Here’s hoping for a happy ending to a football fairytale

In all honesty I would have taken four points from the last two games.

However, after the euphoria of Friday night’s unforgettable 7 – 1 drubbing of promotion rivals Burton, I got my hopes up for the Aldershot game and saw us taking all six.

As it turned out the atmosphere on Tuesday was tense, the performance forgettable for the most part, and the officials indescribably awful.

I’m just about getting over the feeling of deflation as I left the ground.

It was the classic banana skin and a draw was probably a fair result in terms of chances created – albeit the visitors were gifted their goal by dint of the fact that the linesman and referee failed to spot Darren Purse being shoved to the ground.

They say it’s swings and roundabouts when it comes to decisions going for and against you during the season.

On that basis, after 90 minutes of Tom Pope being climbed all over and the referee giving the visitors everything and tolerating their play-acting, I’d say Vale are due a few.

With hindsight, it was more important that we beat Burton as that game was the proverbial six-pointer.

We’ve been fortunate in recent weeks that results have gone for us and that’s why we have a five-point cushion.

But there can be no complacency. A win tomorrow away to a team that have nowt but pride to play for could seal a remarkable promotion.

Vale’s terrific, noisy away following will probably be similar in number to Rochdale’s home support and that could well set the lads up for a famous result.

We’re unbeaten in five and with the Pontiff, Lee Hughes and Jennison Myrie-Williams in the team I’d like to think there’s enough firepower to see us over the line.

As anyone who follows Vale knows, we seldom do things the easy way and they team historically has a habit of putting supporters through the mill emotionally.

This season has been no exception but we just need to hold our nerve, stick together and finish the job.

If we do and Vale go up automatically to League One it will be genuine Roy of the Rovers stuff.

Think about it: A club that started the season penniless and in administration and was rescued by its supporters is fired to promotion by a life-long Vale fan from Sneyd Green.

We’ll be dancing on the streets of Burslem.

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.

This is Port Vale’s biggest game for many years. Be there!

The biggest game in Port Vale’s recent history. That’s how we should view tonight’s home fixture against Burton Albion.

Our season won’t be decided by these 90 minutes but the result will undoubtedly have a huge bearing on whether or not we finish in the top three.

On Monday, once again, the results went for the Vale: The Pontiff’s late equaliser snatched a valuable point for us away at promotion rivals Chesterfield; Cheltenham did us a favour by beating Northampton and ex-Stokie James Beattie, of all people, scored the goal for Accrington which denied tonight’s opponents a priceless win.

With just five games left I’ve heard people say that 77 points may be enough to secure automatic promotion. I don’t think so.

I’m still looking at 80 points as the target if we want to go straight up.

I think it’s vital we don’t lose against Burton or Aldershot and I’d happily take four points from these two games.

Having endured a torrid period of a month or so when our form and results were poor, it seems we’ve finally turned a corner.

Despite giving away soft, sloppy goals the spirit in the camp seems terrific – with fringe players coming in and doing their bit to cover for the injured and suspended.

We’ve gone behind in the last two games – something the gaffer won’t be too pleased about – but then shown real character and desire to rescue four points.

After a barren spell, Tom Pope is finally fulfilling his destiny and could well go on to emulate Andy Jones’s post-war goal-scoring record of the mid-Eighties.

At the same time, Jennison Myrie-Williams is back to his tricky, creative, penetrating best.

Micky Adams now has some big decisions to make in terms of team selection tonight and for me, once again, the battle will be won or lost in midfield.

That’s why skipper Doug Loft’s return to the team is so very welcome as his all-action performances have re-energised us in the centre of the park.

Surely we are looking at the biggest crowd of the season tonight who will hope to create the kind of atmosphere generated by Vale’s awesome away following which puts some Premier League clubs to shame.

Proud doesn’t cover it.

Our fate is in our own hands and fans of a club that started the season in administration can’t ask for more than that.

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.

Stalwart Mick recalls opening of Potteries Shopping Centre

With a new bus station due and a multi-million pound shopping centre soon to follow, the landscape is certainly changing up ’Anley.

Not since the late Eighties have we seen development on this scale in the town.

Back then we were all awaiting the opening of a new venue that would, quite literally, transform what people were starting to call the city centre.

For what seemed like an eternity, white hoardings surrounded the vast building site.

Then, on June 1, 1988 The Potteries Shopping Centre opened its doors to customers for the first time.

Working that day was Michael Steele, who had begun his job as a security officer two weeks earlier.

Almost a quarter of a century later and Mick is still keeping customers safe and happy in his role as Operations Manager.

Mick, who lives in Burslem, remembers that time vividly as the new job represented a leap into the unknown for him.

He said: “I had previously worked at H&R Johnson’s for 11 years and was made redundant in the April of 1988.

“I saw the job advertised in The Sentinel and I remember the day of my interview quite clearly as I had to fight through workmen to get to the offices for the meeting.

“It was very daunting at the time. I had only ever worked in a factory environment and so this sort of job was all new to me.

“I remember the boss telling us to ‘get lost’ and he meant it. He wanted us all to know the place like the back of our hands because he knew that very soon there would be people asking us for directions.

“I remember thinking how big it was. Five and a half acres and 11,000 square metres of corridors.” etc.”

Of course, not everyone was impressed with the new-fangled shopping mall.

Mick, pictured, said: “I remember one elderly gentlemen coming through the doors for the first time and saying to a young woman, who I assumed to be his daughter, ‘I’ll give it five years before it’s a bowling alley’.”

Fortunately, that particular visitor was wrong and 24 years later The Potteries Shopping Centre remains a huge success story.

It currently boasts around 80 stores and has a popular 120-stall market underneath it. Together, they attract more than 13 million visitors each year.

Surprisingly, many of the shopping centre’s first tenants – such as Burton and Dorothy Perkins – are still in situ alongside newer arrivals like Costa Coffee and the Disney store.

Mick said: “There have been changes and comings and goings, obviously, but not as many as people might think.

“I think people are now quite proud of The Potteries Shopping Centre and the market. It helps that we are very well integrated in the local community and do a lot of charity work.”

Over the years Mick has rubbed shoulders with a variety of celebrities who have turned up on his doorstep – from the TV Gladiator Panther and comedians Cannon and Ball to stargazer Patrick Moore. CBE.

There was also the time when the Power Rangers visited the mall and Mick, wielding a loud hailer, was left to deal with expectant crowds of mums and children when the superheroes’ train was delayed.

“Oh, and I held the door open for Britt Ekland too,” said the 59-year-old.

There’s no doubt, however, that Christmas is Mick’s favourite time of the year.

He said: “The atmosphere transforms in November when our opening hours change and the Christmas lights are switched on.

“Now that Lewis’s has gone I suppose The Potteries Shopping Centre is the focal point for Christmas celebrations because we have Santa’s grotto and it’s great to be a part of the planning process. An awful lot of work goes in to making it a special time.”

Last year it was announced that the venue’s owners, Capital Shopping Centres, are to spend £14 million expanding the complex to create a 10-screen cinema and six ‘family-friendly’ restaurants overlooking a new pedestrian avenue.

And, fingers crossed, Mick will be here to oversee that next chapter.

He added: “I’ve probably got another five years left to work – if they keep me – and I can honestly say working here remains an absolute pleasure. I’ve been very lucky.”

Pick up a copy of the Weekly Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia