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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > History > Sports History > Vale's greatest season - 1954

Port vale of 1954

Vale's greatest season - 1954

Port Vale has a long, honourable history. But the greatest season, when they reached the semi-final of the FA Cup, was 50 years ago - 1954. We remember the great season, check the anniversary events this year - and ask for your memories.

Let me tell you a story of heroes of long ago...

Well, it's not quite so long ago (just 1954 to be exact) but, yes, it was another era.
Those were the days when footballers were working-class heroes, ignored by the "quality" papers; the days too when football boots were dangerous WMDs with their solid toe-ends shined to perfection - and lethal.

The greatest?

Out of the mists of this time then, come the Valiants of 54.
This was the team that took Vale to the semi-final, beating along the way the slinky Blackpool side (who' d won the Cup the year before)...
This was a team that arose out of the depths of the Third Division to make the biggest giant-killing splash of the year.

This was the team of (would you believe it?), virtually all home-town boys.
These were the Boyz from Burslem who took the Third Division title.
The greatest Vale team of all team... perhaps?

50 years ago

On that date in 1954, Vale were cruelly denied a Cup Final place (did Lee dive???).

What's more, the club  commissioned a Heroes of '54 booklet (see right) ­ on sale at the club shop.

To commemorate the golden anniversary of Vale's FA Cup semi-final, '54 players Colin Askey and Ken Griffiths sifted through more than 50 rare photographs to share their memories.But, the big celebration was at season end 2004, when almost all the surviving members of that side re-assembled for a grand dinner.


The Heroes of 54 dinner event was on Thursday May 13th at the Lorne Street Restaurant, Vale Park, and was a tribute to the great team of that season ­ know as the "Men of Steele" after the manager Freddie Steele.

All but a few of the 250 tickets for the dinner were snapped up .
Guests of honour were the surviving players from the team ­ Colin Askey, Ken Griffiths, Ray King and Derek Tomkinson ­ as well as widows of team members.
Guest speaker was BBC broadcaster and commentator Gerald Sinstadt. Local film maker Ray Johnson  put together a short film containing news-reel footage of the giant killing cup run.

So... who were the heroes?

Some names for you....
Giant of a man and Vale's greatest servant, Roy Sproson, the left-half.
The defence (with Roy as its lynch-pin) became known as the "Iron Curtain" side - as they set a league record for least goals conceded - and the side took the Third Division North title unsurprisingly!

Colin Askey - whose son Mark is now such a sought-after young manager.
Ray King, the England "B" goalie.
Ken Griffiths, who gave way to Derek Tomkinson in the semi-final.
Tommy Cheadle - captain, whose name is now proudly borne by one of the best drinking-haunts in old Burslem town.
Freddie Steele - manager and ex-Stoke player, who'd been part of their greatest side.

The day itself

Some memories for you...
Stan Matthews, bewildered and shaken, as his team, proud Blackpool, were humbled 2-0 in the 5th Round at Vale Park.
Poor Stan - Port Vale had been his first love of course.

The Vale Park crowd singing, in that same match... "Stan Matthews came a-wandering along the mountain track...valderee, valderah, valderhahahahahahahaha...."

The semi-final

Lee, of opposition West Brom, stumbling and rolling into the penalty area after a foul - and claiming a penalty. Was it a dive?

There are no friends on the pitch - Ronnie Allen slotted the penalty for West Brom. Remember Ronnie had been a Vale player himself - and he'd been born in Fenton, Stoke on Trent!

The composition of the Vale team was astonishing - it was possibly one of the last successful professional teams ever to have two-thirds of the team come from home. A staggering EIGHT players from that great side were from Stoke on Trent.

The Vale team, dazed by the limelight, were the underdog darlings of the Spring of '54, and were dragged to one photo-opp after another.
One photo shows the top comedian of the early-50s, Arthur Askey, at one of the top theatres of the time, the London Palladium, pictured with the young Vale players, who look as if they don't know what's happening to them!

That same year, Stoke City thumped Hartlepool 6-2 in the Cup, but went out in Round 4...

last updated: 25/04/2008 at 11:27
created: 25/04/2008

You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > History > Sports History > Vale's greatest season - 1954

Port Vale Facts

1876-Port Vale Football Club was formed in 1876 and took it's name from the venue of the inaugural meeting at 'Port Vale House' situated in a suburb of Stoke-on-Trent.Upon moving to Burslem in 1884 the club changed it's name to Burslem Port Vale. Eventually the Burslem part was dropped and they moved to their current ground-Vale Park in 1950.

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