Nearly Men numbers five and six: Gillespie and Davies

In the latest “nearly men” episode, we examine how Port Vale almost signed two Manchester United players.

This series looks at the players who “got away” – the story of signings that came close to joining the club…

In September 1994, Port Vale were drawn to play Manchester United in the FA Cup. 18,000 Vale supporters went to the fixture expecting to see star names such as Eric Cantona, Andrei Kanchelskis and Peter Schmeichel.

But in one of the first cases of a Premier League side naming a second-string side for a cup tie, the Valiants witnessed a United side featuring the likes of the Neville brothers, David Beckham and Paul Scholes. Many of the complaining supporters would have guessed that the Man Utd XI would go on to amass over 500 International caps.


In the United side that night were two rookie wingers – Keith Gillespie and Simon Davies. Port Vale manager John Rudge was so impressed he offered Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson £1m for the pair. The bid was promptly turned down.

Davies never fulfilled his potential. He did play for Wales but ended his career in non-league circles. On the other hand, Gillespie was transferred to Newcastle for £1m as part of the Andy Cole transfer. He would play 86 times for Northern Ireland and a host of top-flight clubs but sadly, never for Port Vale…


Nearly Men numbers five and six: Gillespie and Davies
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Hughes secures promotion

Lee Hughes scores against Wycombe

Lee Hughes scores the final goal of the season as Vale’s 1-1 draw against Wycombe mathematically ensures promotion for the Valiants.