When Norman Smurthwaite sent a text on Monday to say all was good and that the takeover of Port Vale would be completed the following day I felt an enormous sense of relief.
Yesterday marked the end of a very long and, at times, incredibly dark road for Port Vale, its staff and its long-suffering supporters.
For me, personally, the takeover means I can now step down from the Supporters’ Club (SC) committee knowing that we have achieved what we set out to achieve.
The self-interested few who were running Port Vale into the ground 12 months ago are history and will very soon be hearing from the liquidators of the old Valiant 2001.
Crucially, Port Vale is out of administration and under new ownership.
I’m proud to say that during the last 12 months the SC has grown in membership from 200 to more than 1,600.
And, after 11 years, the Sproson Statue is finally in-situ and looks magnificent.
It is about 18 months ago that I stumbled from the EGM, shell-shocked that the will of the vast majority of ordinary shareholders in Port Vale had been denied.
Hopefully, I’ve kept a promise to a supporter called Caroline who was standing outside on that day.
Fast forward a few months – December 1, 2011, to be precise. That’s when the SC committee members had their first spectacular falling out with Perry Deakin and Peter Miller.
What began as a cordial discussion descended into a slanging match when Messrs Miller and Deakin were presented with evidence of the issuing of half a million pounds worth nil paid shares.
Then they locked us out of Tommy Cheadle’s. The gloves were off.
What followed was several months of digging, arranging meetings, seeking legal advice and protests.
We exposed the fact the Blue Sky deal was dead and unearthed the sorry saga of the re-mortgaging of the club and the Gibraltar loan.
We even went as far as to create an interim board in preparation for a second EGM which never happened.
Of course, the SC was able to draw on a reservoir of goodwill formed by years of unhappiness and unrest.
It was able to bring together groups like North London Valiants, Black and Gold and the Starve ’Em Out campaign under one umbrella.
Let’s never forget it was these people who started the fight. They laid the foundations for change.
Ultimately, together, these groups and the SC were to prove an irresistible force – one which put paid to the likes of Miller and Deakin, Mike Lloyd and Glenn Oliver.
When the club went into administration earlier this year there was absolutely no guarantee that Port Vale would survive.
But thanks to the city council we were given a lifeline that we clung to for grim death.
Fans collected money in buckets, bought mugs and t-shirts and showed the local authority that they were right to help save our unique local heritage brand.
Then the Keith Ryder affair almost derailed everyone’s good work.
However, yesterday we crossed the finish line. Together.
I can’t give any guarantees about the future. Football is football. Owners and fans alike are fickle. Circumstances change. Players and managers come and go.
But I think Port Vale is now in a better position than it has been for many years and its success or otherwise is now down to the business people who run it – not the SC, not shareholders, not the administrators nor the cretins who used to be in charge.
Port Vale will be run by some blokes who know full well the importance of making it a customer-focused business.
Who knows, we may even have a shot at promotion this season with the Sneyd Green Pontiff leading the line. At least now we can focus on what’s happening on the pitch rather than off it.
During the last 12 months I have fallen out with everyone: My colleagues at The Sentinel; my friends on the Supporters’ Club committee; various bidders; the administrators and even club staff.
My friends and I on the SC committee have been called all the names under the sun by keyboard warriors who haven’t been prepared to say it to our faces or lift a finger to help.
They include supporters of failed bidders for the club, former club staff, former directors and even disgruntled ex-SC committee members.
Some people still maintain we were wrong to campaign for change. Some people will never admit when they’re wrong.
I’ve witnessed unbelievable self-interest from people who really ought to have known better.
I’ve been abused while collecting money in a bucket at the Bycars turnstiles and on The Sentinel’s website by some wag who now refers to me as ‘the mob’s favourite journalist’.
How my gaffer must love that. Not.
Frankly, being involved with Port Vale Supporters’ Club has been a thankless task.
We’ve often doubted ourselves. There have been countless hours spent on the telephone and in meetings. Many a sleepless night because of what we’ve learned.
We’ve been party to discussions which have left us genuinely gobsmacked and been given information which has been dynamite. Much of it still is.
But we’ve only ever acted in what we consider to be the best interests of the club. That is the truth.
Just ask the administrators or Norman Smurthwaite if you don’t believe me. Just ask Phil Sproson and the wider Sproson family.
There’s a book in this and one day soon, perhaps, I will sit down with Gary Benson and write it.
Or maybe not.
Again, it depends what’s in the best interests of Port Vale and, sometimes – as we have learned, it’s better not to rock the boat.
It has been a privilege working with Gary and Pete Williams, my other colleagues on the SC committee and our solicitor Stephen Inglis.
It has also been a genuine pleasure to meet so many decent, honest and passionate Port Vale fans – many of whom I’m now proud to call friends.
Whatever the future holds I’m confident that Vale will be alright precisely because of people like Gary and Pete and the hundreds more who have fought this fight with us.
Today we can all be proud. Now we really can look forward and not backwards.
We’re Vale, aren’t we?