Enough really is enough. Port Vale’s employees and supporters deserve much, much better than the farce that is being played out in public at the moment.
The ongoing saga of preferred-bidder Keith Ryder’s takeover of the club is once again turning Port Vale into a laughing stock and undermining his reputation with the very people he ultimately needs to win over.
For weeks and weeks now, just like the Supporters’ Club, I have kept my powder dry. I have answered fans honestly when they have rung me, emailed or contacted me via Twitter or Facebook.
At the same time I haven’t wanted to fuel the rumours and speculation or doing anything to rock the boat.
I am just desperate for our club to be out of administration and avoiding a 10-point deduction.
But now, two weeks from the start of the new season, I am forced to ask: What the hell is going on at Port Vale?
Even if we accept that ‘draconian’ conditions are being attached to the takeover by the Football League and that their lawyers are going through the deal with a fine toothcomb, the current delays are frankly intolerable and, in my opinion, are seriously jeopardising the future of Port Vale.
Whilst not expecting to be privvy to every dot and comma of the negotiations, I believe that we fans (I include the Supporters’ Club in this) have been treated very shabbily in recent weeks and months.
There was a time, not so long ago, when myself and Supporters’ Club chairman Pete Williams sat on a panel at Vale Park with manager Micky Adams and the administrators to show solidarity for what we hoped would be a new era at Port Vale.
Back then we were useful to the administrators. We were necessary to bring the fans onside for the tricky period that lay ahead.
I can assure you that since that time the Supporters’ Club’s committee has worked tirelessly to build bridges, forge relationships and ask questions of all the relevant parties on a regular basis.
At no point has anyone sat on their laurels, been soft-soaped or fobbed off. However, we have been – at times – conveniently ignored and I, for one, am sick of it.
We at the Supporters’ Club (SC), and in the local media for that matter, can only work with the information we are given by the administrators, by the Football League and by Keith Ryder himself.
As of last Friday the deal was still on and Mr Ryder assured the SC that he was just one signature away from securing the necessary Football League approval for his takeover – which would hopefully be given on Monday (today).
Now, according to my colleagues on The Sentinel’s sportsdesk, it seems we face yet more delays. Why? Why on Earth would there be any more delays? How can Mr Ryder and Bob Young be so spectacularly wrong again and again on their assessment of where the deal is?
The Football League, administrator Bob Young and Keith Ryder himself know damn well that we are running out of time and that many fans have long since run out of patience.
Many now, rightly or wrongly, suspect that Mr Ryder either a) doesn’t have the money to buy the club or b) isn’t prepared to sign up to conditions which the Football League requires of him.
Having met him privately three times in very amicable meetings where we talked about future plans for the club I’m still none the wiser. I know very little about Mr Ryder because that’s the way he chooses to play it.
Therefore we are forced to rely on our own impressions of the man and, more importantly, the administrators who did their homework and chose him as the preferred-bidder for Port Vale.
The incredibly poor handling of this takeover by all three parties from a public relations perspective, in terms of deadlines set and broken and the non-existent communications with Port Vale’s fans, has severely damaged their reputation and is in danger of derailing our season before it begins.
Mr Young hasn’t helped by making himself a hostage to fortune by giving hoped-for completion dates that have been missed time and time and time again.
I remember Mr Young having the gall to criticise the newspaper I work for when he first took over, as I sat there in the audience, for running a story about players not being paid.
He was condescending and dismissive and accused the local rag of getting its facts wrong.
Well touché, Bob.
The facts now are that season tickets have yet to be issued, we have no new kit, we have no new sponsors.
On a day-to-day basis it seems Port Vale is a rudderless ship. Who exactly is running our club? Who is calling the shots during this weird limbo period?
You would think it would be the administrators, wouldn’t you, but by their own admission they are not always at the club.
I have consoled myself in recent weeks with the logic that the administrators must have done their homework. I have reassured myself that if there was a major problem with the deal then they (or the Football League) would have pulled the plug on this takeover by now.
Let’s put it it this way: If the deal goes pear-shaped now then there is very little time to get a new buyer in and sort out the many and varied issues any football club faces going into a new season.
I sincerely hope Keith Ryder gets the approval he needs in the coming days. I sincerely hope he is the real deal and that the faith invested in him by Port Vale fans in recent weeks and months hasn’t been misplaced.
By the same token I hope the administrators and the Football league know what they are doing. They ought to, surely.
Whatever the truth of these latest delays, then in the near future all three parties will have a lot of questions to answer over the shambles of recent weeks which have led to unnecessary fear, anger and yet more mistrust.
I feel for the club’s employees – including Micky Adams and his staff – who are attempting to prepare for a new season with one hand tied behind their backs.
There will be some who, for their own reasons, would like to see this deal fall through. They’d like to be proved right. They’d like to say ‘I told you so’.
I, for one, hope they are wrong. I have no vested interest in any individual and, like the SC, never believed in taking sides.
I hope the deal goes ahead as soon as possible and that two of the three parties involved show some humility and some much-needed transparency in the coming weeks.
Port Vale supporters fought tooth and nail to rescue their club from a corrupt regime last year and deserve better than to be led a merry dance by the very people entrusted to secure its future.
If the deal does go through it still leaves many questions unanswered and people will want to know just what exactly were the stumbling blocks which turned a complex takeover into a recurring nightmare.
That’s before we even begin chasing up the administrators and Staffordshire Police over alleged wrong-doing by members of the previous board of directors.
Read my Port Vale articles every Friday during the season in The Sentinel