Port Vale: Tributes paid to former chairman Bill Bell
JOHN Rudge was among those who last night paid tribute to former Port Vale chairman Bill Bell, who died yesterday at the age of 81.
Bell, from Brown Edge, was a controversial figure who oversaw one of the most successful periods in the club's history.
With Rudge as his manager, Bell was in charge when Vale won promotion to what is now the Championship in 1988/89 and 1993/94, and achieved Wembley glory in the Football League Trophy in 1993.
Other highs included FA Cup triumphs over Spurs and Everton in 1988 and 1996 respectively. They were also beaten Anglo-Italian Cup finalists.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
But Bell was also chairman when the club tumbled into administration in 2002 to end his 15-year spell at the helm.
Bell, who owned a car dealership in Burslem, was also the man behind much of the modernisation of Vale Park in the wake of the Taylor report, which called for all-seater stadiums.
He was the driving force behind the renovation of the Hamil Road, Railway and Bycars stands, and the development of the Lorne Street Stand.
Rudge, who was already manager when Bell became chairman in 1987, said: "We had great success and, as chairman, he was very much part of that.
"He certainly did his job behind the scenes and, of course, helped transform the stadium during that time.
"He never interfered in team affairs and that was probably his greatest strength as chairman.
"It is sad news, and my thoughts go out to his family."
Rudge remained in charge at Vale Park until he was axed as manager in 1999.
Brian Horton, the man appointed by Bell to replace him, said the club could not have had a better chairman.
"He was brilliant for the club. Vale owe him a lot," he added.
"I spent the best part of four years under him at Vale and I got on fantastically with him.
"We had our ups and downs, but we never truly fell out during all our time together."
Vale secretary Bill Lodey was at the club throughout Bell's tenure as chairman.
He said: "The development of the ground will be seen as Bill's legacy. It was a hell of a thing to take on, but he grabbed the bull by the horns.
"Bill was a hard taskmaster, but he was very fair with people. We agreed to disagree at times, but that was Bill all over.
"Going into administration was tough to take for him, but it was a combination of factors.
"The spiralling cost of the stadium development, the collapse of ITV Digital and the club's relegation all went against him. But he always had the club's best interests at heart, and my thoughts go out to his family."
Margaret Sinstadt, Vale's former commercial manager, worked with Bell for 13 years.
"He was a complex character," she said, "but while he was challenging at times, he certainly had his good points.
"He was chairman of the club and on the Football League Committee, but he was definitely a fan at heart."
Bell's successor as Vale chairman was Bill Bratt, a leading figure in the fans' consortium who bought the club out of administration in 2003.
He said: "My condolences go to Bill's family at this sad time. Vale enjoyed great times under Bill Bell and John Rudge and they will never be forgotten."
Vale last night announced there will be a minute's silence for Bell before Saturday's game against Morecambe. The players will wear black armbands.
A spokesman said: "The club would like to send its best wishes to Bill's wife, Jean, his daughter, Linda, son-in-law Andrew, and grandchildren Katie and James."
Funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.