In our latest “five of the best” features we look at failures which became successes when they switched to Port Vale.
As the history of the club stretches back well over 130 years, this article features players signed in the last thirty years only.
However, it’s only personal preference and is subjective. If there’s an outstanding candidate we’ve missed or forgotten about why not tell us on the forum?DEBATE THIS ON THE FORUM
We hardly need any more examples of John Rudge’s genius but when it comes to the Lee Mills deal, it’s worth repeating. John Rudge signed Dutch striker Robin van der Laan for £80,000, converted him into a midfielder and sold him to Derby County for £475,000. As part of the deal makeweight Lee Mills also came to Vale Park.
Rather than being a mere squad player, Rudge converted Mills into a goalscoring striker who was named the 1997 player of the year and who found the target 44 times. It was enough for the one-time makeweight to be sold on for £1m. Not back for a Derby County reject!
Midfielder Ian Bogie had such a memorable spell at Vale Park it is perhaps easy to forget that his career was in the doldrums before he made the switch to the Valiants. Bogie had had indifferent spells at three clubs before John Rudge snapped him up. He was signed by Preston for £100,000 but didn’t impress, so he moved on to Millwall for £145,000 where again he had an indifferent spell and finally switched to Leyton Orient for £75,000.
He started to recover his best form at Orient but his career was only completely revived when John Rudge snapped him up for just £50,000. A succession of legendary Port Vale performances and goals were to follow…
The signing of burly defender Sam Collins in 2002 did not excite Vale fans that summer. Collins was seen as a fairly one dimensional stopper with limited ability. His spell at previous club Bury didn’t help Collins’ cause as the centre-half had struggled when the club were relegated.
However, he turned into a different player at Vale Park. Dominant in the air, a goal threat and an inspirational captain, Collins formed a formidable defensive partnership with George Pilkington. It was enough for Collins to win the 2003 player of the year award and earn a move to Championship side Hull City in 2006.
Port Vale supporters were the subject of Internet jibes by Darlington fans after he signed for the Valiants in 2006. After all, the striker had scored just nine times in two seasons for the League Two strugglers – so how would he fare in a higher division?
The answer was – much better. Partnered with Leon Constantine, Sodje formed half of a free scoring forward partnership with his strength and energy impressing the Port Vale faithful. Sodje scored sixteen times in 2006-7 enough to earn him a £300,000 to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
When AJ Leitch-Smith was signed after a trial at Port Vale, expectations were really not very high. A good spell at neighbours Crewe had been cancelled out by a disastrous time at Yeovil. Forward Leitch-Smith had scored just two goals in thirty eight appearances for the Glovers. However, he revived his career in the Potteries with thirteen goals in the 2015-16 season.
He soured things somewhat by departing the club after just one season. As he has not managed to replicate his scoring record in spells at Shrewsbury, Dundee and Morecambe perhaps he should have stayed put?