Port Vale: Tributes paid to legend Roy Sproson after statue is unveiled
PROUD Phil Sproson had to fight back the tears as he reflected on a memorable moment in the history of Port Vale.
He was not the only one unable to hide his emotions – it was that kind of day.
• GALLERY: Match Action: Port Vale 2 York City 2
The magnificent statue of his uncle Roy, formally unveiled in a special celebration at Vale Park on Saturday, will act as a permanent tribute to the whole family, whose unique link with the club lasted for nearly 40 years.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
And as a large crowd of supporters gathered to see Roy's widow Joyce reveal the 16ft bronze memorial of Vale's greatest-ever servant, Sproson said he felt humbled to be part of it all.
He paid a heartfelt tribute to the supporters whose hard work and persistence had, he said, finally paid off and is hoping the statue can provide inspiration for future generations.
While Roy will forever remain the club's record appearance holder with 837 starts in a playing career which spanned 22 years, Phil, is third in the all-time list of Vale heroes, with 495 appearances of his own. His dad, Jess, had started the family connection back in 1940.
"It's fantastic to see Roy back where he belongs at the heart of this football club," he said, "and it's a wonderful tribute that will live on and on.
"Something like this epitomises what this club is about. Football is a community sport and this statue will be here for people to come and see for ever more.
"It also creates a legacy for the supporters not just today, but for generations to come."
Sproson, who is featured on a granite plinth beneath the statue, said he was proud that his family's name had become so entwined with the very fabric of Port Vale and admitted the occasion had made him emotional.
"I've had to hold myself together a bit," he said.
"It's such a tremendous tribute to Roy and it's a massive honour for me too.
"It feels a bit strange because I'm the only one alive and my dad and Roy sadly aren't with us any more.
"It was lovely to see so many people come and see the statue being unveiled too – a very humbling experience."
Sproson, aged 53, said it was a tribute fully deserved by his uncle and insisted his record would never be overhauled.
"I can't see anyone emulating what Roy did," he added. "To play such a colossal amount of games for just one club is unheard of these days.
"But to have the physical and mental strength to do what he did just shows what a unique man he was. I was just privileged to be able to follow him into the club that I loved as well."
The idea of the statue was first conceived back in 2001 and Sproson admitted he was worried it might never see the light of day.
"It has taken so long and the thought it might not happen at all did cross my mind," he said. "But the supporters have worked so hard to see it through and we, as a family, will never be able to thank them enough."
Joyce Sproson said the statue, created by Ipstones-based sculptor Mike Talbot, was a perfect likeness of her husband.
"It's wonderful, it looks just like him," she said.
"The sculptor has done a fantastic job and Roy would have been over the moon.
"Roy was a terrific man and we are all very proud and honoured by it all.
"We'd like to thank the fans because it's only through them that this has been possible.
"They've put in lots of hard work, but they've got there in the end and it's just so lovely to see.
"It shows how much they thought of Roy, I suppose, and that's nice in itself."
Pete Williams was another happy to celebrate an historic day.
The Supporters' Club chairman has been ill and only got the all-clear to attend the ceremony 24 hours earlier.
"I was determined to be here to see history made and to enjoy the occasion," he said.
"It has been 11 years since the idea for a permanent memorial to Roy was discussed and many obstacles have been overcome in that time.
"Hundreds of fans have given generously to the fund-raising effort and dozens of people have worked extremely hard to bring the project to completion.
"We're honouring a great family who have done so much for this club, so it was a fantastic project to take part in and it's a real compliment to everyone that it's finally here.
"We hope it will be an inspiration to future generations both of players and supporters. Let's hope Roy can act as our 12th man."
Williams said it was now time to look to a brighter future.
"It's a day of history and hopefully the start of a new era," he added.
"We have new owners coming in to the club, so we can put what's happened in the past behind us, in some respect, and move on from today."