Wing wonder Gareth Ainsworth talks to us about his memories of Vale Park. Discover Gareth’s weakness for chocolate and a road trip with Stuart Talbot.
First of all we have some questions from the onevalefan viewers… Shaun asks – why do you always wear your shirt outside your shorts?
Just a comfort thing really, Chris Waddle used to be a hero of mine in the late eighties and he always seemed to have his shirt out so I started doing it and now I don’t feel comfy with it tucked in, although you do get the odd referee telling you to tuck it in.
So I do very loosely and then it usually gets pulled out by the opposing fullback and I can’t help that can I?
Jim asks – Did you enjoy being such a firm crowd favourite at Vale?
I always seem to get on well with the crowd at all places and it gives me a great lift before the games, putting me on a high and then there’s nothing I can’t do. So the answer would be yes I always enjoy my rapport with the fans. I remember being a kid on the terraces at Blackburn and loved interacting with the players, so I guess I picked it up years ago.
Several Vale fans ask – you left the club in controversial circumstances when you were reportedly sold by Vale chairman Bill Bell behind John Rudge’s back (while he was on a scouting mission) – did you want to leave Vale when you did and play in a higher league – or would you preferred to have stayed a little longer?
At the time of my sale I was unaware of John Rudge’s lack of involvement, it wasn’t made known to me that he was away and all seemed to happen really quickly on one day.
I was all for a move to the Premiership but hated leaving Vale like that because I had some great times there and they were a massive platform for me. Although it was for only 13 months it seemed a lot longer and I really enjoyed coming back recently to play in Martin Foyle’s testimonial.
Paul asks – What are your memories of legendary Vale boss John Rudge and how much did he contribute to your development as a player?
I have great memories of John Rudge and I have massive respect for him, he was a real gentleman and you always knew where you stood with him.
He had a great footballing brain and I really do believe getting rid of him was the biggest mistake Port Vale made. He brought some great young talent to the club and also wasn’t afraid to go looking abroad to broaden the club’s footballing talents.
Thanks for those answers to the Vale fans, Gareth, now I’m afraid you’ll have to suffer some questions from the site editor…
What were your initial thoughts when you heard Vale were interested in signing you. Did you even know where the club was based?
Ha! Ha! Yes, I knew where they were but never really had an inkling that they were interested.
I think I found out on a Tuesday afternoon at Lincoln and we were playing Rotherham that night, the deal was done but I still had to play for Lincoln City that night then go for my medical in the morning.
In the first minute of the game I was challenged by their left back and he gave me a nasty gash down my shin. I had a right go at him and thought ‘Oh my God, any more of them and the move could be off’.
But I couldn’t go round on tip toes all game, that’s just not my style so I just played normally and luckily got no more knocks. I remember going to the Lincoln fans in the away end after the game and they seemed to know something was going on, I just wish like Vale that my last game had been a home one.
I had no doubts in signing for Vale and it turned out to be a great 13 months.
Did you try any Staffordshire oatcakes whilst at Vale – if so what did you think of them?
Once, and I thought they were okay but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one. My biggest weakness is chocolate and it’ll take a pretty damn good food to beat that.
Robbie Earle was on the playing and coaching staff at Wimbledon – what are your thoughts on the Vale and Wimbledon legend (bearing in mind that the onevalefan site won’t hear a bad word said about him!)?
Robbie’s just left the coaching side of things full-time and will only be at the club now and again as he’s concentrating on TV work. I think we are going to see him a lot on the main stations in the next few years, which in my opinion is great as he has a lot of great views on things.
He was one of if not the best professionals I’ve ever worked with and could have a good laugh too. He’s done it all and every player must strive towards being as well remembered and respected as he when he retired. A real Legend.
I saw you score a last minute cracker in a 3-2 win over Bristol City (I enjoyed that one being a Vale fan based in Bristol at that time) – was that your best/favourite Vale goal or do you have another?
Spot on, that’s my favourite one and the one I most remember, we were in total control at one stage then we lost it for a spell, I remember going through on the keeper and thinking ‘just keep it low Gareth’ and thank God I did.
The winner against Man City the year before was a great feeling (even though I didn’t hit it that cleanly!) and my penalty against David Seaman was something I have treasured on video tape.
On a similar note – what was your favourite memory of your time at Vale Park?
The FA cup game with Arsenal at Vale Park was fantastic to play in and we definitely held our own, it’s good that they went on to win it but does that mean we’d have won it if we had beat them? (I’m being a little bit tongue in cheek).
But above that feeling was the game at Huddersfield that we needed to win to stay up. A party atmosphere and a feeling I wish I could preserve and sell in a bottle, it was a great day out for everyone and the support was brilliant. I’ve got some great memories from that day.
Do you continue to look out for Port Vale’s results? I read on your official site that you watched the LDV Final this season?
Yes, I always look out for my old teams’ results, it’s getting harder the more teams I play for but I couldn’t miss the final at Cardiff this year. I was delighted for the boys and the fans.
Do you keep in touch with any of your Vale team mates?
Only really with two members of the team when I was there:
Allen Tankard and Stuart Talbot two great lads, the three of us had a real scream at Vale and they would have fitted in the crazy gang easily. Stuart and me toured the West coast of America last Summer, LA, San Diego, San Francisco (we’re both big movie fans and had to go to Alcatraz) then we finished up in Vegas, not a trip for the faint hearted, believe me. (especially with Talby driving).
I’ve got to ask this one, haven’t I… Have you visited the onevalefan web site at all – if so what do you think of it – if not why not?
I have been there and was very impressed. It’s got great news coverage and tells the fans what they really want to know. It’s great to get a small mention on there too.
Finally, on behalf of all the onevalefan viewers – thanks very much for being a tremendous player for Port Vale and best of luck in the future.
Thank you for all the support and it was always a pleasure turning out for the Valiants.
Rob Fielding would like to thank Gareth Ainsworth for taking the time to answer these questions. Thanks are also due to Marc Jones, editor of the Official Gareth Ainsworth website without whom this interview wouldn’t have happened.