Was Ally Brown a washed-up veteran striker at the end of his career – or did he still have something to offer?
Name: Alastair (Ally) Brown
Cult credentials: Veteran, dubious fitness, played a key role in developing future stars
Time at Vale: 1984-1986
While Ally Brown had a perfectly reasonable record during his two year spell at Vale Park, what marks him out as different from other players who have also had short but decent spells?
Well, when the veteran former West Brom striker arrived, few fans would have considered it that worthwhile a move. Sure, Brown added experience up front but after some 16 years in the game, just what else could he offer?
It turned out, the answer was – quite a lot.
Firstly, Brown top-scored in 1984-1985 with 21 goals as Vale achieved a respectable mid-table position in Division Four. The next season proved to be Brown’s last, but he ended it on a high with promotion to the Third Division.
But Brown also had an impact on a number of emerging Vale players.
If you sat anywhere near my Dad at that time, you would hear a constant complaint “Bring on Jones!” he would urge as Brown took young Andy Jones’ starting place in the side with the Welshman often warming the bench.
But in many ways, manager John Rudge was right to allow the raw striker to develop on the sidelines, watching how Brown approached the striker’s art.
This slowly, slowly approach under the tutelage of Brown undoubtedly played a key part in Jones’ development. Robbie Earle – at that point still used primarily in a forward role – undoubtedly also honed his predatory skills under Brown’s guidance. Would Earle have been such a fine goalscoring midfielder without this spell with Brown? We doubt it!
So far, not too bad. A top scorer, a promotion and a key role in developing two of Vale’s finest recent talents.
But is there any other element of Brown’s stay that helps him into the Cult hall of fame?
Well, how about his pre-match and half-time rituals? In these days of carefully monitored diets, warm-ups and specialised training, Brown’s routine was a throw-back to an older generation.
Before the match he enjoyed a quick fag break, then to recharge his energy at half-time, he simply locked himself into a loo cubicle for another.
So, while his spell at Vale may have been at the fag-end of his career, Brown had proved he still had plenty to offer.