Port Vale in mourning after death of John Jeffers at 52



Port Vale supporters are in mourning after the club announced the death of 1990s favourite John Jeffers.

The tricky winger played for Vale for seven years and 180 appearances, picking up two promotions under John Rudge. He was only 52 and had been in a long-term battle with illness.

The club said in a statement this morning: “All at Port Vale FC would like to extend our sincere condolences to John’s family and friends and tell his sons John and Gabriel how proud of their dad we all are.”

Rudge had brought Jeffers to Burslem in December 1988.

He initially signed on loan but then completed a £30,000 move from Liverpool, all funded by Rudge selling reserve winger Steve Harper to Preston for £35,000.

Jeffers started his career at Anfield after being tracked by the top teams in the land, but after a fruitless push to remove England star John Barnes out of the left-wing position, the tricky winger decided to try fresh fields.

He would recall: “I had been on a month’s loan to Port Vale and really enjoyed it. The lads were great and I used to travel in with Darren Beckford and Darren Hughes.

“I was called back midway through my second month because of injuries at Liverpool, but on transfer deadline day, I had the chance to complete the move to Port Vale.

“Kenny Dalglish said the choice was mine. He said I could stay at Anfield, but he thought John Barnes was the best left-winger in the world, which he probably was in terms of club football.

“West Brom and Preston also showed an interest, but I liked it at the Vale and decided to join.”

Jeffers admitted Rudge was second-to-none in the transfer business.

He said: “He picked up bargains and it was typical of John to sign me for £30,000 and sell his reserve for £5,000 more.”

Jeffers’ impact was instant and he played a major role in the 1989 promotion campaign where his jinking skills and pinpoint crossing gave an already-impressive Vale side another dimension.

So, how was he regarded by supporters?

We love this summary by Vale fan Rob Mozelewski in a Sentinel fans’ panel before a Leyton Orient game in 2013. Rob’s ode to Jeffers is a wonderful description of how a youngster became hooked on the beautiful game thanks to a Vale Park winger.

Rob said: “Playing against Leyton Orient makes me think of when I chose my first favourite player. I started watching Vale as a seven-year-old in the 1992 season. It was quite a long way into the season before I was sure I was following the right team, partly because of a ridiculous fascination with Steve Bull and partly because I spent half of the game playing hide and seek in the Bycars End.

“However, when Vale came to play Orient in November I sat still to watch the entire game because of the magnificent, skilful and somewhat enigmatic John Jeffers.

“Jeffers is a cult hero at Vale Park for a reason. Plenty of players have played more than his 180 games and scored more goals than his ten from right wing. Few, however, have done so with his panache. In fact he has probably beaten more men than any Vale player in history by virtue of skinning his full back four times before getting bored and delivering a cross.

“He came from Liverpool at a time when we still paid transfer fees and was incredibly frustrating, with talent that far surpassed that of our more celebrated wingers, but rarely translated into end product. Against Orient on November 3, 1992 he was unplayable, and his reckless disregard for keeping it simple was all that I needed to be hooked.

“I’ve seen some of the best football ever played in the Potteries since then, but the one player I will always remember is JJ. Legend.”





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