It’s been 34 years since Port Vale went on a famous FA cup run in the 1987/88 season, but the heroics of the Valiants remain firmly in the memories of Vale fans who were fortunate enough to witness the exploits.
The run eventually came to an end against Watford, but the highlight was a stunning 2–1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur with goals from Ray Walker and Phil Sproson.
In the fourth and fifth round of the 1987/88 FA Cup, Port Vale faced Spurs and Watford, who were both in Division 1 at the time, the current equivalent being the Premier League. Then, as is the case now, both clubs find themselves at opposite ends of the table.
Port Vale 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup fourth round, 1988
See our complete coverage of the Port Vale v Spurs FA Cup game
In the 1987/88 season, Watford finished second from the bottom of the table and were subsequently relegated. This season the Hornets find themselves in the same position and in the outright English Premier League betting markets, Watford are priced at 1/9 to go down, while Spurs are 12/5 to finish in the top four and claim a place in the Champions League.
When Spurs faced Port Vale on 30th January 1988, the side featured high-profile stars such as Chris Waddle, Gary Mabbutt, Terry Fenwick, Clive Allen and Paul Allen. On the day, the condition of the pitch influenced the team selection of then Spurs manager Terry Venables as he left out the Argentinian player Ossie Ardiles.
On the 30th anniversary of the win, erstwhile manager John Rudge revealed that the pitch had been a great leveller on the day: “Terry Venables was a great manager and had Ossie Ardiles in his team. But Terry stepped onto the pitch and it was, ahem, a little bit wet! We’d had a little extra flow of water on the pitch. Our pitch is very heavy even to the present day. But the Burslem fire station apprentices had needed a little bit of practice…”
Port Vale’s cup form in the 1987/88 season had shown no indication that an FA Cup run was on the cards. They were knocked out of the League Cup in the first round after a 5-0 aggregate defeat versus Northampton Town on August 17th 1987 and the first round of the southern section of the Associate Members’ Cup following a 1-0 defeat against Torquay United on January 19th 1988.
At the time, Vale were in the Third Division (now League 1) and after beating Tranmere in the First Round proper (after a replay), and home victories in rounds two and three against Notts County and Macclesfield Town respectively, they reached the Fourth round and were given little chance of staging a shock result against Spurs.
Port Vale eventually bowed out of the FA Cup against Division 1 side Watford. The sides shared the honours in a 0-0 draw at Vale Park on February 20th 1988, but three days later Watford won the replay 2-0. In the sixth round, Watford were beaten by the eventual winner, Wimbledon.
Memories of Port Vale’s giant-killing exploits resurfaced when the club faced Manchester City in the FA Cup in 2020, but despite putting up a spirited performance against the Etihad club, the Valiants bowed out 4-1.
The 1987-88 FA Cup run will forever remain an important part of the history of the club, imprinted in the memories of fans who saw Port Vale humble Tottenham Hotspur.