On this day, 58 years ago, the legendary Port Vale Iron Curtain side played the biggest game in the club’s history – an FA Cup semi-final clash with West Brom.
The 25,000 tickets Vale were given for the semi-final clash sold out on the first day, leaving thousands more disappointed.
In all 100 coaches and fourteen excursion trains took the supporters to Birmingham for the match on 27 March, at which time high-scoring West Brom were top of the First Division – and in all 68,221 spectators packed into the stadium.
In the match itself, the ‘constructive play’ of Brom was halted by the Vale defence, and a Leake goal on 40 minutes saw Vale 1–0 up at half-time.
The second half saw the “Throstles” switch to a long-ball game, and on 62 minutes Cheadle was bustled off the ball and could only watch the equalizer cross the line.
Eight minutes later captain Cheadle was judged to have fouled George Lee just inside the penalty box, though many would maintain that the challenge took place well outside of the box, and that Lee also handled the ball.
Former “Valiant” star Ronnie Allen converted the resulting penalty.
Later in the match Leake had an equalizing goal disallowed for offside, and Vale therefore failed to be the first third tier club to reach an FA Cup Final.
However, consolation for the cup defeat came in the League where the side were crowned Third Division North champions with 69 points out of a possible 92, eleven points ahead of their nearest rivals.
These achievements were based upon a record-breaking ‘Iron Curtain’ defence, and a solid squad of nineteen players, most of whom had taken the club to second in the league the previous season.
To commemorate the magnificent achievement of Freddie Steele’s side, take a look at our selection of Iron Curtain features: