Robbie Earle: Bill Bell's contribution to Port Vale will never be forgotten
SO, goodbye Bill Bell, former Port Vale chairman and the toughest negotiator I ever encountered in football.
To say Bill, who has died aged 81, drove a hard bargain would be the understatement of the century.
I well remember going into his office to negotiate a contract, thinking I'd struck a deal and then starting to walking away. Then just as I got out of the door, Bill, below, would say, 'so, this is the deal Robbie', and announce something that was 10 per cent less than I thought we had agreed.
I'd have to spend the next hour back in negotiations just trying to claw back the 10 per cent I thought I'd got in the first place. At the time I used to tear my hair out, but I look back fondly on those days now. Bill was just trying to strike the best deal he could for Port Vale.
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I think I might have upset Bill because, while all the other players had Austin Rovers or Metros from his garage, I got myself a sponsored car from Chatfield Ford.
That probably grated a bit as he looked out on the car park with all motors from his firm, and there was my car with the name of a rival garage plastered all over it.
Mind you, Bill got his own back when it came to negotiating with me.
We had one or two rows, but what I liked about Bill was you could have a set-to with him and, when the deal was done, he'd have a cup of tea or a beer with you.
Maybe that was because as an entrepreneur in the car business, he had learned to roll with the punches.
If he lost one deal he'd win the next, and looking at Port Vale's fantastic success while he was chairman, he got a hell of a lot more deals right than he did wrong.
Considering his ability to drive a bargain, he would have made a fantastic football agent.
I'd definitely want him on my side.