Season to forget caused by a collective failure

FOR the last few months Vale supporters have been placed in the position of spectators to a plane crash.
Utterly powerless to avert a catastrophe, they have been glued to the spectacle – unable to tear their eyes away from the unfolding tragedy.
No-one really blamed the first pilot for bailing out,  but the other one surely deserves to have his licence revoked having steered a course just south of oblivion.
Those who came after him could do little to prevent our dreams of promotion from crashing and burning.
When the end came, predictable as it was, with defeat at Stevenage last Monday, it still hurt like hell.
But as we sift through the wreckage of what looked for all the world like a promotion campaign, we don’t need a black box flight recorder to tell us where it all went wrong.
Since Micky Adams left his team have produced relegation form.
His successors have simply been unable to coax that extra 10 to 20 per cent out of the players which had turned them into promotion hopefuls.
I attach no blame to Mark Grew and Geoff Horsfield here, as they were handed a hospital pass when Jim Gannon walked out.
We can blame bonkers tactics, we can blame a lack of match fitness due to players being frozen out, but in the final analysis this squad wasn’t good enough.
Adams was the glue binding them together and in his absence troubled individuals have reverted to type and key players have failed to deliver.
Having been handed numerous chances to get back into the play-offs zone, the team’s inability to:
a) keep a clean sheet
b) score any goals, and
c) beat poor teams at the bottom of the table proved their undoing.
The rapport the squad had built up with the fans – a rapport forged of mutual adversity – has evaporated.
We are now the whipping boys of League Two – and so much so that it is hard to believe this same team was top of the table earlier in the season.
The players need to take a long, hard look at themselves because, at the very least, the play-offs were there for taking and time and again they blew it.
In fairness, the inability of our squad to make the top seven this season has to be viewed as a collective failure – not just of the players, but of the various coaching staff and the board of directors.
I don’t believe the players have been affected by the anti-board protests. They are professional footballers.
But they were clearly deeply disturbed by the regime change when Micky Adams departed.
I’m afraid the board has to shoulder responsibility for the appointment of Jim Gannon, who will surely go down as having crippled the promotion push with his bizarre decisions and eccentric behaviour.
It was a gamble to appoint a character like Gannon, who brought a totally alien managerial philosophy to the club. It was a gamble which blew up in our faces.
Directors also have to face up to the fact that they have caused a civil war among supporters.
The question that needs asking is why do so many Vale fans feel so disenchanted that they are demonstrating, signing petitions and plotting against the club’s leadership?
How on earth did we arrive at a situation where large numbers of Vale supporters are pledging not to renew their season tickets?
Why is there a well-organised and concerted effort by fans to call an EGM?
The answer to all these questions is that hundreds of die-hard Vale supporters – particularly those not of pipe and slippers age – feel let down and disenfranchised by directors who do not appear to be listening to their concerns and, worse still, don’t seem to care.
And this, lest we forget, from a board supposedly in place to represent the fans’ best interests.
To address this problem the directors could do a lot worse than have a proper supporter representative on the board to give your average fan a voice.
Not a puppet or a muppet, you understand, but someone with the bottle and the gumption to constantly challenge the status quo. Just a thought, mind.
The bottom line is that while Valiant 2001, the   supporters’ group who brought the club out of administration, can keep it ticking over, they have so far failed to attract the  significant levels of investment which will take the club to the next level.
Clearly the directors don’t want Mo Chaudry’s money – for whatever reason. The phoney war of claim and counter claim is pointless because that much is patently obvious.
Now that’s all well and good – so long as the board can come up with investment of several million pounds over the summer, that is.
I believe there are still many supporters who remain to be convinced by Mr Chaudry’s vision for Port Vale or indeed his motivations for wanting the club.
However, there are growing numbers of fans who just can’t see a viable alternative.
Yes, the board has had to put up with an awful lot of criticism – some of which has been beyond the pale.
But, to use a tired cliché, football is ultimately a results business. Clubs and their customers – the fans – thrive on aspiration and success.
Both of these have been in short supply of late at ST6 1AW.
I feel for the new chief executive, Perry Deakin, but had to smile when I read his letter urging me to renew my season ticket “as we draw to the end of one of the most exciting seasons in recent times”.
Really? Gut-wrenchingly disappointing, yes. Toe-curlingly embarrassing, yes. But exciting? I don’t think so.
I know the guy has hardly had time to get his feet under his new Port Vale desk, but spouting such ridiculous froth is hardly likely to win over fans already suspicious of someone appointed by what they regard as a discredited board.
That said, I will be renewing my season ticket this week and I think many supporters will do the same before August – not wanting to hurt the club or lose their preferred spot at the Wembley of the North.
But, in truth, even I’m all out of optimism… while the board is fast running out of excuses.
Wouldn’t it be far better if they actually answered just a few of the questions that fans – the people they are supposed to represent – have repeatedly put to them.
Why, for example, did they fail to reply to Mark Sims’ attempt to invest in the club?
Why, for example, have they still to clarify Graham Mudie’s position on the board when it would seem he no longer represents Broxap’s interests in the club?
And what of the mystery consortium who are ready to trump Chaudry’s deal?
If anything, it seems the contempt with which some members of the board appear to hold their fellow fans has been as big a factor in the growing unrest at Vale Park as anything that has happened on the pitch.
That’s why the real danger now facing the board is not Mo Chaudry and his millions, but their lack of moral legitimacy as guardians of Port Vale Football Club.


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