RAF’s returning Afghan heroes to lead Vale stars out on to pitch

Port Vale is rolling out the red carpet for two servicemen who recently returned from war-torn Afghanistan.

Corporal Steve Buffey and his pal Senior Aircraftman (SAC) Pete Blakeman will have the honour of leading out the teams before tomorrow night’s home game against Dagenham and Redbridge.

Together with their families, the two die-hard Vale supporters will then be treated to a VIP match experience.

The friends are part of the close-knit team in the RAF Tactical Supply Wing which is based at Stafford.

While in Afghanistan, the unit was stationed at Camp Bastion, and was responsible for refuelling battlefield helicopters and Harrier jump jets.

They kept their morale up with regular updates from home on the fortunes of their team and through banter with another member of the team – 22-year-old SAC Alex Haycock, from Sandyford, who is an ardent Stoke City fan.

Father-of-two Cpl Buffey, aged 36, grew up in Kidsgrove but now lives in Stafford.

He is a former Clough Hall High School pupil who joined the RAF 13 years ago after working in the pottery industry.

SAC Blakeman, aged 29, who lives in Cheadle, signed up four years and is due to marry his fiancée Natalie Holdcroft in May of next year.

The idea to treat the RAF personnel to a special night at Vale Park came from users of internet fans’ forum Onevalefan (OVF).

Founder and Editor Rob Fielding explained: “Steve and Pete are users of OVF who had been corresponding with me during their recent tour of Afghanistan.

“The OVF community felt it would be really nice to honour them on their return to the UK and the club have been brilliant about it and really made an effort.

“Fingers crossed the lads can get three points for Steve and Pete.

“We are also going to use the match as an opportunity to raise funds for forces charity Help For Heroes.”

Club Secretary Bill Lodey said: “We were only too happy to help in these circumstances and pay our own special tribute to lads who are risking their lives out in the Middle East.

“We want to give them a night to remember and have other surprises planned too.

“Rob Fielding has volunteered to collect for Help For Heroes from fans in the away end and family members and friends of Cpl Buffey and SAC Blakeman will have collection tins around the other stands.

“It is a very worthy cause and we know that Vale fans will respond with their usual generosity.”


So tell me… why are Miller, Deakin, Lloyd and Oliver still here?

First things first… that was a very welcome three points yesterday and something of a vindication for Micky Adams that his loan signings were both on target to break our run of games without scoring.
That good news aside, however, a very dark cloud remains over Port Vale at present. Otherwise known as the board of directors.
Despite a raft of damning revelations which have shown Messrs Deakin and Miller – and by association Lloyd and Oliver – to have misled shareholders and supporters, these lot are refusing to step down.
After all, it’s not all the fans who want them to resign is it? According to Mr Miller: “It’s a couple of people saying it without having all the information.”
I think he may have been referring there to myself and Gary Benson, creator of Portvaleonline and a Supporters’ Club Committee member.
Flattered as we are by this remark, I don’t think the chairman is correct.
Indeed, I know of a group of supporters who confronted the club’s bosses at Dagenham yesterday and presented them with ‘Monoperry money’ from the ‘Bank of Pinocchio’.
I also of know 600 fans (that number is growing) who have signed up to a Facebook petition calling for the entire board to step down.
I know of hundreds who voted in an online poll on fans’ forum Onevalefan – the vast, vast majority of whom do not support the current board.
I know that I personally have had dozens of emails from Vale supporters of all ages and backgrounds who are appalled at the way in which the club is being run.
These include multi-millionaire local businessman Mo Chaudry – who is angry as the rest of us – and former Vale directors.
I know The Sentinel has received many letters from its readers saying the same sort of things.
I know that Tim Hollinger, CEO of Ameriturf, Hank Julicher, CEO of Blue Sky International, and Steve Leighton of the Gol Illuminado foundation in the States all feel they have been misled and let down by the current board of directors at Port Vale FC.
I know because I’ve spoken to them all.
I know the newspaper I work for published a strongly-worded ‘leader column’ last Thursday. Basically, that was the voice of The Sentinel itself saying to the board: ‘Get yer coats, lads.’
So Mr Miller might want to think again when he claims that it’s just a couple of people who want him and his cronies out.
I’m damn sure that come the AGM – or EGM if we have to push for one – Messrs Miller and Deakin will find out in no uncertain terms where they can shove their new era of openness and transparency.
Tomorrow night at Burslem WMC the various groups, working under the umbrella of Port Vale Supporters’ Club, will plan their next moves in consultation with fans.
Make no bones about it – it’s going to be a long, cold winter for the board of directors until they do the decent thing and leave our club.
Messrs Miller and Deakin can talk all they want about ‘common business practice’.
In Boslem, if you tell someone you’ve ‘purchased’ something they think you’ve paid for it.
In Tunstall, if you tell someone you’ve secured an £8 million investment for Port Vale they think that’s money coming into the club’s bank account. Call us old fashioned, like.
The Vale board may be surprised to learn that we fans can use fancy words too and we’re perhaps not as daft as they think we are.
Too many false statements, broken promises and misleading comments to count have come out of Port Vale in recent months for this board to ever be trusted again.
Interestingly, despite all the bluff and bluster, the powers-that at Vale Park are still refusing to answer questions from fans which I handed to them on December 1. This is an insult to us all.
This board has shown no evidence of bringing any money into the club and no work has begun on any of its much-vaunted projects.
FACT: Deakin and Miller used shares they hadn’t paid for (and which Blue Sky hadn’t paid for) to vote themselves on to the board.
FACT: The Blue Sky deal has been dead since October – the club just pretended it wasn’t as they desperately tried to rekindle the relationship with Hank Julicher via an intermediary.
It seems to me that the entire Blue Sky deal was ‘a vision’. Basically, it was up to the club to find the millions of pounds worth of funding to make various projects happen and then Blue Sky might chuck some money our way.
Whatever the story, the credibility of the club’s directors is shot to such an extent that even if they showed me a bank statement I wouldn’t believe them anymore. And I dare say I wouldn’t be alone.
My message to Messrs Deakin, Miller and Lloyd is simple: ‘Leave now. We are not interested in having another director foisted on us from outer space to replace Glenn Oliver. We want our club back sooner rather than later. This is a battle you cannot win.’