In the fifth of a series of special OVF features to mark the build-up to the unveiling of the long-awaiting Roy Sproson statue, here are a selection of quotes from the great man himself.
It has been a real good life…
“Other than the fact that I was naturally nervous and that it was a fine day, I do not recall too much about that first appearance at Gillingham back in November, 1950…”
– on his debut for the first-team
“I fancied myself as a tackler. Suddenly he’s coming at me down the touchline, jockeying, shimmying, his classic situation. Lo and behold he goes and shoves the ball too far in front of him: he’s given it me. I smile to myself and think, ‘Watch this, folks, I’m bloody taking the ball off Matthews.’ Then bloody hell, unbelievable. Just as my toe was an eighth of an inch from the ball, he’s found another gear, two ruddy gears, and his toe comes and sniffs it past me and he’s skipping over my sliding leg and is away. I didn’t just think I had him, I knew I had him – and now here I was flat on my backside realising genius is really genius, and the crowd all laughing.”
– on facing Stanley Matthews in the 1954 Blackpool FA Cup match
“Personally, I did not feel too bad about it. I quickly forgot about the game and the fact that we were Third Division champions was some consolation. We had gained promotion by Easter and clinched the championship well before the end of that remarkable season.”
– on losing the FA Cup semi-final game to West Brom
“At the time, we did not know what it was like to lose and the thought never occurred to us. We were convinced, in fact, that we could not be beaten.”
– on the 1954 Iron Curtain campaign
“The game, which many still talk about, is the game that I did not play. That was League game number 765 which would have broken Jimmy Dickson’s record for appearances for a single club. I have heard many people hold Gordon Lee to blame for this. Why did he not give me those extra few games? I was being asked. The truth is that had it not been for Gordon Lee I would never have been anywhere near Dickinson’s achievement by the time I packed up. It should be remembered that for three seasons running Gordon Lee talked me out of retirement. That I did not beat Dickinson’s record, never bothered me at all.”
– on his playing record
“Phil is a good stopper, more defensive than me perhaps. I started off as a wing-half, of course, a left-sider who could run all day.”
– on nephew Phil Sproson
“I never even looked back in the driving mirror. I’d worked there a quarter of a century. I’ve never set foot in the place from that day to this and never will. I just can’t. Deep down, I really hope they do OK.”
– on leaving Vale
“I have always loved the game and I have always loved the club. The satisfaction of playing the game I love for the club I love has always been enough for me”.
– on playing for Vale
“It has been a real good life.”
– on his football career
What’s the Sproson legacy?
The Sproson family produced three Port Vale players who totalled 1370 appearances for the club, a feat that is unlikely to be repeated in the modern game. Eleven years ago, the Sproson Fund was set up with the intention of unveiling a statue of Roy Sproson (842 appearances for the club) at the ground and the statue is finally set to be unveiled on the 17th November 2012. To celebrate this special event, OVF is producing these features in the run-up to the statue being officially unveiled.