Port Vale’s stunning promotion in 1930 was achieved despite some potentially devastating events. We take a look back at a remarkable landmark campaign.
Port Vale had been relegated to the Third Division (North) at the end of 1928-29 thanks to a poor away record and a terrible defence, which had conceded 86 goals. Not only that but club legends Tom Page and Wilf Kirkham had left the club. It looked a tough task for manager Joe Schofield to reverse their fortunes but few could have predicted what happened next.
It looked a tough task for manager Joe Schofield to reverse their fortunes but few could have predicted what happened next…
In retrospect, Schofield’s summer signings were inspired. Former Welsh International goalkeeper Arthur Brown and tough tackling full-back Bill Cope came in to shore up the defence. However, arguably the masterstroke was the signing of maverick striker Sam Jennings to partner Albert Pynegar upfront. Jennings’ training technique often involved racing his greyhound to the ball and despite rumours of a rift between Jennings and Pynegar the pair would be the preferred front pair all season.
The new signings worked as Vale got off to a tremendous start that even overcame one of the most shocking events in the club’s history…
Vale began by recording two successive away wins with new signing Sam Jennings netting in both. For the first home games at the Recreation Ground, the team then turned on the style with TEN goals in the first two fixtures. Barrow were swept aside 5-0 in front of a near 10,000 crowd then Albert Pynegar netted a hat-trick as New Brighton were dispatched 5-1.
The side’s only defeat came on the 16th September when Vale were narrowly beaten 3-2 by Lincoln City but just thirteen days later the club were rocked by the shock news that manager Joe Schofield had passed away. He was aged just 58. Such a blow would have rattled other sides but not this Port Vale one. Just six days after his passing, Vale beat Nelson 3-1 at home to continue their run.
Following their 2-1 win over Southport on October 12th, the Valiants had racked up ten wins and just a solitary defeat in the start to their season – a stunning riposte to the previous season’s relegation form.
The club’s first eleven results…
Halifax Town 1-2 Port Vale (W)
New Brighton 0-1 Port Vale (W)
Port Vale 5-0 Barrow (W)
Port Vale 5-1 New Brighton (W)
Wrexham 0-2 Port Vale (W)
Lincon City 3-2 Port Vale (L)
Port Vale 4-0 Wigan Borough (W)
Port Vale 2-0 Crewe Alex (W)
Carlisle United 1-4 Port Vale (W)
Port Vale 3-1 Nelson (W)
Southport 1-2 Port Vale (W)
Stats for first eleven games…
32 goals scored
Just eight conceded
Five clean sheets
Goalscorers – Pynegar (10), Jennings (6), Baxter (5), Griffiths (5), Baxter (4), Anstiss (2)
Undeterred by the death of their manager, coach Tom Morgan was appointed to succeed him and the team continued their fine form to the festive period recording a further five wins and three draws.
The side was seemingly coasting to promotion but like other Vale sides there was still a chance for a potential derailment. It came when star player Jack Mandley was sold to Aston Villa in March. That month the team slumped, winning two, losing two and drawing one. It prompted supporters’ protests but the club responded to the loss of Mandley by bringing in Harry Marshall and they finished the season with five straight wins to win the Third Division (North) title by four points.
It was a tremendous effort from a side which had been relegated the previous campaign, had parted company with two star strikers in the summer, who had lost their manager just ten games into the season and who had sold their star player in March.
It was the club’s first promotion since joining the Football League and despite everything, they had done it in style.
Port Vale team in the summer of 1929
Back row (players only): Bill Cope, Jimmy Oakes, Jack Prince, Arthur Brown, Bob Connelly, Jack Sherlock
Middle row: Billy Briscoe, George Stockton, Sam Jennings, George Whitcombe, Harry Anstiss. Bob Gillespie
Front row: George Shenton, Phil Griffiths, Jack Simms, Roger Jones, Albert Fishwick
Selected player bios
- Sam Jennings: the 31 year-old finished the season as top-scorer with 27 goals. He was sold to Stockport County in 1931 and would tragically lose his life during World War Two / Related feature – Five of the best: Port Vale forwards with formidable strike rates
- Albert Pynegar: the 34 year-old finished as second highest scorer with 22 goals. He also left the club in 1931.
- Harry Anstiss: the reliable back-up to Jennings and Pynegar, he had served at the battle of Jutland and had been at Vale since 1926 / Related feature – The promotion winning Port Vale player who fought in WW1’s major sea battle
- Phil Griffiths: the goalscoring midfielder would go on to earn an International call-up from Wales. He WALKED from South Wales to get a trial with the club / Related feature – Cult hero 71: Phil Griffiths
- Jimmy Oakes: the left-back is widely regarded as one of the club’s finest-ever players. He would make over 250 appearances for the club / Related feature – Cult Hero 34: Jimmy Oakes
- Roger Jones: the long-serving left-half would make over 300 appearances for Vale / Related feature – Cult Hero 41: Roger Jones
- Robert Connelly: another long-serving player, Bob would also make over 300 appearances for the club / Related feature – Robert Connelly remembered
- Billy Briscoe: the long-serving player would fittingly make his final appearances for the club during this promotion season. His Vale career would finish with 314 appearances for the Valiants / Related feature – Vintage Billy Briscoe photos unearthed
- Jack Mandley: the club’s star player was sold to Aston Villa in March and would make over a hundred First Division appearances.
- Tom Morgan: the former Vale player had worked as scout, reserve manager and coach before being appointed manager. He would have two spells in charge of the side finishing with 87 wins from 188 games in charge / Related feature – Cult Hero 49: Tom Morgan
Stats for the 1929-30 season
- 103 goals scored
- Just 37 goals conceded
- Nineteen clean sheets
- 30 wins, seven draws and just five defeats
- Top goalscorers: Jennings (27), Pynegar (22), Anstiss (15), Griffiths (14)
Images from that era
This image is from the previous season (1928-29) but gives an indication of the game at the time.
Port Vale players and officials in the late 1920s