tommy McLaren and Sammy Morgan.

Ray Williams was voted Port Vale player of the year

He had missed only two of the 51 games played by the Vale in the league and cup and received his award at the end-of-season bash at the Vale Social Club, the Trophy presented by former Vale forward Basil Hayward who was then manager at Telford. Second was Bill Summerscales, with Brian Horton in third.

PORT VALE 3

CHARLTON 1

April 7, 1973. Division Three.

PORT VALE: Boswell, Brodie, Loska, Goodwin, Summerscales, Horton, Morgan, Woodward, Tartt, Gough, Williams. Sub: Lacey.

CHARLTON: Dunn, Curtis, Tumbridge, Hunt, Shipperley, Reeves, Powell, Horsfield, Peacock, Flanaghan, Davies.  Sub: Goldthorpe.

Attendance: 5,076

 

Port Vale hero Basil Hayward was born on this day, April 7, in 1928. 

Hayward made 372 appearances for the Vale, scoring 58 goals, and was a member of the 1953/54 side that won the Third Division (North) title and reached the FA Cup semi-finals. He could play as a centre half or a centre forward and joined the Vale in May 1946 after playing for Northwood Mission.

A talented all-round sportsman, he also played cricket 22 times for Staffordshire.

He died in Stoke-on-Trent in 1989, aged 61.

The story of Port Vale’s 1953/54 season, manager Freddie Steele and his squad,  is documented in ‘Men of Steele’ a book by Phil Sherwin and the late Steve Askey.

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