Known as the “Hoddle of the lower leagues” Ray was one of the most gifted players to grace the Vale Park pitch.
Walker initially joined the club on loan but a permanent deal was made for a fee of just £12,000. It was long rumoured that the deal included a massive sell-on fee should Walker ever be sold-on and this was the apparent reason, despite top flight interest, Walker remained at Vale for the rest of his career.
What made Ray so special?
With a elegant style, a fantastic passing range and a fearsome dead ball ability, Ray came to notice when he was paired with Robbie Earle in perhaps the club’s greatest midfield pairing.
The hard-running Earle provided a goal threat and the legs to complement Ray’s all-round passing game.
Walker shot to fame in 1987 with a stunning televised goal versus Tottenham. From my regular spot on the Lorne Street terraces, I saw him curl a beautifully flighted chip over stranded keeper Tony Parkes. It remains to this day, one of my all-time top Vale moments.
By now, many fans were saying – “if Walker plays well then Vale play well” and rumours of big money offers abounded.
But just as he was coming to nationwide attention, Ray began to become blighted with a succession of injuries. It was almost certainly the reason why he never got the chance to parade his skills at the very highest level.
However, he bounced back – by now a veteran – to notch up some noticeable cameo performances. Perhaps the best was a last-minute goal in a 4-3 FA Cup defeat of Crystal Palace.
When the end finally came in 1997, Ray had ammassed 441 appearances for Vale – putting him in the top ten of Vale’s all-time appearance records.
He had been awarded the Player of the Year twice in 1987-8 and 1990-1 and voted in the PFA Divisional Teams in 1987-8, 1988-9 and 1992-3.