In Keith Ryder Vale fans may, at last, have found a leader worth following

There have been plenty of false dawns at Vale Park in recent years… Valiant 2001. Harlequin. Ameriturf. Blue Sky.

So many, in fact, that it’s actually incredibly hard for supporters to put their faith in anyone or anything.

But maybe, just maybe, in a few years’ time people will look back on this week’s open fans’ forum with Keith Ryder as a watershed moment and say: ‘I was there’.

Yes, the club is still in administration and there are certainly no chickens being counted in Burslem just yet.

But the impressive turnout by fans to welcome the preferred bidder to the club on a cold, wet, Wednesday night spoke volumes for Port Vale’s potential.

As did the atmosphere in the meeting which was heavy with optimism.

There was a sense that, after years in the wilderness, perhaps there was a brighter future ahead for the other football club in the Potteries.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the meeting was the way the main man conducted himself.

Clearly nervous at first, obviously not relishing his moment in the limelight, he palpably grew in stature and confidence as the evening wore on but never lost that initial humility.

When he spoke he was respectful to his customers, didn’t promise the earth and acknowledged that there was a great deal of work to be done to resuscitate Port Vale.

He seemed to me to give an honest, measured assessment of where the club is at present and he gave glimpses of where Vale could be if managed properly.

What’s more, Keith Ryder clearly understands the damage caused by previous regimes and the need for an ongoing dialogue with the supporters who have rescued it from oblivion.

All in all, to quote one member of the audience, he was ‘a breath of fresh air’ after years of posturing, prevarication and self-interest by smug suits who put themselves before the Vale.

It is, of course, still early days and – as we have seen many times before – talk is cheap.

But no-one who attended Wednesday night’s meeting could, in all fairness, pick fault with what they heard.

If Keith Ryder continues in this vein, if he is as good as his word, then he will be able to tap into a huge reservoir of goodwill and I’m convinced the lapsed fans will flood back to Vale Park.

What is certain is that, united, Vale fans are stronger and – who knows – in this unassuming Lancashire businessman we may at last have found a leader worth following.

Read my Port Vale columns every Friday during the season in The Sentinel


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