A relatively unheralded signing at the time, Nicky Cross proved to be an intelligent and experienced addition to the Port Vale squad.
For the club’s first season in the Second Division for decades, Port Vale manager John Rudge opted for experienced signings to bolster his 1990 side. In came defender Neil Aspin, winger Ian Miller and striker Nicky Cross. Cross, or Nicholas Jeremy Rowland Cross to give him his full name was a 28 year-old forward who had begun his career with five years in the First Division for West Brom. He cost Rudge £125,000 from Leicester City but it proved to be money well spent as Cross gave five season’s service to the club and in the process helped establish them in the second tier.
As Rudge astutely calculated, he was reaching his peak when he joined the Valiants…
A first glimpse of Cross may have been deceptive. His unassuming stature and somewhat unfashionable moustache may have made him look older than he was but as Rudge astutely calculated, he was reaching his peak when he joined the Valiants. Cross wasn’t dominant in the air, particularly fast or a prolific scorer but he was an intelligent striker who could link up play.
In his first season, Cross did everything that could be expected of him. He helped settle the side in the new division while at the time recording a highly respectable fifteen goals. Never one to dominate the headlines, Cross’ tally included a superbly worked winner in a thrilling 3-2 FA Cup defeat of Derby County. However, injuries then saw him sidelined for 14 months. At this point, it may have been expected that the striker had done enough – he’d been brought in to keep the club up and had done just that. But there was still more to come from Cross.
On his return, Cross seemed to be a player keen to prove a point. He scored twelve times on his return but unluckily missed out on a starting place for the Autoglass Trophy final at Wembley. He went one better in 1994 with thirteen goals including six in just three games as the club sealed promotion.
With that promotion, the then 33 year-old Cross decided to move on. He opted for a switch to Hereford United where he again a regular scorer until his retirement in 1996.
He may not be remembered in the elite tier of Port Vale strikers such as Kirkhamor Foyle but Nicky Cross made his mark at Vale Park with a string of intelligent performances marked by 42 goals over five seasons and that promotion (the only one of his career) in 1994. He was another excellently judged signing by John Rudge.
Cult credentials: Unsung but intelligent and a promotion winner