The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Neil Fissler

PHIL Spro­son ad­mits that he had a lot to live up to when he car­ried on a proud tra­di­tion of pulling on a Port Vale shirt. He was the nephew of leg­endary Vale de­fender Roy, who made over 800 ap­pear­ances, and his fa­ther Jess spent seven years at Vale Park be­tween 1940 and 1947.

Only un­cle Roy has played more first team games for Vale than Spro­son, who cap­tained them to pro­mo­tion be­fore be­ing named in the PFA Team of the Sea­son.

It was the sec­ond of three pro­mo­tions that he would en­joy dur­ing his 12 years at the club.

“I was first made cap­tain the pre­vi­ous sea­son at Northamp­ton. John Ri­d­ley was get­ting on a bit and the man­ager John Rudge asked me if I wanted to be cap­tain – I jumped at it,” he said.

“I was re­ally proud to wear the arm­band for as long as I did. The fam­ily have got a big his­tory with the club and to be cap­tain the year we went up was some­thing re­ally spe­cial.

“Even though I was in my mid20s, I’d played a lot of games.

“Roy had been there for such a long time and had been cap­tain, but I never felt any pres­sure.

“Roy and my dad had al­ways said that they thought I was go­ing to be a pro but there was never any men­tion that I had to be as good as Roy or be bet­ter than him.

“I think that Roy and dad were es­pe­cially proud that I cap­tained the side. We were a very close fam­ily.”

Spro­son ad­mits it was fair to say Port Vale were in some­thing of a tran­si­tional pe­riod, with Rudge mov­ing to­wards hav­ing a younger squad.

“Most of the side were aged about 25 or 26, there weren’t many old hands in the side. I think Jim Arnold in goal would have been the old­est,” he added.

“John picked up striker Andy Jones from Rhyl for about three grand and he was as green as any­thing.

“He learnt a lot from Ally Brown and that was typ­i­cal of John – throw­ing a green hand in with an old hand.

“Andy came of age that year – when he first came he was aw­ful!

“It was a break­through year for Rob­bie Earle, too. He put some good per­for­mances to­gether and you could see what a good player he was.”

In that Divi­sion Four sea­son, Swin­don Town roared to the ti­tle with 102 points.

Ch­ester (84) and Mans­field (81) fin­ished sec­ond and third, while Vale, with 79 points, grabbed the last au­to­matic pro­mo­tion spot in fourth. 1. Phil Spro­son: A cen­tral de­fender, he was the head of the PFA’s man­age­ment agency. Now runs Ge­n­e­sis Sports Man­age­ment in Stoke-on-Trent. 2. John Wil­liams: A de­fender who worked for Bournemouth as com­mu­nity of­fi­cer and as­sis­tant man­ager, be­fore briefly run­ning a pub and coached at a school. He now works for BBC Ra­dio So­lent. 3. Jim Arnold: The goal­keeper set­tled in Stafford and joined Stafford­shire Police as a recreation of­fi­cer. 4. Chris Pearce: A goal­keeper who lives in Black­burn. Worked as a driv­ing in­struc­tor and gar­dener be­fore work­ing for a firm that sup­plies ma­chines to the pa­per in­dus­try. 5. Eric Mount­ford: A mid­fielder who lives in Mid­dle­ton, Stoke-onTrent. Runs his own small build­ing com­pany. 6. Jon Bow­den: The mid­fielder gained a de­gree in phys­io­ther­apy from Sal­ford Univer­sity. Spent three years at Lu­ton Town and is run­ning his own prac­tice in Stock­port. 7. Martin Copeland: The physio went on to work for the NHS and is now run­ning the Lake­side Phys­io­ther­apy Clinic in Stoke-onTrent. 8. Andy Jones: The Welsh in­ter­na­tional striker was a rep for Mizuno be­fore work­ing for BT as a net­work spe­cial­ist. Has been a di­rec­tor of Hamp­shire-based com­pany Eco Food Re­cy­cling for six years. 9. Alan Webb: The right-back has been a driver for Parcelforce af­ter in­jury forced him to make an early re­tire­ment from the game. 10. Osher Wil­liams: The winger was a sports stud­ies lec­turer at Traf­ford Col­lege but now works for the PFA in Manch­ester as as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion. 11. Rob­bie Earle: The for­mer Wim­ble­don mid­fielder went into the me­dia af­ter re­tir­ing. Is now work­ing as an an­a­lyst for Amer­i­can broad­caster NBC. 12. Rus­sel Bro­mage: A full-back, he set­tled in Shore­ham-by-Sea, Sus­sex. Man­aged Lit­tle­hamp­ton and White­hawk be­fore be­com­ing a win­dow cleaner. 13. Ally Brown: The ex-West Brom for­ward be­came a pub­li­can and then a club ste­ward in the Black Coun­try. Was then a ware­house­man in a Wal­sall iron foundry.






















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