Now is our time: Just one more big performance please, lads

Adam Yates, Tom Pope and Lee Hughes show their passion.

Adam Yates, Tom Pope and Lee Hughes show their passion.

These are the moments you live for as a football fan. The reason that people care so much.

There will be tension tomorrow. There may well be tears before bedtime: Hopefully tears of joy.

But above all there will be a passion built of a momentum that has been growing since that opening day victory against Barnet.

So much hinges on this game: If the Burton game was huge then this is colossal.

A victory would almost certainly see us promoted given our astonishing goal difference.

That achievement would surely rank among English football’s greatest comebacks – a testament to Port Vale’s fans, its players, the coaching staff and the club’s new owners.

I can say now that there was a moment, a couple of days before Vale went into administration, when I honestly didn’t know whether or not we’d have a football club to support in 2013.

I wondered if perhaps in forcing out the discredited board of directors who had brought the Vale to its knees we had also doomed the club. That’s how close we came to oblivion.

It was, in some respects, a huge gamble but one that many of us felt was essential in order for Vale to have any kind of future.

As a result our club started the season in administration – with players and staff going unpaid for a time.

Indeed, some players turned their back on Port Vale precisely because its survival and, therefore, their financial future could not be guaranteed.

I remember supporters turning up to clean the stadium, do some painting and prepare Vale Park for the new season.

I recall the bucket collections, the sale of t-shirts and mugs by the Supporters’ Club and the umpteen meetings to try to help the Vale in any way possible.

I will never forget the pride felt by so many on the day the Sproson statue was finally unveiled.

Amid all the furore Micky Adams, his staff and players have been quietly going about their business.

Against the odds, with a small budget at the beginning of the season, they have somehow battled their way into the promotion places and now history awaits.

They deserve enormous credit for their performances thus far and all we ask is that tomorrow, once again, they make us proud.

One more big performance, perhaps blessed with a goal or two from the Sneyd Green Pontiff, will be the icing on the cake of a fabulous season.

I believe.

For all the latest Port Vale news, views and pictures pick up a copy of The Sentinel. The Weekend Sentinel on Saturday includes The Green ‘Un sports paper with extensive Vale coverage.


The Wonder of You: Victory and relief at last for Port Vale fans

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?

So far so good for new-look Valiants

Six goals scored and fifth in the league after three games. I dare say most people would have taken that before the season kicked off.

Yes, we were beaten away at Accrington but, from what those who were there tell me, it was a game we could and should have won.

What’s perhaps most pleasing about the start we’ve made is that the team minus Marc Richards and Sean Rigg is creating lots of chances and hitting the net.

While I was disappointed to see both strikers leave during the summer – along with the workhorse that is Anthony Griffith – I never thought it was the end of the world.

I like Rico. He did a good job for us and so I’m not going to criticise him.

However, as is perhaps being exposed now, I think the Vale of recent seasons relied too heavily on him to score goals.

We played through him and to him – often at the expense of other strikers whose confidence ebbed away as a result.

By the same token, I think Sean Rigg flattered to deceive. Sure, he had a purple patch towards the end of the season (shop window time), but very often struggled to hit a barn door.

To be fair to him, however, he always put in a shift when asked to play as a makeshift winger and was sometimes our most creative player.

Griff was loved by Vale supporters because he always gave 100 per cent – which is why we forgave him for not being able to pass.

Yes, his passing did improve, but let’s be honest – we will remember Griff mainly for his workrate and well-timed tackles.

This new Vale team will take a few more games to gel properly but the signs are encouraging.

I’m not too worried about our defence because I think it’s solid and Chris Neal looks like a goalkeeper we can have a bit of confidence in at last – something I’ve not had since Goodlad was between the sticks.

As always, of course, goals will be crucial and I’m pleased we are scoring from different areas of the park and that Tom Pope has bagged a couple already.

If he carries on in this vein then there will soon be some Vale fans with egg on their faces.

The bottom line is this: Thanks to Keith Ryder’s bizarre disappearing trick we are still in administration and a winning Port Vale team is far more attractive to potential buyers than one languishing at the bottom of League Two.

So far so good, then. Keep it up, boys.

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

Port Vale, Keith Ryder and a few home truths…

I can’t quite believe that here we are, 10 days before the start of our first competitive fixture of the new season, and Port Vale is still in a state of crisis.

