Tales from between the sticks

Ray King accepts his Port Vake footba shirt from reporter Robet Brooks.
Ray King accepts his Port Vake footba shirt from reporter Robet Brooks.

AMBLE’S Ray King is not only a Port Vale goalkeeping legend, but now a twice-published writer of memoirs following the release of his latest book To The End Of The Road.

Ray, who still holds the football league record for clean sheets after keeping 30 in 46 games in the 1953/4 season, is the last surviving member of the Port Vale side from 1950 when the club moved to new stadium Vale Park, and has plenty of anecdotes to share.

To The End Of The Road contains a mixture of early memories, sporting moments, Ray’s relationships with some of the greats of world football, his thoughts on modern football and much more.

Split into bitesize chunks, each telling a different experience from across Ray’s eventful life, the book is perfect for reading a little at a time, or all at once, enjoying the company of the wry and charismatic Mr King. He returned to writing following the reaction of readers to his first book, Hands, Feet and Balls. The 86-year-old decided to give his fans what they wanted.

“It’s not only for sports fans but for everyone,” he said. “People enjoyed the first book so much that they said they would like me to write another one and I have got time on my hands. The most difficult thing about anything is starting it off.”

One of the recurring themes in Ray’s book is the differences between football today and back in the 1950s.

Ray said: “There’s a tremendous difference. Today you have pristine pitches compared to the muddy pitches and the heavy ball which got heavier during the game.

“Today, goalkeepers get it so easy with a nice ball. And they wear gloves!”

And what about the money?

“I’m not a jealous person but today very ordinary players are getting 40, 50, 60 thousand pounds a week, which is absolutely horrendous.

“I got £17 a week. Money didn’t come into it, we just loved playing the game.

“One of my favourite things was coming into the dressing room, caked in mud, and having a steaming mug of sweet tea knowing you’d done a good a job.”

Ray’s mantra has always been to make the most of life and not to give in to fear or frailty.

“You have to make the most of what you’ve got because playing careers are so short.

“It’s all about memories so that’s why I write books.”

l To The End Of The Road, published by Fast Print and priced at £9.99, is available from the publisher’s website www.fastprint.co.uk or www.amazon.co.u