1923–24 Port Vale F.C. season
|Stadium||The Old Recreation Ground|
|Football League Second Division||16th (38 Points)|
|FA Cup||Fifth Qualification Round|
(knocked out by Wrexham)
|North Staffordshire Infirmary Cup||Runners-up|
(knocked out by Stoke)
|Top goalscorer||League: Billy Briscoe (10)|
All: Billy Briscoe / Tom Page (10)
|Highest home attendance||16,800 vs Stoke, 13 October 1923|
|Lowest home attendance||3,000 vs South Shields, 21 January 1924|
|Average home league attendance||8,489|
|Biggest win||3–0 and 4–1|
|Biggest defeat||0–5 and 1–6|
The 1923–24 season was Port Vale's fifth consecutive season of football (18th overall) in the English Football League. Another season of slow and steady progress saw the club finish one point, and one place higher than the previous campaign. The club still lacked a regular goalscorer since selling Bobby Blood, however Wilf Kirkham made his debut, and goals came from all across the team. A still-standing club record was set on 5 April 1924, when Tom Holford played against Derby County at the age of 46.
The most notable incident in the campaign was the death of Tom Butler on 11 November 1923; he died from complications of a broken arm that he picked up whilst playing for the club.
To strengthen the side, pre-season signings included: Stalybridge Celtic goalkeeper Tommy Lonsdale; Macclesfield Town 'penalty king' right-back Jack Maddock; Leeds United tough-tackling half-back Alf Dark; Bolton Wanderers winger Jack Lowe; Clyde's reliable forward Fred Howard; and Exeter City goal machine Harold Crockford. The kit for the season was picked – red jerseys with white shorts.
The season started positively, with two wins recorded, as well as a 14,000 home crowd. However a run of one point won in five games saw the club slump down the table. The arrival of Ireland international Louis Bookman for £250 from Luton Town couldn't reverse the side's fortunes. Their stats by the end of October were: played twelve, lost eight, failed to score in six. This miserable run included two defeats inflicted by rivals Stoke – the first time they had done the double over Vale in the league. Crockford agreed to have his contract cancelled, and talks began to try to re-sign Billy Briscoe. A young Wilf Kirkham made his debut against Leeds United, but failed to make much of an impact.
Their rotten form seemed to have been turned around when the "Valiants" earned a 1–1 draw with Clapton Orient on 3 November 1923. Tom Butler scored the goal, yet paid the ultimate price for his efforts. Near the end of the match he suffered a compound fracture in his left arm, and complications set in whilst he was at Hackney Hospital, causing septic poisoning; he died of lockjaw on 11 November. The club paid his widow the rest of his wages, and Stoke and numerous other clubs donated generously to provide the widow with a £700 benefit fund.
Back to football, and the club signed 41-year-old former England international Arthur Bridgett, despite the fact that he had spent several years in retirement. The winger impressed, and scored within ninety seconds of his debut. Later in the year Peter Pursell returned to the field for the first time in the season following an injury, and was like a new signing. Despite all this, Vale still suffered, and a heavy defeat at Old Trafford saw them stuck at the foot of the table. Turning to 1924, the Vale managed a run of six games unbeaten, and Briscoe was finally given his pay rise and so was re-signed from Congleton Town.
Despite Blackpool putting twelve past the Vale defence, the latter half of the season saw a massive improvement, as they lost just 6 of the 22 games. Briscoe and Kirkham provided the goals necessary to lift the club out of the relegation zone. On 5 April 1924, Tom Holford played against Derby County at the age of 46 – still a club record.
At the end of season, Vale finished in sixteenth place with 38 points, making it two seasons in a row in which the club bettered their previous season tally by one point and one place. Performing poorly at home, only bottom place Bristol City lost more home games, and only second-bottom Nelson conceded more at home. Vale were five points clear of relegation, but thirteen points off a promotion place.
Briscoe, Page, Kirkham, and Bridgett were the major goalscorers. Full-back Len Birks was an ever-present, and Tommy Lonsdale, Jack Hampson, and Jack Lowe were also key first team players. As well as the debut of Kirkham, Roger Jones also made his debut, starting his fourteen-year association with the club. At the end of the season the club let Peter Pursell leave for Wigan Borough, whereas Lonsdale and Hampson both retired due to injury.
Finances were once again worrying for the club and its supporters. A greatly reduced wage bill of £7,900 still necessitated fund raising activities from fans to keep the club alive. Arthur Prince was also sold to Sheffield Wednesday to raise cash. Season ticket prices ranged from £2 6s. 6d. to £3, 6s. 6d.
In the FA Cup, Vale drew Third Division North Wrexham at the Fifth Round of Qualifying for the second successive season, and another disappointing defeat followed, this time at the Racecourse Ground, with the Welsh club running out 5–1 winners. The North Staffordshire Infirmary Cup went to Stoke, who beat Vale 1–0 at The Old Recreation Ground.