When Keith Ryder was unveiled as the preferred bidder for the club at the beginning of April, no-one could have envisaged that four months later we would still be waiting for his money to arrive and for the deal to go through.

Yes, there will be a few know-it-alls trying to claim some credit, pretending that they knew all along that Keef had no money.

There will also be a few still banging the drum for Mo Chaudry and saying it would all have been so different if the Waterworld owner had taken over.

So let’s set a few records straight before tomorrow night’s Supporters’ Club meeting at Vale Park.

No-one – none of us – could have foreseen that we would still be waiting for Keith Ryder’s money to come through four months after he was anointed. I include the administrators in this.

I met Keith Ryder privately three times but came away with the same impression anyone who had met him at the open forum would have had: Seems like a decent bloke. Head screwed on. No daft promises.

In the end, I was left clutching at the fact that it was the job of the administrators and, to a lesser extent, the Football League to check that the Lancashire businessman had the financial wherewithall and was a fit and proper person to own a football club.

The jury is still out on both, in my opinion.

But if Mr Ryder does now comes through with the money – and, let’s face it, it’s a big if – he has some serious explaining to do and, I reckon, some apologising to do to Vale’s fanbase who have been strung along with failed promises for weeks.

This is certainly not the new era of openness and transparency he acknowledged was needed when Supporters’ Club representatives met with him on several occasions.

As for Mr Chaudry, well it is fair to say that he hasn’t covered himself in glory this week by criticising the Supporters’ Club for not backing his bid.

We didn’t back your bid, Mo, because we were busy backing Port Vale.

We didn’t back your bid, Mo, because we didn’t see ANY of the bids. Only the administrators were privvy to that information so how could we back a bid that we hadn’t seen?

We didn’t back your bid, Mo, because suppose we had and then someone else had been named as the preferred bidder? Awkward…

No, the Supporters’ Club committee did what it has always done – certainly during my involvement – and that is to look out for Port Vale: To put ourselves in the best position to negotiate on behalf of, and represent the views of, the wider fanbase.

If Mo is a Vale fan, as he claims, then I’m sure he is sitting there as upset as the rest of us about this turn of events and wondering how he can help with his hands and his wallet.

Because scoring cheap points on radio shows does no-one any favours, does it?

Mr Chaudry had the best chance of any bidder to take over Port Vale. Fact. So we shouldn’t let anyone try to rewrite history at this stage.

I’m not going to sit here now, or tomorrow night, and pretend that everything has always been rosy in the garden since April.

The SC committee, especially yours truly, has disagreed with Keith Ryder and the administrators and often been appalled at the poor communication from both – prompting us to intervene several times.

However, and this is crucial, we have at all times set aside our own personal frustrations and put the club first – keeping all channels of communication open.

Just ask those fans on the internet who use social media or people who buy The Sentinel and who were kept informed of developments every day last week – as and when the SC was given new information.

It is easy to criticise. I’m guilty of it myself. But to sling stones at the Supporters’ Club because you’re angry and frustrated at what is happening at Port Vale is pointless and, frankly, out of order. But that’s what some people choose to do.

A few people, and it is a few who I could name, have very short memories it seems – along with their own personal agendas, of course.

What I would say to these individuals is: Tomorrow is your chance to come up to the Supporters’ Club committee members or say in public all the things you want to get off your chest.

For me, I would say that Vale supporters are strongest and have most influence when we are united towards a common goal.

Right now that should still be the very survival of our football club.

Tomorrow night we have an opportunity to come together and quiz Bob Young – the man responsible for guiding Port Vale through these choppy waters.

Whatever anyone thinks of him he has the guts to appear at the meeting. He doesn’t have to. It’s his call.

Thus I’m hoping for a constructive and positive first hour of the meeting where Bob will hopefully be able to answer a number of key questions.

This isn’t quite the Supporters’ Club meeting we had all hoped for.

We were hoping to get together to discuss how the remaining funds donated by fans could be spent and to release details of the Sproson Day.

I guess that will have to wait.

By the way, I’ve just rung Keith. He didn’t answer (quelle surprise) and so I left a message inviting him to tomorrow night’s meeting. You never know…

Robbie’s got more important things on his mind than saving Port Vale

Jealousy is a terrible thing. It makes people do and say the daftest things – especially where celebrities are concerned.

