Ex-Port Vale keepers Ken Hancock and John Poole team up to help save the Staffords
TWO former soldiers – who were once rivals for the Port Vale goalkeeping jersey – have teamed up to support the campaign to save the Staffords.
Ken Hancock and John Poole swapped the number one shirt at Vale Park between them during the 1950s and 60s.
And, before signing professional forms with Vale, both did their National Service in the Army. Ken with the North Staffordshire Regiment and John with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).
Now the former footballers and soldiers have both called on the Government to reverse its decision to remove the former Staffordshire Regiment, now known as 3 Mercian (Staffords) from the Order of Battle.
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The Government is disbanding the regiment as part of plans to reduce the Army by 20,000 troops by 2018.
Ken, aged 74, of Ipstones, said: "It just another cut that is being made. It seems like everything is going.
"You couldn't help but feel proud of the Staffords. I joined the North Staffordshire Regiment in 1958. At the time I was playing as an amateur for Stoke City.
"I was sent to Lichfield and while the British Army trained me to be a soldier, they gave me a job as a medical orderly. I did two years, stationed in Lichfield, so I carried on playing football. I would play football every other week, when I didn't have weekend duties at the camp.
"I got Stoke to release me from my amateur contract when I got a chance to sign for Port Vale. I played for Vale between 1958 and 1964.
"People used to think that me and John were big rivals for the first team but we were always really good friends. We formed the Goalkeepers' Union."
John, aged 79, of Smallthorne, who played for Vale between 1953 and 1961, said: "The Staffords shouldn't be disbanded.
"I joined the Army in 1953, when I was 21. I had been playing for Port Vale as an amateur.
"I served my time in Singapore and Hong Kong. It was fantastic. I was attached to a Ghurka regiment when I first went to Malaya.
" The Malayans were frightened to death of the Ghurkas.
"They used to bring in photographs of people's feet they had cut off, because in their culture, the spirits couldn't run after them if they had no feet.
"The North Staffordshire Regiment was stationed four miles away and we had a few games of football with them.
"After I left the Army I went back to my job as a mechanic for 12-months, before going full-time with Port Vale.
"To me, Ken was always the main man. One morning he broke his nose and I got a chance in the first team.
"We went on tour to Lidice, the first tour we did. No other club wanted to go.
"At the time it was behind the Iron Curtain. We landed at the airport in Prague and there were all these Russian soldiers lined up.
"We went to see the village which was destroyed by the Nazis. It was fascinating to hear what had happened from the horse's mouth."