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Of course, when talking about transfer records in the lower leagues around the globe, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see that they can’t exactly boast with many superstar signings or even if they somehow can, those signings are often not really recent at all.
Port Vale are no exception to this rule and their transfer record hasn’t been dethroned over 20 years running now as it dates back to the 1997/98 season when they signed Gareth Ainsworth from Lincoln City for a record fee of £675,000. They probably didn’t think Ainsworth would stay on top of the pile for such a long time.
Still, that season was quite special for them since they really splashed the cash to buy a player who would end up becoming their second-biggest signing of all time – Simon Barker, a star who was brought in from Queens Park Rangers for £457,000. Both of those aforementioned signings surpassed the former record-holder, Jon McCarthy, and the £450,000 price tag it took Vale to get him from York City back in 1995/96.
In 1998/99, however, they also signed Marcus Bent, forking out another £450,000 that matched McCarthy’s fee as well. When talking about exits, we have a fairly similar situation with the late ‘90s dominating the scene.
Ainsworth was bought for a record fee but interestingly enough, he left for an even bigger one, and Port Vale made a total of £2.7m with his departure to Wimbledon FC in 1998/99. A very similar thing is true for McCarthy whose exit to Birmingham City a season before that made them a nice profit of £1.8m along the way too
In third place, we have Anthony Gardner who made a £1.3m switch to Tottenham Hotspur in the 1999/20 campaign.
Even though they can’t exactly boast with historic transfer fees, some of the deals Port Vale made over the years have certainly made an impact on the club as a whole. The likes of Simon Mills, Mark Goodlad and Neil Aspin were brought in and ended up enjoying incredible spells for the team, becoming icons along the way too.
And then there is McCarthy whose transfer, both incoming and outgoing, made quite a splash as he was also an incredibly influential player during his stay at Vale. We can say the very same thing about Ainsworth as well since he is the current record-holder in both categories.
But there are some more who warrant a mention like Allen Tankard and Ray Walker, both bargains in their own right that set the stage ablaze following their arrival to the club.