I guess that’s why stars like the Potteries’ own Robbie Williams will always be a soft target and why he will never be able to do right in some people’s eyes.

On February 27, 2006, The Sentinel announced our Rob had effectively saved cash-strapped Port Vale by buying £265,000 worth of shares in the club.

At the time Vale Chairman Bill Bratt said: “It clearly shows he cares about Port Vale and its future. It’s now up to the board and all at Port Vale FC to ensure his investment is used wisely in helping to secure the future of our club.”

Fast-forward six years and Rob is now one of more than 1,000 creditors – including more than 900 ordinary Vale fans – who have lost their investment.

The club is back in administration and doesn’t have two ha’pennies to rub together.

Supporters are rattling collection buckets again and Vale’s future is far from certain.

Cue a procession of people asking why Robbie doesn’t buy the club, pay the costs of the administration process or stage a concert at Vale Park. After all, he’s minted, isn’t he?

Surely he wouldn’t miss a few million quid. It’s the equivalent of the rest of us chucking a hundred quid in the pot.

My answer to these questions would be: It’s his time and his money and it’s up to him what he does with them.

Back in 2006 it was made abundantly clear to the then Vale board of directors that Rob’s investment was a one-off – a goodwill gesture to the club he had supported all his life.

Of course, back then few people realised lightning could strike twice and that Vale would so soon be up the creek again without a paddle.

If Rob fancies doing something more to help the Vale then great. If he wants a Save The Vale tee-shirt for kick-abouts in California then I’ll send one to him via his dad.

But, to my mind, he’s done his bit – far more so than others I could mention.

For example, without Robbie’s shareholding – entrusted to the Supporters’ Club – ordinary fans wouldn’t have had a voice during the past tumultuous 12 months.

What I reckon we should be asking ourselves is why on earth he would want to do an Elton John and become more involved in a struggling League Two football club.

He’s indicated previously that he doesn’t have the time to devote such an undertaking and I’m not sure the basket case that is Port Vale would do the RW brand any favours right now.

Let’s say he did buy the club. It isn’t just a question of putting a few new seats in the Lorne Street stand and finishing off the infamous Robbie Williams suite.

As soon as things started to go pear-shaped on the field some fans would demand the club’s moneybags benefactor dip into his bank account for that star striker or desperate loan signing. And so it would go on.

No. What Port Vale needs is to be run by a businessman or woman who knows how to turn a profit while keeping his or her customers happy.

Let’s leave Rob to enjoy married life, carry on making music and continue contributing to the charities he supports – including many here in North Staffordshire.

You see, contrary to what Bill Shankly may have said, there are far more important things in life than football.

A few days ago Rob announced via the internet that he and his wife Ayda were announcing their first child.

The ‘tweet’ was an honest and emotional one from a man who, despite his worldwide fame and substantial fortune, has clearly realised that he’s about to have his world rocked by something entirely natural and human.

He’s soon to become a dad and, as any parent will tell you, it’s the best feeling in the world.

It doesn’t matter if he lives in a mansion in Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter if he’s Britain’s biggest music star. It doesn’t matter how much money he has.

Right now he’s Robert Peter Williams and he and his missus are about to have a baby.

I think he can be forgiven if he’s got more important things on his mind than Port Vale. He’s loving angels instead.

So let’s just be happy for a Potteries lad done-good and wish him and his family all the best.

No-one wins, but we are getting our club back. Now let’s see what we can do with it…

