A rivalry made of great goals, big money deals and red mist
ON THE face of it, Port Vale are not one of the most glamorous names in the world of football.
But as they visit Home Park to play Argyle this afternoon, matches between the sides have not lacked incident.
It is also worth recalling the Valiants received a record fee from Argyle for one of their players.
Peter Swan began his career in the city of his birth with Leeds United before moving after five seasons as a professional to Hull City for £200,000.
That fee increased by half-as-much-again when joining Port Vale in 1991.
A regular during his three years at Vale Park, Swan made 111 appearances, enjoying promotion and collecting a Football League Trophy winners' medal before moving to the South West.
With funds made available by Argyle chairman Dan McCauley, manager Peter Shilton tried to build a side he hoped would be primed for success.
Argyle's club record fee was smashed when Swan signed for £300,000.
But Swan's time with the Pilgrims was dogged by problems on and off the field, and he was limited to just 27 appearances in his year at Home Park.
In addition to a poor start to the season, Swan was presented with the captain's armband by Shilton at the expense of the popular Steve Castle, a move that did not go down well with the majority of supporters.
Swan's next move took him to Burnley, with Argyle receiving a transfer fee of £200,000.
Earlier in the history of Vale and Argyle, one particular chapter has never been easily forgotten by those involved.
It was before the era of red cards, but Kevin McNally – a referee with a reputation for strictness on the field – used the old fashioned way of sending players off to good use.
After giving a guilty player a lecture, the order of the day was a swivel of the feet towards the players' tunnel followed by the finger of doom which would point in that direction.
McNally pointed not once, but three times in one game – and all at the expense of Argyle players.
Britain was suffering due to the power crisis of 1974. To reduce electricity consumption and the use of coal, commercial outlets were forced to abide by the 'three day week' as striking miners made their feelings known as the country's inflation levels rose.
Some football matches were moved to Sundays and, for the first time, Argyle played a competitive match on the Sabbath.
Another first was that three players from the same team had never before been sent-off in an English league match.
To add to the list of 'firsts', Steve Davey, Bobby Saxton and Dave Provan had, to that point, a clean record as far as sendings-off were concerned.
There had been tensions in recent matches between Vale and Argyle, with the home side having gained something of a reputation for their no-nonsense approach to the game.
First to receive their marching orders was Davey, who had already scored in the game, with the match just 17 minutes old.
He clashed with an opponent and, to this day, Davey claims he laughed and gave what was meant as no more than a cheeky tap to the side of the face – certainly with no force. In the second half, Provan became involved in a disagreement with Vale forward Ray Williams. It got physical. Provan walked.
Saxton did not mess around with Bobby Gough, who discovered it was not wise to pick on the tough Argyle defender.
Despite the game now being in stoppage time, McNally completed his 'hat-trick'.
What the record books fail to show is Paul Mariner's afternoon finished with a broken nose.
McNally was not the only one unimpressed with the behaviour shown by the Argyle players on a day that became known as 'Black Sunday'.
Pilgrims manager Tony Waiters said after the match that misdemeanours in the manner of those that occurred would not be tolerated, and he would be imposing fines on the dismissed players.
But the anger of Waiters was also directed at McNally: "Extraordinary factors were at work through the inconsistencies of the handling of the game," he said.
Normally, managers are at the receiving end of Football League officials for publicly showing disdain for referees. But not in this case.
Within a matter of days, the 2-1 defeat for Argyle stood, but McNally was removed from the list of Football League referees.
There are much happier memories of Argyle meetings with Vale.
One of those was during Paul Sturrock's first spell in charge of the Greens.
For those who travelled to The Potteries in October 2003, I would challenge them to name a better goal from an Argyle player than one scored that day. IF they saw it.
Argyle were in third place in Division Two, with Vale two places above them after 13 games. However, the Valiants were about to lose their unbeaten home record in emphatic style.
The travelling Pilgrims were in top form.
In their two previous outings, both at home, 10 goals had been scored with six against Tranmere Rovers and four put past Bristol City in the Football League Trophy.
But as the game kicked off, not all of the Green Army were in the stands. The supporters' club coaches had been held up on the M6 and those fans missed a good proportion of the game.
French midfielder David Friio set things on their way with a well-worked goal. Michael Evans broke away and had Ian Stonebridge in support.
But Evans spotted the late run of Friio, who arrived in the penalty area and, completely unmarked, slotted the ball home.
Also on the scoresheet in the 5-1 win was Marino Keith, Steve Adams (with a chipped lob from 30 yards) and Paul Wotton.
But it was Friio's second goal which will always be remembered. By this time, the Argyle fans had just arrived and were compensated in fine fashion.
In a central midfield position, who would have thought that the Vale goal was in danger when Friio was 35 yards from goal.
But his explosive shot failed to diminish in terms of power as it hit the net to such an extent that even the Vale fans stood and applauded in appreciation of a master of his craft.
The win pushed Argyle up to second in the table and the promotion bandwagon was rolling.