BBC Stoke’s Phil Bowers returns as our retrospective look through Port Vale’s kits enters the 2000s.
In Part One, the Kalamazoo home shirt split opinion between those in favour of the wallpaper style kit, and those searching for something more traditional.
Charting the highs and lows of Port Vale’s 21st Century kits, we pick-up the story following the 2001 Football League Trophy victory at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Back to you Phil!
Vale were building a formidable side after their success in Cardiff, and hopes were high for the 2001-02 season, but once again, a change in kit brought a change in fortune.
Key players including top scorer Tony Naylor, influential winger Alex Smith, and midfield lynchpin Dave Brammer all left Vale Park as younger, less experienced players struggled to fill the void.
The high point was an underrated Vale kit that also featured the first time a goalkeeper set had complimented the outfield ensemble.
The “zebra”, as it since became known, was Vale’s first kit by Patrick, who in just a short run as shirt manufacturers, came up with a nice sky blue away design which again reflected the away goalkeeper shirt in dark red.
But then a mystery ensued.
At the start of the 2003/04 season, new owners Consortium Valiant 2001, bought the club out of administration and negotiated a kit deal with Vandanel, who were supplying plenty of lower league teams.
There were new shirt sponsors in town too.
Little known and short lived local mobile phone firm Tricell took over from Tunstall Assurance.
The new home shirt was popular, with a nice inscription of “Valiants 1876” on the back of the collar, but the away shirt proved to be something of an enigma.
The design was exactly the same as Patrick’s one from the season before – only with Vandanel where their logo used to be.
The kit didn’t last long though, as Vandanel issued a third kit which was a carbon copy of the home shirt, in yellow rather than white.
The excess in kits was reflected in goal too.
Mark Goodlad, Jon Brain and Dean Delany all played in between the posts, and three goalkeeper kits were used that season, with green, sky blue and silver variants of the Vandanel template all worn.
Vale just missed out on a play-off place that year, and there was plenty of optimism for the following season, only for those hopes to be dashed once again.
Top scorer Steve McPhee left in the summer, followed soon after by his strike partner Steve Brooker, which ripped over 30 goals out of the team from the previous campaign.
2004/05 also saw a Vale kit which should have been ideal, but is not fondly remembered. The home shirt stayed the same, but the yellow away jersey was made of material that wouldn’t have been out of place on a fishing trawler, only for the fact it went see-through when wet.
Thankfully, this only lasted one season, as Vale decided to join many other clubs in bringing out new home and away kits each year.
Martin Foyle assembled a good looking squad for 2005/06, and they had some excellent kits to go with it.
The home kit sold exceptionally well as Vandanel produced a classic design which was also made to compliment the new Football League names and numbers with black, white and gold all involved.
The away shirt was even better, providing a throwback to more successful years with a lovely black and gold striped effort that was worn during Vale’s FA Cup run that ended with a hard fought 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa in the Third Round.
A short-lived third kit also emerged this season, in a sickly light blue colour that for the purposes of a change kit, was little different from the home shirt.
That shirt was worn in several away games, most notably a 2-1 win at Bournemouth.
Vale also had different sponsors on home and away kits this year, as BGC Gas Services were on the home shirt, and furniture company Broxap featured on Vale’s away and third shirts.
BGC took over as sponsor for the home and away kits the following year, and blue again became the away kit of choice.
It became famous as Vale again performed cup giantkillings, knocking Championship side’s QPR and Norwich out of the League Cup and earned a trip to White Hart Lane.
There would be no repeat of 1988 though, even after top scorer Leon Constantine put them in front as Port Vale succumbed to an eventual 3-1 defeat.
But Vale were about to hit another trough.
Indeed the only degree of optimism from 2007-08 came from two excellent kits that Vale fans love even though the team was one of the worst of the past 20 years.
Vandanel produced a white home kit and black away shirt that were the reverse of each other, and secured a prestigious sponsorship deal with electronics firm Sennheiser.
This started off something of a trend for Vale.
All-white home kits combined with all-black away strips never seem to end well for Vale.
They were relegated in 2000 with an all white kit, and this season would end the same way.
Top scorers Constantine and Akpo Sodje left, and goalkeeper Mark Goodlad retired through injury.
Add to that some truly awful signings like Craig Rocastle, Justin Miller and Paul Edwards, and Martin Foyle was sacked halfway through the season.
Non-league manager Lee Sinnott took over with the remit of keeping Vale in League One.
He failed spectacularly, guiding them to relegation, an FA Cup humiliation against Chasetown (whom he then signed two players from – they weren’t successful), and this set of kits became synonymous with failure.
Now in League Two, there was another change of outfit, and this time it was striking.
Vale opened the season with a 3-1 win at Luton when they were decked out in their new navy blue away kit. The home shirt though, was unpopular.
In trying to be different, Vandanel produced a striped design which was more Notts County than it was Port Vale.
Not only that – stripes were synonymous with rivals Stoke City. A white panel on the back, black and white socks and busy shorts combined to make a kit that didn’t sit well with fans at all.
Sinnott didn’t last long enough to see enough of either of these kits, and was sacked midway through the season, to be replaced by club legend Dean Glover.
The home shirt ironically stayed the same the following year, but money worries meant a lack of investment in the squad, so the black away kit that came out in 2009-10 largely went unnoticed. It’s a shame, as it’s one of the best designs the club had at the time.
That stayed for two seasons, with the black and white stripes replaced by a cleaner plain white design for 2010/11.
Micky Adams also began the first of two successful stints in the dugout, and the black away kit featured in one of the first FA Cup ties to be streamed live on the internet, as Vale knocked out Stevenage thanks to a goal from Louis Dodds.
Vale’s fortunes again took a turn for the worse, as Adams departed for his beloved Sheffield United, with the two kits being remembered for Jim Gannon’s ill-fated time in charge as much as they were Vale’s resurgence.
A promotion charge fell apart as Gannon’s erratic tactics saw them plummet out of the top half, and him out of the door by the end of the season.
Adams returned as the club’s board desperately tried to reconstruct what they’d had at the start of the previous season.
A new grey away kit was brought in but the home shirt remained from the previous year for a transitional season at Vale Park.
The squad was solid, if unspectacular, but behind the scenes trouble began to dominate the headlines. The grey shirt proved to be much like the squad – nice to look at, but nothing memorable.
Things came to a head off the pitch over the course of the season.
The board wanted to sell-up but found buyers hard to come by.
Unknowns Peter Miller and Perry Deakin came forward to buy the club, with promises of major backing and a bright future that never materialised. The two disappeared without ever proving they had the funding to buy the club.
It meant Vale went into administration for the second time in nine years.
Through it all, Micky Adams tried his best to keep the squad intact and morale high, but inevitably, he was fighting an uphill battle.
The club reached an impasse at the close of the season, with out of contract players walking away, and Adams unable to bring in new faces.
Then, just before the 2012-13 season started, a ray of hope appeared. Business partners Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite bought the club, and quickly gave Adams funds to rebuild the squad.
But while the manager built a squad, Vale found themselves without something crucial: a kit.
Phil will return in Part Three to tell the story Vale’s variety of kits from the past decade!
In the meantime, follow Phil on Twitter here!