Tributes have been paid to record-breaking Port Vale player Clinton Boulton who has died, aged 72.
The local lad became Vale’s youngest ever first-team player when he made his debut as a 16 year old at half-back at Hull City on Boxing Day, 1964.
He would score his first goal for the Vale the following year – aged 17 years and 110 days – a club record for the youngest scorer that still stands.
After turning professional in 1965, he was made club captain at the age of just 18 by Stanley Matthews, another club record.
He became a regular in the side at right back and played every league game in the 1969/70 season to help Gordon Lee’s side win promotion from the old Division Four.
He could also play in central defence and had played 267 senior appearances for the club when he was sold to Torquay for £10,000 in November 1971.
After leaving Vale, Boulton would make 286 appearances for Torquay over eight years, settling in Devon and then running a company that made window blinds and awnings.
Vale fan and historian Phil Sherwin recalls the surprise of hearing Boulton had been sold.
He said: “It was a shock to everyone. It was the third highest fee Vale had ever received at the time and the reason given was that the club needed the money for new floodlights.”
Phil adds: “Clinton was one of my early heroes, an excellent right back who could also play in central defence.
“He hardly missed a game during my first three years of supporting the club, so he was a constant presence in the defence and always reliable with an eye for goal.
“He was one of the stars of the 1969/70 team that won promotion to Division Three under Gordon Lee, playing every game. At the time you could never imagine a Vale side without Clinton, so all Vale fans were stunned when he was sold to Torquay. In those days though players had little choice! One of the greats of a bygone era. RIP Clinton.”
Vale’s lottery manager Brian Lewis was also a schoolboy following the 1969/70 promotion side.
He said: “That season is probably best remembered for how hard the Vale were, they were really uncompromising.
“Clinton Boulton had that but he had ability as well. As a full back he seemed to be one of the first to go on overlapping runs. He got in the box quite a lot and scored quite a few goals.
“So, although he was a tough-tackling, old school full back, you could see he had the quality to move up. He was quick and a good all-round full back.
“We had a good youth team in those days. The old Fourth Division was a tough place to make your debut at 18. But some players did come through like Clinton, Johnny James, Roddy Georgeson and Mick Cullerton.
“Then when Stan Matthews left, Gordon Lee had a good blend of youth and experience with players like John King, Roy Sproson and Tony Lacey.
“Clinton had both. He was young but had lots of experience as well. He was a good quality full back.
“He was a local lad and, as we see now with Tom Pope, fans will get behind a local lad more than a journeyman.”
Boulton’s former Vale team mate Mick Cullerton said: “Clinton was a very solid, strong player. He liked a battle and when things were going rough, he would be well in the middle of it.
“He trained well and was a good character on and off the pitch. He was good mates with Paul Bannister and I thought they both had very good futures. Paul broke his leg and didn’t play that much after but from Day One you could tell Clinton and Paul stood out.
“The thing that always struck me about Clinton was his mental strength. He was strong physically but he did love a battle and would get stuck in.”