It’s early days and there’s absolutely no need to panic. Enjoy the ride…

A frustrated Tom Pope.

A frustrated Tom Pope.

I hope no-one’s panicking just yet. I’m certainly not.

Although we’ve yet to record our first win of this campaign, it’s still very early days.

Granted, we’ve scored only one goal and have only one point out of a possible six in the league.

We’ve also crashed out of a potentially money-spinning cup competition.

However, to play devil’s advocate, I’d say we earned a good point on the first day of season against a decent Brentford side and, although we didn’t play particularly well, were rather unlucky against Walsall when the officials rather let us down.

In contrast, against Colchester we were clearly second best and created very little in the way of chances.

In fact, the only danger was to our own supporters – and Doreen Robbins’s plaster cast is testament to this.

The gaffer simply chose the wrong formation, and perhaps picked a couple of players he shouldn’t have, and has admitted as much.

After all, you can’t really blame the forwards for not scoring if they’re not getting any service from a sluggish midfield.

What we’re experiencing now is perhaps something of a reality check and, frankly, I’d rather we have it now than at Christmas.

We’ve stepped up a league, the opponents are better and they move the ball around more quickly.

It will take time for Micky Adams’s teams to adjust, to get used to their positions, and learn to play off lads who signed over the summer.

Being positive, the back four (and I think it should be a four) and the ‘keeper look solid.

Chris Neal and Adam Yates are playing well, in particular, and Robertson, Dickinson and Lines already look good signings.

I’d like to see Doddsy in the team, personally – playing behind the Pontiff. But perhaps that’s just me.

Let’s not lose perspective here. Ambition and aspiration is fine but it must be tempered with honest expectation.

I’d love us to repeat last season’s promotion heroics but I’m not going to kick the cat, so to speak, if we don’t.

Vale Park is looking terrific and will continue to improve. Meanwhile gates are bigger because the clubs we are up against – some of whom have infinitely bigger playing budgets – have larger followings.

It’s an exciting time to be a Vale fan and I, for one, am enjoying the stability and putting my trust in the new owner and Micky’s squad to continue to do us proud.

Now’s the time for continuity and stability at Vale Park

Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite.

Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite.


Stability. That’s what I want now. I’d give anything for a lengthy period of stability and continuity.

What has been achieved at Port Vale in the last 12 months is nothing short of exceptional.

The new owners, Micky Adams, his playing staff and the club’s long-suffering supporters deserve huge credit.

This remarkable promotion, which will be confirmed tomorrow, has given us all a huge lift and everyone connected with the club is understandably buzzing.

The announcement of season ticket prices has seen queues forming once again at Vale Park as we all look forward to an exciting summer.

We’ll all have opinions on who should stay and who should go, in terms of the playing staff, but first and foremost I’d like to pay tribute to everyone who has played a part in our success this season.

That includes the talented Ryan Burge, who has moved on to pastures new, Clayton McDonald, Gaz Owen and every player whose contribution has helped us secure a League One position.

When the Vale do line up for the first game of the new season at a higher level I’d like to think the squad won’t look vastly different to the one which took us up.

Yes, in my opinion, we need two quick centre halves and a playmaker – among other signings.

However, I would certainly hope the likes of Tom Pope, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Ashley Vincent, Louis Dodds, Chris Neal, Dan Jones, Adam Yates, Lee Hughes, Ben Williamson and Doug Loft will remain at Vale Park – and not leave, be released or snapped up by other clubs.

I think a healthy amount of continuity within the dressing room will be important because it means that same spirit which saw us over the line can be nurtured further by Micky Adams.

When you look at the most successful clubs in the sport, stability and continuity is at the heart of everything.

Continuity of leadership. Stability of ownership. Continuity in terms of the coaching staff. Stability in terms of the spine of the team.

I’ve been hugely impressed with the way the new owners have gone about their business thus far.

They seem to have a winning formula and I hope their unique partnership – which has won over fans on a number of levels – can continue for many years to come.

No-one knows what next season will bring but at least we won’t be worrying about not having a football club to support.

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.

We mustn’t let apathy kill the Supporters’ Club

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Two terrific home victories have left us in a position we could scarcely have dreamed about this time last year.

He will say, of course, that we haven’t done anything yet.

However, the achievement of Micky Adams and his coaching staff in creating a squad which has put us top of the league cannot be overstated.

Yes the new owners have spent money to bring in additional players to strengthen us across the park.

Yes Darren Purse, Daniel Jones and Lee Hughes are excellent recruits whose experience and quality are there for all to see.

Their arrival was perfectly timed but they knew they were joining a squad who had already laid solid foundations for this promotion push.

