In the 1960’s Port Vale FC embarked on two tours of Czechoslovakia and also hosted a home friendly against the national side, but what prompted this close relationship between Port Vale and Czechoslovakia?
Lidice: horrors but a bond is formed
Connections between the Potteries and Czechoslovakia had been strong since World War Two. In 1942, the Nazis carried out atrocities in a Czech village called Lidice, making the village an example for the nearby assassination of Reinhard Heinrich. 173 men were shot while over 350 women and children were sent to concentration camps where the majority were gassed. The village was demolished. After the war just 153 women and 17 children returned to find their homes razed to the ground.
Appalled, coal miners in Stoke-on-Trent, backed by local MP Sir Barnett Stross, launched the “Lidice Shall Live” movement and raised funds for the village to be rebuilt. A new Lidice village was constructed in 1949. From that point onwards, there were strong ties between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice, despite the latter now being part of a Communist country.
1960: Port Vale’s first tour of Czechoslavakia
No doubt due to the strong Lidice connections, the Valiants undertook their first-ever continental tour in 1960. Playing five games in Czechoslovakia, they won three of them.
Results (Vale score first):
- 3-2 Cottwaldov
- 2-0 Prerov
- 4-2 Karlovy Vary
- 2-2 Teplice
- 2-3 Jihlava
Awareness of the plight of Lidice was high at the time of Vale’s visit and the Valiants did vist the village. The Vale players were given a commemorative pin and a gold enamelled ceramic vase at a visit to a factory near to Lidice.
Photos from Port Vale players Ken Hancock and John Poole:
1961: Port Vale play Czechoslovakia in a friendly
Connections between Port Vale and Czechoslovakia were now strong and in 1961, the Czech national team embarked on a game at Vale Park. It was the first-ever visit to the Potteries by a national side and the visitors won 3-1 on the night. The Czechs were preparing for the 1962 World Cup in Chile, where they did exceptionally well. The side finished runners-up, losing the final 3-1 to Brazil.
Some of the Czech stars who featured
- Josef Masopust: The star of the show, the Dukla Prague star was named European Footballer of the Year the following season. He was named by Pele as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in 2004. He scored the opening goal in the 1962 World Cup final and was capped 63 times. He also coached his country.
- Adolf Scherer: Another big-name star, Scherer went to the 1962 World Cup and scored three goals including one in the 3-1 semi-final win over Yugoslavia.
- Jiri Tichy: Then at CH Bratislavia, he won 19 caps in total and also played in the 1962 World Cup
- Ladislav Novák: Then with Dukla Prague, he won 75 caps, 71 as captain and later managed his country
- Jiří Hledík: He had already appeared at the 1954 World Cup and finished with 28 International appearances
Pages from the programme:
1967: Port Vale’s second tour of Czechoslavakia
In 1967, Sir Stanley Matthews’ Vale team took part in a second tour.
Tour results (Vale score first):
- 2-0 v Gottwaldov
- 2-2 v TS Jisara Skutec
Clippings from that tour:
Port Vale’s tour of Czechoslovakia in 1967 in photos
Photos and captions kindly provided by Mick Cullerton
The Port Vale team hotel in Gottvaldov
Sir Stanley Matthews gazes out from the balcony of the Bata shoe factory in Gottvaldov.
Sir Stanley Matthews with a press attaché and the MD of the Bata Shoes factory.
The tour of the Bata shoe factory. Jimmy Hill, Mick Mahon and Roy Chapman can be seen in the background.
Sir Stanley Matthews, Alderman Barber and Roy Chapman during the tour of Bata shoes.
Mick Mahon, Ron Wilson, Jimmy Hill, Roy Sproson and Jimmy Goodfellow at Bata shoes.
Port Vale’s first friendly match at Gottvaldov.
Sir Stanley Matthews leads the team out for the first friendly match at Gottvaldov.
The Port Vale team lines up for the first friendly match at Gottvaldov.
Jimmy Hill about to play Mick Cullerton in to score.
A visit to the national ice hockey stadium in Prague.
Celebrations after the first game featuring Ron Wilson, Roy Chapman and Len Graham.
Prague pictured at 10pm after a trip to the ballet.
These three shots show the Port Vale players at the Bata shoe factory.
Sir Stanley Matthews (with John James and Mick Cullerton in the background) leads the team out for the game against Skuter.
Pre-match at Skuter featuring Mick Morris, Mick Mahon and Harry Poole receiving flowers.
The boardroom at Czechglass.
Sir Stanley Matthews receives a cut glass boot in the boardroom at Czechglass.
Terry Miles, Roy Chapman, Alderman Barber, Mr Burgess, Sir Stanley Matthews, John James, Mick Cullerton, Len Graham and Mick Morris.
Port Vale’s overall record
Including the game against the Czech national team:
- Played: 8
- Won: 4
- Drew: 2
- Lost: 2