Port Vale: You always knew where you stood with Bill Bell, says Martin Foyle
THE family of former Port Vale chairman Bill Bell have thanked well-wishers for their support following his death on Tuesday.
Mr Bell died at his home at Brown Edge, aged 81, after suffering stomach cancer.
The car dealer was Vale chairman from 1987 until 2002 and presided over arguably the greatest period of success in the club's history.
The club are among those to have sent their condolences to his wife Jean, daughter Linda, son-in-law, Andrew, and grandchildren Katie and James.
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Mr Bell's family released a statement saying they had been moved by the many tributes paid to him.
It read: "Mr Bell's family would like to say thank you for the overwhelming support they have received after the passing of Bill.
"Away from football, he was a fantastic husband, father and grandad, and they have been touched by the messages they have received.
"They would also like to thank North Staffs Hospital, Floor Two of the Nuffield Hospital and Marie Curie for the fantastic care he received.
"The family have asked for privacy during the next few days."
Under the rule of Bell and manager John Rudge, the Valiants established themselves in what is now the Championship, made three appearances at Wembley and enjoyed notable FA Cup results such as the giant-killings of Tottenham and Everton.
Bell also made it his mission to redevelop Vale Park, transforming it from a ramshackle ground into an all-seater arena.
One of the club's major signings during Bell's reign was Martin Foyle.
Vale paid Oxford United a then club-record £375,000 for the striker in 1991, and Foyle repaid the investment handsomely by becoming the club's post-war record scorer with 107 goals.
Foyle also became the club's youth coach during Bell's reign, and would later go on to manage the club from 2004 to 2007.
Foyle, pictured, who is now manager of Hereford United, said: "What I liked about Bill was you knew where you stood with him.
"When I was youth coach I would go and see him to ask for different things and he would always give me a straight 'yes' or 'no'. He didn't make any promises he couldn't keep.
"Managers also want a chairman like that, one who gives you a straight answer which allows you to plan properly for the future.
"I knew Bill had a good family behind him because I got to know his son-in-law, Andrew Belfield. He was also on the board and our sons played football together.
"But when I was a player we didn't see that much of Bill. He might come into the dressing room with Champagne after a big game, but usually he kept a low profile.
"He got on with running the club and wasn't a chairman who liked to hog the limelight. We all appreciated that."
Stoke-on-Trent North MP Joan Walley was elected in her constituency in 1987, the same year that Mr Bell took power at Vale Park.
She also paid tribute to one of the best known figures in her constituency, saying: "Bill was Bill to the end – insuppressible, indomitable and true to his entrepreneurial spirit.
"When I called to see him just weeks ago in his new showroom he was planning his latest improvement to the body shop and showcasing a vintage car, with great enthusiasm for the future.
"Not everyone always agreed with Bill, but his passion for Burslem and for the Vale was never in doubt. My sympathy goes to his family. He will be much missed."
Funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.