Green Barmy: Plenty of drama to be found in Plymouth Argyle's trips to Port Vale
PLYMOUTH Argyle travel to Port Vale this afternoon hoping to avenge a narrow defeat at Vale Park last season in which Tom Pope scored the only goal of the game.
Wins for the Potteries side at Home Park both last season and earlier this term mean that the side currently riding high in League Two have not been too popular with the Green Army recently.
But, in happier times, those who were there will not forget the handsome 5-1 win at Vale Park in October 2003 when David Friio struck twice with Marino Keith, Steve Adams and Paul Wotton also on target.
Vale Park is the second venue where Port Vale have hosted Argyle.
There were six meetings at the Old Recreation Ground, known locally as 'The Rec'.
A visit today to the Potteries Shopping Centre in Hanley, one of the towns that make up Stoke-On-Trent, will have you on the site of that stadium between 1913 and 1950.
Following years of neglect after World War Two, the club was forced to sell the land to the city council.
Argyle's first match there was a Division Two fixture in February 1931.
Sammy Black, who scored a club record 176 league goals for the Pilgrims, notched one of 20 that season for Robert Jack's side.
Playing in 470 league games for the Greens, Black was virtually an automatic choice during 14 seasons at Home Park.
In an era when not many players had nicknames, 'The Mighty Atom' was discovered by Jack when playing for Glasgow club Kirkintilloch Rob Roy.
But his solitary goal that day wasn't enough as the Pilgrims fell to a 2-1 defeat in the first campaign after promotion from Division Three (South).
Of the six games at The Old Rec all of which were in the Second Division. Argyle's record shows just one point from their efforts.
That came in a 2-2 draw in September 1934.
Scoring both goals that day was centre-forward Jack Cookson who, three years earlier, was an FA Cup winner with West Bromwich Albion.
With a tremendous strike rate throughout his career, including more than 100 goals for Albion, Cookson played in only the first seven games of the 1934-35 season before being transferred to Swindon Town.
A year later, Vale recorded a 2-0 win in the final match between the teams at a venue Argyle were no doubt pleased to see the back of.
Before The Rec, Port Vale had five previous homes.
The club was formed at the Meadows in Longport and moved for the first time in 1881.
Three years at Westport Meadows were not successful as, the name would suggest, the ground was situated in an area that was regularly prone to flooding.
Vale's next home was also short-lived, at the Burslem Football and Athletics Ground.
Not too far away, alongside the tram line that linked Burslem and Hanley, a more permanent base was the Athletic Ground where the club remained for 27 years before the switch to The Rec.
Argyle's next away match against the Valiants was during their first season at Vale Park, a stadium which had original plans to accommodate 80,000.
But visions for a 'Wembley of the North' were not met in reality.
It was March 1951, and a rare opportunity to meet Port Vale in Division Three (South) – a fact due to Stoke-on-Trent's geographical position and a confused part of that club's history.
With ambitions on promotion to Division One, the high-flying Pilgrims were then managed by Jimmy Rae, while their hosts were in a comfortable mid-table position.
But a first defeat in five games upset the form book.
Argyle were defeated 2-1, with their goal being scored by George Willis, the former miner who was an inside-forward of considerable brute force.
That was one of three seasons in which Vale and Argyle were paired together in Division Three (South).
Depending on which clubs were relegated from Division Two, Vale regularly hopped between the north and south divisions of the third tier of English football, which no doubt caused a headache for the football authorities.
If Vale were the most southerly of the northern clubs and there was an imbalance in numbers, they moved to the southern version of Division Three – and vice versa if they were the most northerly of the southern section.
Other clubs that could claim to be former members of both the southern and northern sections were Coventry City, Mansfield Town, Shrewsbury Town and Walsall.
Before the re-naming of divisions in the early 1990s, Coventry were the only club that could lay claim to having played in every division of the Football League, from Division One to Four, and both the northern and southern sections of Division Three.
In another run of unsuccessful games in the Potteries, Argyle failed to win on any of their three visits to Vale Park in Division Three (South).
A 0-0 draw in April 1958 took the Pilgrims up to third place in the table.
Then followed a long void before the two foes clashed again at Vale Park.
Ellis Stuttard took his side north and, for the first time, Argyle attended a game at Port Vale having used the M6 motorway.
It was 1971 and the era of veteran Jim Furnell in goal, Johnny Hore and Bob Saxton in defence and Dave Burnside, Jimmy Hinch and Keith Allen up front.
But it was a winger that scored in Argyle's 2-1 defeat, as mop-haired Don Hutchins added another to his season's impressive tally for a wide man to 11.
However, Sammy Morgan tucked away a last-minute winner which sparked a pitch invasion in which Furnell was kicked by young 'supporters' of the home side.
But that paled into insignificance compared to the visit three years later.
Played on a Sunday due to the power dispute across afflicting the country, the game was dubbed 'Black Sunday'.
Manager Tony Waiters saw his team finish with just eight men.
Dave Provan, Steve Davey and Bob Saxton were all sent off in separate incidents by referee Kevin McNally in a highly-charged match in which Paul Mariner was left nursing a broken nose.
In total, Argyle have won just three times and drawn five in 26 League fixtures away to Port Vale.
But, as the modern-day Pilgrims travel in need of points for a battle of a different kind, history shows meetings between the sides often prove dramatic.