I’m going into tomorrow night’s open fans’ forum with Keith Ryder with a totally open mind.
Part of me is just looking forward to being at Vale Park and listening to what the bloke who may take over the running of the club has to say.
This isn’t a meeting organised by the Supporters’ Club – rather it is a meeting called by Mr Ryder and the administrators to enable supporters to meet the preferred bidder and air their questions and concerns.
The fact that we are in a position, as fans, to do this is a big step forward after the seige mentality adopted by the previous board.
Cynicism is fine at this stage. Scepticism is perfectly understandable. In fact, these are exactly the viewpoints I’d expect any Vale fan to adopt in the light of recent goings-on.
However, it is important that we balance a wary outlook with a degree of optimism and fair-mindedness.
I’m approaching tomorrow night like I would any interview – looking to deal with the basics first…
Who is Keith Ryder? Where’s he from? How’s he made his money? When and how did he come to be interested in investing in Port Vale? What dealings did he have with the previous board?
These are all important questions to enable us to put together a picture of the man who would be chairman.
It matters not to me that he once sat in a box with Glenn Oliver or had meetings with Perry Deakin and Peter Miller.
So long as these individuals never enter the Vale board room again that’s what is important to my mind.
Personally, I hope the administrators can shed a little more light on their work and whether or not certain individuals are going to be made to pay for the harm they have caused to Port Vale.
As for Mr Ryder’s vision, well we will have to wait and see.
I don’t expect in-depth financial projections, details of his personal fortune or cast-iron guarantees about spending on the squad.
For one thing, Mr Ryder is now on a huge learning curve about Port Vale and he is going to need a little time to get his head around the business.
I, for one, would be delighted if we received assurances that Micky Adams was staying at Vale Park and early indications are that the gaffer can work with Mr Ryder… so fingers crossed.
As an aside, I’d also be chuffed if we were able to hang on to a few players who I rate – primarily Lofty (one of the few players still under contract), Griff and Rico – but there are many factors which will determine who stays and goes over the summer and so I am not going to blame either the manager or the preferred bidder if we lose key performers.
I am sure Mr Ryder is savvy enough not to promise the earth at this stage.
It’s all about baby steps: Getting the Sproson statue erected; looking after the life members; perhaps reducing match day prices; ensuring better customer service across the club; improving the commercial side of the business. This is all basic but vital stuff.
Mr Ryder and his team have to try to win the hearts and minds of as many Vale supporters as possible while working hard to tempt back thousands of lapsed fans.
He will never please everyone because Port Vale is a broad church and, as we are now seeing, there are a minority for whom moaning and self-interest has become a way of life.
But let’s be positive. It is a fact that when it is united Vale’s fanbase is much stronger than when it is beset by bickering, finger-pointing and personal agendas.
The Supporters’ Club (SC) is far from perfect but its volunteers are doing their best under difficult circumstances – continuing to be discreet when necessary while never forgetting the prime motive of giving ordinary fans a voice.
The SC was able to build on all the great work done by Black & Gold, North London Valiants and Starve ‘Em Out and it was the cumulative efforts of many, many people who brought about the removal of the parasites once in charge of Port Vale.
The Supporters’ Club has begun a dialogue with Mr Ryder and is cautiously optimistic about the future.
It’s stance, at this stage, is surely no different than that of anyone who wants the best for Port Vale.
Keith Ryder deserves a warm welcome and a fair hearing tomorrow night. He’ll get it from me and, I’m sure, the vast majority of people who attend the meeting.
Tomorrow night isn’t just about quizzing Keith Ryder: It’s about demonstrating to the preferred bidder that Port Vale is a club with heart and no little potential.
Read my Port Vale articles every Friday during the season in The Sentinel