Robbie Williams returned to his boyhood club, Port Vale, earlier this week, ahead of a special homecoming stadium show next summer.
We took the opportunity to sit down with the singer to discuss his early memories of the club, thoughts on coming home and on Vale's season so far...
First of all, how do you feel about being back at Port Vale, your hometown club?
“I’m buzzing. It’s like putting on a pair of your favourite slippers, slipping on your favourite pyjamas and getting into the crevice of your favourite part of the sofa. It’s really cool to be home."
What are your first memories of the club?
“My first memories of Port Vale? Well, my Dad used to run the social club for a while, but I was a kid then. I’ve been to the Vale in a pram. The most potent memories are like Vale winning against Tottenham in the cup, that was a massive moment in Vale’s history. I think Terry Venables said ‘we’re missing three internationals’ and someone from Vale said ‘well, we were missing 11!’ It was 50p to get in, so it was accessible, and it was safe at a time when football wasn’t so safe. Vale was a family club. I love the humour of the terraces, and that feeling of belonging. I remember exactly where I used to sit. You’d used to swap ends depending on whichever way we were attacking. The away fans used to be just behind us too. I live just around the corner, and it couldn’t have been more accessible, it was incredible to have this on my doorstep."
Who were your favourite players growing up?
"Robbie Earle, Neil Aspin, Andy Jones - even though he wasn't here for that long, he made a big impression on me - and Martin Foyle. John Jeffers was a fan favourite too, we adored him. It was a great place to watch your favourite team, and to grow up. It was the first time I felt like an adult because I could go there by myself."
Has it always been Vale for you?
"The thing I loved about coming to Vale as a kid is the feeling of belonging and having something that's yours. I did go to the other mob [Stoke City] for a bit, before the Vale, someone took me there but it just wasn't for me. Hopefully we'll be playing them next season, at least twice!"
The current club captain, Tom Pope, is also a local lad. How proud does that make you as a fan?
“Tom Pope is a local boy who’s done brilliantly. One of my great regrets about not being here more often is that I haven’t had the chance to fully appreciate having a local boy leading my team. That feels good, and I’m sorry to have missed that.”
And finally, what have you made of their season so far?
“Vale’s fortunes have changed on the pitch because of the people that are in charge, and there’s a real buzz about the place again. There seems to be a real community spirit in there, which is vital for a club like this – there has to be good people at the top and there are at Vale. I can feel an energy about the place."
Robbie Williams was speaking at Vale Park ahead of a special homecoming stadium show on 20 June 2020. His newly launched Christmas album is also out now, and available here.