Two club legends made a return to Vale Park in October as Neil Aspin and John Rudge rejoined the club, but a third former fans’ favourite has now followed suit.
Jon McCarthy, a player who enjoyed two spells in Burslem during his career, will join the backroom staff as he takes up the role of fitness coach.
The winger was voted as Vale’s Player of the Year during his first season at the club and he went on to make over 100 appearances in a Valiants shirt.
On making the move back to Vale as a coach, McCarthy said: “I am delighted and I can’t wipe the smile off of my face, just to come back to the place.
“I’ve been away for a long time, so to come through the stadium - it brings back many memories.
“To see so many familiar faces around like John Rudge and Neil Aspin, it’s great to be back and having the chance to get out on the pitch with the players.
“It feels right to be back.”
Having spent a few years at Port Vale in his playing days, McCarthy insists that he has nothing but fond memories of the club, one which means a lot to him.
“This club played such an important part in my career and it was here that I played my best football,” he said.
“I had longer spells at some other clubs, but at Port Vale I recognised how fortunate I was to be in the team that John had built.
“Me and Lee Mills turned up on the same day, I remember I had a suit on, but Lee turned up in his jogging pants.
“Billy Bell got out of his Rolls Royce with some slippers on, but that group of players that I went into - what a squad.”
Reminiscing about how much he enjoyed his football lining up alongside a host of other Vale heroes, McCarthy branded it as the ‘best of times’ with the Valiants flying high.
During that period, the winger caught the eye of many as the club went on a run in the FA Cup, particularly with his performance in the 2-1 triumph over Everton in February 1996.
He said: “We had the best of times, the Anglo-Italian Cup Final against Genoa and the FA Cup game against Everton which would be my biggest connection with the football club and the fans, scoring that goal.
“The season when we finished eighth (1996/97), we were two games away from the play-offs for the Premiership - that’s how good a squad it was.
“Stoke finished below us as well so they’re just amazing memories for me.”
Many would regard Rudge as the best manager the football club has ever seen, so to play under him was undoubtedly special to McCarthy.
He also knows Aspin very well as a player, but they came up against each other in the dugout last season as managers, McCarthy having been in charge of Chester.
“Me and Neil have gone up against one another in terms of matches in the National League, but we’ve pretty much spoken every week so we know each other really well,” he explained.
“He knows I work hard and he is aware of the affinity I have for the club, but he also knows the respect I have for him.
“He’s given me a great opportunity here and I can’t wait to get in and amongst it all now.”
Since Aspin’s arrival as manager over a month ago, an upturn in results has reignited the optimism around ValePark and McCarthy is keen for the resurgence to continue.
Having seen the squad in action, he believes there is enough talent within the ranks to keep picking up points in Sky Bet League Two. He is also confident that Vale have the correct man in charge of things.
“I was here for the Accrington game before Neil was appointed,” McCarthy revealed.
“The players looked good enough despite the feeling being pretty low at that moment, but I knew as soon as he was linked with the job that he would be the right man.
“His appointment has given everyone a lift, but I know how diligent he is and the people he has brought in around him are excellent.
“We only see this football club as a second tier one, there’s no limits for us in terms of what Neil would want to achieve.
“We see it at that level and that’s what we will be aiming for.”