Port Vale's score comes first
Football League Second Division
Results by matchday
; = Away; = Home; = Win; = Draw = Loss
|25 August 1923||Crystal Palace||A||2–1||10,000||Crockford, Dark|
|27 August 1923||The Wednesday||H||2–0||14,000||Collinge, Crockford|
|1 September 1923||Crystal Palace||H||3–4||12,900||Howard (2 [1 pen]), Page|
|3 September 1923||The Wednesday||A||1–2||12,000||Lowe|
|8 September 1923||Stockport County||A||0–0||12,000|
|15 September 1923||Stockport County||H||0–1||11,000|
|22 September 1923||Leicester City||A||0–2||19,000|
|29 September 1923||Leicester City||H||2–1||6,400||Page, Connelly|
|6 October 1923||Stoke||A||0–1||21,685|
|13 October 1923||Stoke||H||2–4||16,800||Page, Butler|
|20 October 1923||Leeds United||H||0–1||9,300|
|27 October 1923||Leeds United||A||0–3||12,000|
|3 November 1923||Clapton Orient||A||1–1||15,000||Butler|
|10 November 1923||Clapton Orient||H||1–0||7,540||Bridgett|
|17 November 1923||Bradford City||A||0–2||7,500|
|24 November 1923||Bradford City||H||2–2||6,000||Connelly, Bridgett|
|8 December 1923||Barnsley||H||4–1||6,083||Page (2), Hampson, Bridgett|
|15 December 1923||Manchester United||H||0–1||7,500|
|22 December 1923||Manchester United||A||0–5||11,750|
|29 December 1923||Bury||H||2–1||8,348||Reid, Bridgett|
|1 January 1924||South Shields||A||3–3||10,000||Page, Bridgett, Reid|
|5 January 1924||Bury||A||0–0||10,000|
|19 January 1924||Coventry City||A||3–1||8,000||Bridgett (2), Kirkham|
|21 January 1924||South Shields||H||1–1||3,000||Hampson|
|26 January 1924||Coventry City||H||1–1||10,000||Lowe|
|2 February 1924||Barnsley||A||0–3||7,000|
|9 February 1924||Bristol City||H||0–2||6,000|
|13 February 1924||Bristol City||A||0–0||7,000|
|16 February 1924||Southampton||A||1–1||10,000||Briscoe|
|1 March 1924||Fulham||A||0–0||12,000|
|8 March 1924||Fulham||H||3–1||9,000||Kirkham (2), Briscoe|
|15 March 1924||Blackpool||H||2–6||11,700||Briscoe (2 [1 pen])|
|17 March 1924||Southampton||H||1–0||5,000||Kirkham|
|22 March 1924||Blackpool||A||1–6||10,000||Page|
|29 March 1924||Derby County||H||2–0||8,000||Maddock (pen), Briscoe|
|5 April 1924||Derby County||A||0–2||10,000|
|12 April 1924||Nelson||A||3–1||6,000||Page, Briscoe, Kirkham|
|18 April 1924||Oldham Athletic||A||0–2||11,000|
|19 April 1924||Nelson||H||0–0||8,000|
|21 April 1924||Oldham Athletic||H||3–0||6,000||Kirkham, Page, Briscoe|
|26 April 1924||Hull City||H||2–2||5,689||Briscoe, Kirkham|
|3 May 1924||Hull City||A||2–1||6,000||Briscoe (2)|
|5Q||1 December 1923||Wrexham||A||1–5||8,390||Page|
North Staffordshire Infirmary Cup
|Final||28 April 1924||Stoke||H||0–1|
|Pos.||Name||Football League||FA Cup||Other||Total|
|Place||Position||Nation||Name||Second Division||FA Cup||Infirmary Cup||Total|
|1923||MF||Arthur Bridgett||Sunderland||Free transfer|
|1923||FW||Wilf Kirkham||Congleton Town||Free transfer|
|April 1923||FW||Joe Pointon||Stoke City||Free transfer|
|May 1923||MF||Harold Crockford||Exeter City||Free transfer|
|May 1923||MF||Jack Lowe||Bolton Wanderers||Free transfer|
|June 1923||MF||Alf Dark||Leeds United||Free transfer|
|June 1923||GK||Tommy Lonsdale||Stalybridge Celtic||Free transfer|
|June 1923||DF||William Newton||Red Street P.S.A.||Free transfer|
|July 1923||FW||Fred Howard||Clyde||Free transfer|
|July 1923||MF||Roger Jones||Ravensdale||Free transfer|
|July 1923||MF||Jack Mellor||New Mills||Free transfer|
|July 1923||GK||Robert Radford||Brereton Social||Free transfer|
|August 1923||DF||Jack Maddock||Macclesfield Town||Free transfer|
|August 1923||DF||Jimmy Oakes||Milton Albion||Free transfer|
|September 1923||MF||Louis Bookman||Luton Town||£250|
|November 1923||FW||Albert Spencer||Wolverhampton Wanderers||Free transfer|
|January 1924||FW||Billy Briscoe||Congleton Town||Free transfer|
|February 1924||MF||George Benson||Queens Park Rangers||Trial|
|September 1923||MF||Harold Crockford||Chesterfield||Mutual consent|
|November 1923||FW||Tom Butler||His death|
|November 1923||FW||Fred Howard||New Brighton||Free transfer|
|February 1924||MF||George Benson||Chorley||Trial ended|
|February 1924||DF||William Newton||Congleton Town||Free transfer|
|May 1924||MF||Arthur Prince||Sheffield Wednesday||£750|
|Summer 1924||MF||Louis Bookman||Shelbourne||Released|
|Summer 1924||MF||Arthur Bridgett||Sandbach Ramblers||Released|
|Summer 1924||MF||Alf Dark||Halifax Town||Released|
|Summer 1924||MF||Jack Hampson||Released|
|Summer 1924||MF||Tom Holford||Retired|
|Summer 1924||GK||Tommy Lonsdale||Released|
|Summer 1924||MF||Jack Mellor||New Mills||Released|
|Summer 1924||DF||Peter Pursell||Wigan Borough||Free transfer|
|Summer 1924||GK||Robert Radford||Brereton Social||Released|
|Summer 1924||FW||Albert Spencer||Willenhall||Released|
- Kent, Jeff (1990). "Keeping in Good Company (1919-1929)". The Valiants' Years The Story Of Port Vale. Witan Books. pp. 98–123. ISBN 0-9508981-4-7.
- Port Vale 1923–1924 : Results & Fixtures Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Statto Organisation. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- Kent, Jeff (1996). Port Vale Personalities. Witan Books. ISBN 0-9529152-0-0.