This is Barry’s salute to those Valiants who were not born or bred in, or later migrated to the Potteries.
Neither is this about that famous hymn adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams from the tune Monks Gate, and based on a song called Our Captain Calls – with the original text being taken from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Mind you, in those verses there is much to recommend all Valiants at this time in our league history. No disrespect intended to the Great One.
It is not even about those like yours truly who were born into the Port Vale family, whose parents were descendants of the first ‘Pilgrims of 1876 – those men, women and children of the Hamil and surrounding areas who were part of that very special ‘first family’. As a boy I would hear statements such as: you were born with it; it’s in your blood; it’s all you need to know and so on being uttered, even whispered with reverence. You were, for all intent and purpose, a true blue Valiant charged with the responsibility to uphold the good name of the Port Vale Football Club.
As time passed the descendants of our founding fathers would move across the Potteries, to other climes throughout Britain, even overseas. But they remained ‘Always Port Vale’ and took with them an awesome responsibility of flying the flag and of keeping the faith.
Then we have the latter day converts who were born and bred in the Potteries, particularly in the Hamil region, but initially chose to support other football teams before seeing the light, before being converted to follow Port Vale forever. For them it just took longer to come home.
There are many other variations on a theme for being a part of our ‘family’, and these can be found in the pages of onevalefan. Yes, I know, it all sounds very emotional. That’s because it is. The idea that yours truly could give his loyalty to any other football team would suggest to my brother that it’s time for the medication and straightjacket. Being in Australia doesn’t mean I’m emotionally and spiritually isolated from where it all began. Thanks to onevalefan I can always be in and around the hallowed turf of Vale Park and participate with my ‘family’ wherever they may be in this modern day global village of ours. My ancestors are there in the Hamil, my dad is there and one day my mum will be there again. I’ll always be there.
This letter is about those men, women and children who were not Potteries born and bred, yet have chosen to align their football allegiance to ‘All things Port Vale’. Their stories as to why and reasons given for being a Valiant are as emotional as any previously told on onevalefan or elsewhere. Men like Sean Ryan, Paul T Vale and others have chosen to be part of and to participate in the rich fabric that is Port Vale. They are members of our ‘family’ as were the first ‘Pilgrims of 1876. We can offer them a beginning, but no end. Just the now with all its highs and lows.
Sean Ryan’s first recollection of Port Vale was when he was listening to BBC Radio 2. So powerful was that moment he even tells us the exact time he first heard our club name, the team we were playing and the result – a favourable one for the ‘Lads. He further tells us there was a special magic to it all that has stayed with him to this day and always will.
Sean was hooked and found himself chasing Port Vale’s progress through the print media and by writing to strangers in Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent to find out all he could about a football team that was once light years away from his home in County Tipperary. He even made an impromptu trip to the Sneyd to visit these strangers who, in turn, took him to see the ‘Lads play an away game in Aldershot. Impetuous perhaps. But sometimes we all do things on the spur of the moment, for that’s the way it is.
In fact, without knowing it, Sean was a modern day ‘Pilgrim whose long journey home ended when he crossed the Irish Sea and stood in the Hamil for the very first time – courtesy of his own curiosity, plus the generosity of Valiants like Mr and Mrs Bennett. His first visit to Vale Park was a dream come true. Such was his excitement he didn’t sleep for two days. It’s the kind of dizzy stuff that makes great reading.
Then there is Paul T Vale’s story – the Middlesex man. From an early age he was Brentford through and through, went to nearly all their home games, plus away ones too. His passion was such that had anyone have said to him he would one day be a Valiant he would have suggested they were quite mad. But that is exactly what happened.
Paul was a young lad whose sense of fairness had been trampled on and where, in an ideal world and at such a young age, injustice was not to be tolerated, wrongs must be put right. He tells us there were many reasons for his disenchantment. But the final straw was when a Brentford player/manager abused an elderly gentleman during a game. This elderly man had probably spent his entire life following the ‘Bees whilst many players and managers had come and gone.
Incensed with this act of treachery the young Paul turned on his heels and left the ground vowing never to return. Impulsive? Yes. Angry and emotionally hurt? Certainly. But this was a personal protest that would be a long and permanent one.
Paul says he was in football limbo, hating Brentford, and steadfastly refusing to support other London clubs. Then one day he found himself travelling north with a friend to watch Brentford play Port Vale. BANG! He was smitten. His vivid memories of the day include one of the best grounds he’d ever been to, genuine and friendly people, and a game played in an electric atmosphere. He was also impressed with the way Port Vale out-played the ‘Bees, and was full of praise and admiration for a young Robbie Earle.
The Middlesex man tells us he is very proud to be a Vale fan, even though he may be seen as a foreigner. Perhaps once Paul, but not anymore. You’re ‘family’ – a true blue Valiant.
These are just two of the many stories told and waiting to be told by ‘Those who would Valiants be’ and they add to and form part of the rich tapestry in the continuing story of Port Vale. They have been book-marked in the pages of onevalefan for posterity.
See you later…
November 11, 2002