The likes of Chris Neal, Ashley Vincent and Jennison Myrie-Williams and the superb Tom Pope continue, quite rightly, to be singled out for particular praise but the truth is it has been a genuine squad effort thus far – with all players contributing to the cause at different times.

Having said that, if there is a better midfielder than Ryan Burge in the lower leagues right now then I’m not aware of him.

Burge is a class act and I’d love to see him join Tom Pope in pledging his future to a club that finally seems to be awakening from a post-John Rudge slumber.

Things are progressing well both on and off the field and the new owners deserve great credit for the steady stream of improvements.

I hope that on Tuesday their efforts are rewarded with the election of a quality new Supporters’ Club committee that is champing at the bit to help take the Vale forward.

The entire committee which fought to save the club last year is standing down which is the right thing to do in my opinion. It is time for new faces not tarred with the time of troubles and some fresh ideas.

I hope to see as many Vale fans as possible at Tommy Cheadle’s from 7pm onwards as we look for a new Chairman; Vice-Chairman; Treasurer; Secretary/Membership Officer; Press and Publicity Officer; Webmaster; Liaison Officer and Fund-raiser.

With 1,600-plus members, money in the bank and a good reputation, I’d hate to see the Supporters’ Club now wither on the vine because we don’t have our backs against the wall anymore.

I really hope the new-look Supporters’ Club can remain a critical friend of the new owners while returning to its raison d’être – helping the Vale in any way it can.

Vale fans shouldn’t count chickens, but…

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The fact that Micky Adams was able to throw Lee Hughes straight into the team against Gillingham was priceless.
It was the transfer window equivalent of sticking two fingers up to that nice Martin Allen and saying: ‘See him? He’s ours’.
Game in hand or no game in hand, it represented a stealing of the initiative in the title/promotion race by a club that six months ago didn’t have two ha’pennies to rub together.
As it transpired Hughes’ debut was a decent one and we got what we expected: Plenty of attitude and, crucially, the nous of a 36-year-old who’s played and scored at every level.
I felt for Ben Williamson and Louis Dodds but Hughes’ inclusion in the starting eleven made absolute sense.
For me, the likes of Dodds and Williamson have a great future ahead of them and will doubtless play a role between now and the end of the season.
As Mark Grew pointed out earlier this week ‘it’s horses for courses’ from now on and the addition of experienced players has given Micky Adams the options to adopt that frame of mind.
We may bring in one or two more players by the end of the month but I think the squad Vale has now is strong enough to win automatic promotion.
The acquisition of Darren Purse brings vital steel and leadership to the centre of a defence which is missing John McCombe which may allow the gaffer to give Joe Davis one or two starts.
No-one is daft enough to start counting chickens but the Gillingham win was massive in that it gave us a vital cushion over the teams in third place and below.
There are 19 games remaining and if Vale can win nine of them (eminently achievable given the firepower we now have) and draw a few we should go up automatically.
It’s five in five now for the Pontiff who looks a good bet to reach Andy Jones’s total of 37 goals in a season if he stays fit and suspension free.
Finally, a word for someone who is a bit of an unsung hero as we all continue to eulogise, quite rightly, about the strike force.
For me, Micky’s most important summer signing was Chris Neal: The best ’keeper I’ve seen at Vale Park for many years.
It is my fervent hope that, in close liaison with the gaffer, the new owners are offering longer deals to the likes of Neal, Pope, Vincent, Myrie-Williams, Dodds and Williamson.
Without getting carried away, we are now finally building for the future and it’s a great position to be in.

New signings are spot on as Vale plan for promotion and stability

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The very fact that we have brought in three new signings – one of whom is a former fans’ favourite that the Football League wouldn’t let us sign earlier in the year – shows just how far the club has come in the last 12 months.
That the new owners are working with Micky Adams to possibly bring in even more players to strengthen the squad for the promotion push speaks volumes.
There’s obviously a real desire to push on and take advantage of the magnificent position the lads and the coaching staff have put the team in – in spite of the odds being stacked against them.
Automatic promotion really is in Vale’s hands now. Win nine of the remaining 20 games and draw a few and we’ll go straight up as one of the top three teams.
That is eminently achievable with the squad we have and the firepower Vale’s frontline now packs.
There have been a few gripes from some fans about the fact that Darren Purse is no spring chicken and that Lee Hughes isn’t on everyone’s Christmas card list.
Both are, by their nature, relatively short-term signings to bring invaluable experience to the squad as we face what will inevitably be a tense run-in and they make absolute sense to me.
Frankly, I don’t care if the goal that clinches our promotion to League One goes in off Hughes’s backside.
If the gaffer thinks that players like Hughes and Purse will add a bit of steel and nous to the team to see us over the line then I’m all for it.
I won’t forget the lads whose goals put us second in the league: Jennison Myrie-Williams, Ashley Vincent, Louis Dodds, Ben Williamson and, of course, local hero Tom Pope.
They, along with Chris Neal, Doug Loft, Ryan Burge and Sam Morsy will have to continue to perform at their best to finish the job they started in May.
I would like to think that they, and the likes of Joe Davis, are the future and that they are all in Micky Adams’s plans for next season as he keeps one eye on creating a squad which can compete at a higher level.
Paul Wildes said this week that he would like to work with Micky Adams for the next five to 10 years.
What I take from that statement is that he understands the value of both the manager we have and the value of stability and continuity. He’s spot on.