It’s looking like administration, then. Few people will be surprised because the writing has been on the wall for some time.
Only the outgoing board, in their arrogance and denial, kidded themselves they could salvage a desperate situation which was entirely of their own making.
It has felt like death by a thousand cuts and, in the end, no-one wins. Not the club’s staff, not the fans, not the shareholders – nor the club’s many creditors.
Yes, we can take some comfort from the fact Messrs Miller, Oliver, Lloyd and Deakin will soon have nothing to do with Port Vale FC.
What’s more, hopefully an administrator would make those responsible for the club’s plight pay dearly for their conduct in recent months.
However, administration remains a gamble and the Vale’s future is anything but secure.
Barring a jaw-dropping winning run, a 10-point deduction would almost certainly end any hopes of us grabbing a play-off berth.
In fact, we would all be doing the maths and wouldn’t be able to rest easy until Vale had 50-odd points on the board and were absolutely safe from the threat of relegation.
Let’s hope that will be enough of an incentive for the players who weren’t paid on Wednesday to get their heads down and stay focused until the end of the season.
Let’s also hope we don’t lose any of them or a very good manager who knows full well just how much the majority of supporters value and respect him and the work he’s doing.
At this point we should spare a thought for the club’s employees who face an anxious wait to see whether or not they will keep their jobs.
We should also acknowledge the near 1,000 Vale fans who have previously invested hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds of their own money to help save the club.
Their shares are worthless and have been for some time, if truth be told.
I am sure most of them never expected a return on their investment and were happy to have done their bit and ‘owned’ a little piece of the club they love.
But administration would take even that away.
Once again we would all be equal.
My thanks go to the city council at this point – or rather the councillors who would be taking a brave decision, under the most difficult of circumstances, to effectively underwrite the cost of placing Port Vale into administration.
Make no bones about it – the alternative is liquidation. In other words, our club would cease to exist, sold off to pay our debts.
There are serious public purse considerations involved in their decision, since administration at least offers the authority the chance to recoup some of its £2.25m loan to the Vale.
However, I’d like to think the councillors involved in last night’s meeting also went with their gut instinct – which should have been to help preserve 130 years of heritage and an asset to the city which means so much to so many people.
The fight against the board is almost over. Now the battle for Port Vale’s very survival begins.
The cancer at the heart of the club is being cut out but the operation to remove it has left the patient on a life-support machine.
Now it us up to us, the fans, to rally behind the team and help our club in any way we can.
Miller, Oliver, Lloyd and Deakin will soon be history.
Soon there will be no excuses: No reasons to stay away. No reasons not to put your money and time into your club.
Let’s make Tuesday night the biggest gate of the season. Let’s show Micky and the lads we are with them and, crucially, let’s demonstrate to the city council that they will be making the right call.
Let’s put aside our differences and leave the recriminations to the administrator and the proper authorities to resolve.
We’re getting our club back.
Now let’s see what we can do with it.

It’s you or us, Mr Lloyd. Go, or Port Vale is finished

Recent results have placed Vale firmly back in the running for a play-off position.

Whether or not our threadbare squad can cope with the pressure of the run-in remains to be seen.

It goes without saying that I would love us still to be in the mix come the end of the season.

For one thing, it would provide a welcome distraction from off-the-field matters.

I also have to be honest and say that in my head every point takes us further away from a relegation scrap – should administration happen followed the subsequent points deduction.

Administration? Why am I even mentioning such an awful thing?

Because like it or not – whatever happens at the AGM/EGM – administration is a very real possibility.

You would have to be either a) plain daft or b) in denial to not realise just how serious our club’s financial situation is thanks to the spectacular failures of the current board of directors.

Think about it: The AGM has been postponed twice; The accounts haven’t been published (presumably because the directors have broken their crayons); Creditors are queuing up or issuing writs; The ground was remortgaged to help pay December’s wages; We can’t afford loan players; Staff have been laid off.

It goes on and on and on…

We may not even make it to March 13, but – if we do – it’s time for a few home truths:

1) Ordinary fans who bought shares in Port Vale need to realise their money is gone. (Unless, of course, you own enough to tempt a director to knock on your door and try to buy them off you).
Hopefully, if that happens you will tell them where to shove their pieces of silver, do what is best for your club and vote against them.

2) If, by some miracle, any of the current directors survive the AGM/EGM and act against the wishes of the vast majority of supporters, then – in my opinion – Port Vale is finished. Gates of 4,000 will dwindle even further as more fans make the ultimate sacrifice and choose to join their mates and stay away. I never thought I’d say it but I, for one, will not renew my season ticket if Mike Lloyd’s regime is still in place at the end of the season. Crucially, I won’t be alone.
Thus, Mr Lloyd, it’s a question of: You or Us. The fans were here before you and, rest assured, they will still be here long after you’ve been chased off down Hamil Road.

3) If the Supporters’ Club is successful in booting out the not-so-fab four and instituting an interim board this gives Port Vale a fighting chance financially – albeit a slim one.
Why? Because a couple of thousand extra people will immediately start attending home games again.
In my opinion, whatever happens on March 13, the current regime is finished – one way or another.


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