Port Vale: Pride in a job well done as Roy Sproson finally stands tall
TOMMY Wilkes says pride and relief will be his overwhelming emotions when the Roy Sproson statue is unveiled at Vale Park tomorrow.
Tommy was one of a group of fans who, 11 years ago, first started fund-raising for a tribute to Vale's greatest player.
He and fellow early campaigners Tony Boult and John Simmonds are just about old enough to have seen Sproson play for the Vale in a remarkable career which spanned 837 starts from 1950 to 1972 as a player, before he served the club as coach, and then manager from 1974 until 1977.
Tomorrow's unveiling will be a victory for the many fans who have helped the Sproson Fund. That's not to mention the skill and patience of Ipstones-based sculptor Mike Talbot.
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Wilkes said: "We just wanted to honour the best player the club has ever had.
"There was lots of fund-raising, including making badges, a Sproson Beer, curry nights, prediction leagues, T-shirts and car-boots sales.
"I remember picking Tony Boult up for a car-boot sale in Hanley at 4am. It was freezing, our noses were running and we couldn't feel our hands. I think we raised £55 from selling stuff fans had donated.
"There were also donations. The largest we had was from a Vale fan who died.
"His son told us his dad wanted us to have something. We couldn't believe it when he gave us a cheque for £1,000.
"But every one of the donations meant a lot to us. We'd have old ladies giving us £10 from their pensions and saying they wanted the Sproson Fund to have it because they remembered Roy and what a fantastic player he was."
Although Wilkes was one of the first Sproson Fund members, he's keen not to take too much credit.
He says the project, which has cost almost £100,000, only came to fruition after the revamped Port Vale Supporters' Club took it on.
He added: "At times I never thought we would get there. It had got to the point where we couldn't take it any further, but the supporters' club stepped in and now they've done it.
"Tomorrow will be an emotional occasion; it's going to mean so much to so many people."
The imposing statue will also inspire generations to come.
Wilkes added: "I'm sure there will be lots of fans who, before a game, will touch one of Roy's boots for luck."