There’s no need for panic. We’re second for a reason

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It’s squeaky bum time, then. Three defeats in a week has left some people wondering whether or not we have misread the omens.

Fans are asking where the free-flowing football has gone.

Supporters want to know what has happened to the team that put 11 goals past promotion rivals in two games.

Have we been found out? Are we perhaps not as good as we think we are?

Is this where the wheels come off?

Despite the recent poor run of results I’m still optimistic.

We’re second for a reason and there’s absolutely no need to panic at this stage.

I’m not denying that there are issues, however.

It worries me that our defence is so slow. It concerns me that if teams double up on our wingers then we don’t seem to have a Plan B going forward.

Clearly some players are below par at the moment and, for whatever reason, their confidence has dipped.

The reaction of a section of the home crowd to last Saturday’s dismal performance against Chesterfield was perfectly understandable.

Vale fans will take defeat if the team give it their all and look like they want to win the game.

Away against Sheffield United in the FA Cup no-one could fault the endeavour shown.

But against both Bradford in the JPT and, more disappointingly, the Spireites in the league we were second best.

They were the better-organised teams who, crucially, looked like they wanted the win more.

It is for Micky Adams to decide whether or not the players who are under-performing require the carrot or the stick.

There are some – like Tom Pope and Chris Neal – whose inclusion on the team sheet is a no-brainer.

But how many others, at present, can claim they deserve a guaranteed start?

We’ve not seen much of Calvin Andrew yet but I would prefer to see Louis Dodds reinstated into the attack alongside the Pontiff.

Although he hasn’t scored many goals this season, Dodds’s link-up play and tracking back is crucial, for me.

We’ll miss Jennison Myrie-Williams tomorrow but should still have enough quality and attacking options to get a result against Cheltenham.

The away trip to Rotherham will provide a stern test but the home games against Wimbledon and Dagenham and Redbridge are eminently winnable.

You see, it’s not all doom and gloom. Last week I told Popey he’d score 35 goals this season and I’m sticking with that prediction.

It’s a time for cool heads, a little faith and some encouragement for the lads as the tough December fixture list continues.

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

A week to savour as we hope Vale has turned a corner

Even the most one-eyed and cynical fans must be feeling more optimistic about the club’s prospects after the last seven days.

A cracking victory over Oxford in front of a TV audience of millions didn’t half feel good.

It also put breathing space between us and the teams in play-off positions – something which we can hopefully increase tomorrow.

That Vale only played to their potential in patches on Monday night shows that this team is perfectly capable of achieving a promotion berth.

The only thing I can see stopping us being in the top three is our relatively small squad because of the Football League embargo which currently limits us to registering just 20 players.

While we remain in administration, a few injuries and suspensions to key players – like we have at present in central midfield – could well put a spanner in the works.

Of course, if Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite complete their takeover within the next couple of weeks, as seems likely, this won’t be a problem.

Micky Adams will then be able to strengthen the squad as and when he needs to.

What’s more, it turns out that on completion of a takeover the players’ contracts revert to their original terms agreed with the lesser-spotted Keith Ryder.

This means there’s less danger of the Pontiff, Dodds, Neal, Vincent or Myrie-Williams being taken off us for nowt in January.

I spoke to Micky Adams after Tuesday’s press conference where the new preferred bidder was unveiled and I realised then just how remarkable our start to the season has been.

The gaffer told me he hasn’t even had the resources to properly scout other teams before we’ve played them.

That we already have 26 points on the board and have the top scorer in the country is testament to the skill of Adams and his coaching staff and the work ethic of a group of players who, without wanting to sound clichéd, are playing for each other.

No-one is getting carried away with what they heard from and about Messrs Wildes and Smurthwaite on Tuesday but it didn’t set any alarm bells ringing either.

Cautious optimism should be our default setting – secure in the knowledge that the new owners are savvy enough to realise that they must take the fans with them as they plan for Vale’s future.

Personally, I’m excited and hopeful that we’ve finally turned a corner because there’s a huge reservoir of goodwill that new owners will be able to tap into once the all important deal is done.

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