The city’s football clubs need their fans now – for very different reasons

Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite celebrates the 7 - 1 home win over Burton Albion.

Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite celebrates the 7 – 1 home win over Burton Albion.

Turn the clock back 12 months and you would have been given very good odds on the current state of affairs at football clubs in The Sentinel’s patch.

Alternatively, you may have been sectioned for suggesting such things.

At the time Stoke City were heading for another comfortable, if unspectacular, mid-table finish in the Premier League.

The icing on the cake was that Potters fans had enjoyed a Europa League adventure courtesy of the previous season’s heroics in reaching the FA Cup Final.

The football may not have been pretty at times but pundits were describing Stoke as an established Premier League team.

Such was his relationship with owner Peter Coates, it seemed that only an unthinkable fall from grace would place Tony Pulis’s position as manager in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, over in the Mother Town, things were looking grim for the Potteries’ other professional club.

In administration for a second time in 13 years, players and staff at the club were going unpaid and Micky Adams’s team were set to miss out on promotion thanks to a 10-point deduction inflicted by the Football League.

To this day, very few people realise just how close Port Vale came to oblivion which makes the events of recent months such a blessed relief for me.

The renaissance began with the (second) takeover announcement which was followed quickly by the long-awaited unveiling of the statue to the club’s greatest servant – Roy Sproson – funded entirely by Vale fans.

Perhaps a little bit of Sproson magic has rubbed off on the current squad because what has happened since has been nothing short of incredible.

Nobody, including Tom Pope himself, would have dared suggest that a bloke from Sneyd Green, a life-long Vale fan at that, would become only the third player since the war to score more than 30 goals for one of the Potteries clubs.

No-one who followed the Vale, least of all me, would have predicted that a squad mainly comprising free transfers was capable of challenging for automatic promotion.

Of course, the season’s story isn’t yet complete and I, for one, won’t be counting any chickens until it is mathematically impossible for Vale to cock it up.

However, the Lazarus-like revival of the club in the north of the city will, I trust, give some hope to our cousins down the A500 as they face a daunting six games to stave off relegation.

I mean it most sincerely when I say that I hope Stoke City get the points they need to survive in the Premier League.

It’s good for the city’s profile that they’re up there and it’s good for my long-suffering Stoke fan mates who remember only too well third tier football and attendances of less than half what they get nowadays.

The truth is I’ve mellowed. Perhaps it is the events of recent years have changed my perspective on things.

Yes, If Vale were playing Stoke in the cup tomorrow It goes without saying that I’d want Vale to murder them.

But right now the two clubs are poles apart – so much so that Stoke City aren’t on the radar of most Vale fans and vice versa.

Yes, there are some supporters on both sides who would be only too happy to see the other club go out of business.

Honestly, there are.

But I’m not one of them. Apart from anything else, I thoroughly enjoyed the Vale/Stoke derbies and would love to see them return some day.

I genuinely believe there’s room in this city for two successful professional football clubs.

I appreciate the fact that last Friday night, when cheap admission prices swelled Vale’s attendance to almost 11,000 for the first time in years, there were a number of Stokies in that crowd.

I also recall during the dark days of last March, April and May how some Stoke City fans attended games and gave generously to the Save The Vale collection buckets.

Stoke’s current crisis – one win in 13 games and the serious risk of being dragged into a relegation scrap – is one of a footballing nature. One that two wins would sort out.

However, as we know, the financial implications of dropping out of the top flight are enormous and everyone connected with Stoke City – from the owners to the fans in the cheapest seats – are feeling the strain right about now.

Tony Pulis – the man who got them into the Premier League and took them to their first FA Cup Final – is being almost universally vilified by fans on forums and radio station phone-ins.

Supporters have hesitated to renew their season tickets and Fortress Britannia suddenly seems far from impregnable.

The next few games will sort the wheat from the chaff and perhaps sort the hard-core of fans from the band-wagon jumpers of the last five years.

Both clubs need their supporters right now – for very different reasons.

I hope some of the 5,000 extras who turned up at Vale Park on Friday night will return to help usher in a successful new chapter in the club’s history.

I also hope Stoke City’s infamous twelfth man is enough to drag them over the line to safety.

Whether or not that will be enough to save the manager’s job remains to be seen.

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday

Advertisements

One thought on “The city’s football clubs need their fans now – for very different reasons

  1. Eric Roe says:

    You write with flare, thoughtful insight and passion. A talented journalist. Yes, for both of us VTwD but let’s always wish our neighbours well, in football and otherwise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s