There’s a number of dodgy signings, but a look through Martin Foyle’s spell as Port Vale manager reveals five quality additions to the side…
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Darlington fans seemed convinced Vale had picked up a dud when the powerful striker joined. But Sodje struck up an effective partnership with Leon Constantine and was duly awarded player of the year after his first season. A record of sixteen goals in 53 games and a £300,000 transfer fee from Sheff Wed represents a decent return on a free transfer signing.
This one is admittedly a bit of a cheat as Brooker joined the club when Brian Horton was manager. However, according to reports it was fellow striker Martin Foyle, then a coach, who spotted the then Watford youngster’s potential and recommended the signing. It proved a masterstroke with Brooker costing just £15,000. The striker struck up partnerships with Tony Naylor and Steve McPhee as well as scoring in the club’s 2001 LDV Vans Trophy win. Not only that but Vale managed to sell him for a handy £225,000 to Bristol City.
Can you spot a bit of a theme here? Foyle, one of the club’s most gifted strikers certainly had a knack of unearthing forward potential. So, the third striker on our list is Leon Constantine, arguably Foyle’s finest signing. He cost just £20,000 but his prolific spell at the Valiants saw him net 38 goals in 85 appearances.
A signing who may rival Constantine as Foyle’s best, Whitaker was a bargain free transfer from Macclesfield Town. The attack-minded midfielder was soon a first choice in the starting XI and ended a two year Vale career with fifteen goals in 98 appearances. He ended up with over 750 senior appearances and has rightly achieved legend status at Macclesfield.
For our fifth and final signing we’ve opted for winger Jeff Smith. A free transfer from Bolton Wanderers, League rookie Smith took a while to adapt to first-team football. However, he blossomed and soon became a key figure in the side. It was a shock when the then cash-strapped Valiants opted to sell him to Carlisle United for £60,000 after 103 Vale appearances and seven goals.