Port Vale’s expulsion from the Football League was undoubtedly one of the club’s darkest days. We take an in-depth look at what happened and when…
Our thanks to the Port Vale supporters who supplied photos and clippings which illustrate this article.
Port Vale’s expulsion from the Football League in 1968 – Timeline
You can click the images for larger versions.
Events prior to the FA Commission
Under manager Sir Stanley Matthews (right), Port Vale had attempted to develop a crop of young talent at the club. Matthews was initially appointed General Manager alongside good friend Jackie Mudie (player-manager) in 1965. Matthews took on an unpaid role and they concentrated their search on finding young talent often in Scotland and North East England.
It was clearly going to be a long-term process and although the club’s form on the pitch suffered there was faith that the long-term plan would bring success. In January 1966, Vale assembled the youngest ever Football League forward line in Alex Donald (17), Roddy Georgeson (17), Mick Cullerton (17), Paul Bannister (18), and Paul Ogden (19). By the time of the 1967-68 season, Vale now had other young players such as Stuart Chapman, Malcolm MacKenzie and Clinton Boulton on their books. Chapman had made his debut aged just fifteen.
However, it would emerge that the work in acquiring the youngsters would be one of the causes of immense damage to the club. In November 1968 the Football League had begun an investigation of the club’s book and in the new year the League was about to make a bombshell announcement…
In January the results of the League’s investigation were announced. The findings had been passed on to Football Association commission which would investigate six charges. These were:
- Numerous amateurs had received a weekly wage; associate schoolboys played for the club despite this being against the rules
- Extra bonuses were offered for reaching the Second Round of the League Cup
- John Ritchie had received illegal payments
- Clint Boulton and Gordon Logan had received illegal bonuses
- Young players had been given gifts in breach of league rules
Here’s how those charges were covered in the media:
Club officials met the Football League and admitted the charges. The club received a £2,000 fine and a recommendation that they be expelled from the league. Here’s how the media reported those events:
On the 6th March, there was a further bombshell announcement as another £2,000 fine was issued and the club were also informed that they would be expelled from the Football League at the end of the season.
Here’s how this was covered in the media:
The Valiants finished the 1967-68 season in eighteenth place, three points clear of relegation – not that it mattered as the club had already been removed from the Football League.
A chastened Matthews vacated the management post at Vale Park May 1968, and despite being owed £9,000 in salary and expenses, agreed to stay at Vale Park to continue his work with the youth team. The whole experience “left a sour taste” in his mouth, and was enough to convince him never to try his hand as management in English football again. Port Vale appointed Gordon Lee (pictured) as his replacement.
On 8 June, the club’s future was decided, as a vote of 39 to 9 allowed the club readmission to the Football League, despite the earlier FA conclusion that the club should be expelled from the League. It turned out Port Vale would only spend 27 days out of the Football League, after all.
Lee would consolidate the club and in 1970, just two years after these events, Lee would lead the team to promotion out of the Fourth Division. The Valiants had well and truly banished the memory of some of their darkest hours.