A look back at five matches where a Port Vale player simply couldn’t stop scoring in a match – featuring Andy Jones, Tom Pope and three other players…
Stewart Littlewood – the record
The 1932-33 season looked to be fairly run of the mill for Port Vale. The ever dangerous Wilf Kirkham was top-scorer, the club finished just out of the relegation places and reached the third round of the FA Cup. It appeared otherwise remarkable until you take a closer look at second highest scorer Stewart Littlewood’s scoring record. Littlewood has risen to prominence during an earlier spell when he’d netted eighteen goals in nineteen games when aged 21. Now 27, he was in his second spell and his appearances and goals had dried up. Littlewood had scored just ten times in the 1932-33 but six of them had come in a remarkable game against Chesterfield.
Vale entered September 1932 in decent form but a 1-1 away draw at Fulham gave little indication of what would occur on the 24th September. The Valiants hosted Chesterfield and ran up a club record 9-1 League win. Littlewood netted six goals (still a club record) with the other scorers Kirkham (2) and Morton. The result stands up like a sore thumb that season and was Littlewood’s last significant act for the club. He scored just one more goal in the remainder of the season and was released in the summer.
Andy Jones – the eighties goalmachine
The Welsh striker arguably went one better than Littlewood with an astounding tally of NINE goals in two consecutive home games – albeit over two seasons. Jones was in the form of his life in the 1986-87 season. By the time the final home game against Newport County came around, the striker had scored 32 goals and had earned an International call-up for the Wales side.
A poor Newport side had already been relegated and that may have played a part in the poor 2,733 crowd which turned up. However, those that did were not disappointed. Jones scored the first five goals in a 6-1 Vale win. But he wasn’t finished there. By now he was attracting the attention of richer clubs and he followed up his five against Newport with all four in the 4-0 opening home win the following season. Charlton Athletic were impressed enough to sign Jones for a club record £350,000 in the following days.
Rotherham suffer at hands of Sodje
Striker Akpo Sodje has been signed in the summer of 2006 and he’d enjoyed an excellent debut season. The only issue was the striker’s lack of goals – with just eight coming by March. However, the powerful forward helped correct that and put his name down for the player of the season award with a stunning away performance.
The Valaints racked up a 5-1 away victory at Rotherham United with Sodje scoring four times – the first Vale player to manage that feat for 114 years. Sadly, for Rotherham fans they were to suffer at the hands of another Vale striker five years later…
Tom Pope – Rotherham hit for six
Despite the tumultuous summer months which had seen a takeover bid by Keith Ryder collapse, striker Tom Pope was enjoying the start of the 2012-13 season. Vale’s wing-based attacking play was providing him with a multitude of chances and he’d already scored twice when his former club Rotherham United turned up at Vale Park.
Rotherham were managed by the unpopular Steve Evans and had spent heavily making them favourites to go up. So, it was a shock when Pope, scorer of just five goals the previous campaign hit four in a single game. Vale ran out 6-2 winners and in a single game made themselves serious promotion contenders. In a remarkable season, the club maintained their form, Pope kept on scoring (33 times in total) and Micky Adams’ side went up to League One.
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Kirkham the King
No list of great goalscoring feats is surely complete without a mention of the legendary Wilf Kirkham – someone whose goalscoring would often dominate games. Over his Vale career Kirkham netted eleven hat-tricks (including one against Stoke City) and hit four goals in a game twice. It’s one of those four goal games we’ feature below.
The 1926-27 was arguably Kirkham’s finest as a goalscorer. He hit 41 goals that campaign including six braces and four hat-tricks – but his finest performance came in a 7-1 thrashing of Fulham in April. Fellow forward Harry Anstiss hit a hat-trick but Kirkham outdid him with four goals as the Vale recorded their biggest win of the season. It was a stunningly prolific period for Kirkham who netted an astonishing eleven goals in seven games during that stage of the season.