Hats off to the Norman and Paul. Now let’s get the Pontiff signed up…

Talking to Vale fans this week there’s confidence and hope in abundance that this season we will finally climb out of the lowest tier of English football.
This confidence is based on two things: Firstly, the majority of performances thus far by a terrific set of lads, put together on a shoe-string by Micky Adams and his staff, which have put us top of the league and, secondly, the addition of four vastly experienced players who will help to steady any nerves for the run-in.
Supporters know full well that our destiny is in our own hands. We’ve all done the maths: Every three points now represents one step closer to automatic promotion.
Since Norman Smurthwaite and Paul Wildes took over the club there’s been a steady drip, drip of good news from a club that used to be the dictionary definition of calamitous.
Off the field Papa Smurf, as our chief executive is affectionately known, has been beavering away doing all the unglamorous but rather important stuff like sorting the infamous toilets in the Railway Paddock and working hard to bring in lots of new sponsorship.
I would venture to say that Norman isn’t your ‘normal’ football club chief executive – if such a thing exists – and we, the fans, are all the better for having someone who is a businessman, first and foremost, at the helm.
It’s also really important that someone does the ‘people stuff’ and gets out and about meeting local people and Vale supporters from all backgrounds and he’s certainly doing that.
Paul Wildes, meanwhile, is the ‘face’ of the club. He is the chairman and figurehead – saying all the right things to the media and even creating a profile on social network Twitter.
Together, Norman and Paul are slowly starting to turn the ship around through a combination of sensible stewardship and innovative commercial and marketing initiatives.
I can only commend them for their endeavours thus far and hope that when the Supporters’ Club holds it AGM on February 12 plenty of people turn up to show how keen Vale fans are to work with the new owners.
The one nagging concern I do have is this week’s big talking point among fans which is the fact that leading scorer Tom Pope isn’t, as we were led to believe three months ago, contracted to the club until the end of next season.
We all know the Pontiff loves playing for the club he supports and he has indicated he wants to stay in Burslem.
I can only hope that the gaffer can persuade him to pledge his future to the Vale and that he gets the contract his efforts deserve.
Some fans argue that Tom has ‘only had one good season’. This isn’t true.
He worked his socks off last season too for scant reward in a team that was far less creative and where he had to play second fiddle to Marc Richards.
Now he’s sharp, hungry and a brilliant leader of the line.
It’s a rare thing when a local lad is banging in goals for his team and I sincerely hope we don’t lose him next week or over the summer.


It’s all systems go at a re-energised Vale Park

It’s been another extremely positive week for Port Vale fans and it genuinely feels like a huge black cloud has been lifted.

A terrific, hard-fought win away at Aldershot has maintained the distance between us and the chasing pack and closed the gap on league leaders Gillingham to just two points.

Heading in to the festive period Vale are perfectly placed to maintain a promotion push.

What’s more, Micky Adams now has options in midfield and upfront – with Ryan Burge, Kingsley James and Ben Williamson emerging as the latest players to shine in a squad that plays for each other.

The addition of Liam Chilvers and then Calvin Andrew to the squad weren’t perhaps what some supporters were hoping for.

However, it is clear from the names being bandied about and the ambition being shown that we are now a club which has the financial clout to bring in new faces.

We are no longer, as Norman Smurthwaite has said several times, in a ‘distressed state’. In other words, we don’t need to flog our best players to pay next month’s wage bill.

As well as new players we now have a chief scout in the experienced George Foster which make Vale something of a rarity at League Two level.

This is a significant development in that it will give us better knowledge of opposition teams and help Micky Adams and his team identify potential recruits.

Off the park things are happening quickly too: Those awful toilets in the Railway Paddock will soon be sorted; the catering situation is being reviewed and fans will be able to buy mini season tickets valid from January.

Interestingly, the new regime is also starting to right a few wrongs – such as ensuring those Vale fans who paid for bricks with names on for the Lorne Street’s ‘wall of fame’ are finally getting what they paid for.

This is all about making Port Vale the customer-focused business it has to be to attract more bums on seats.

There is, of course, still much work to be done but it seems everyone is pulling in the same direction now – the staff, the supporters and the new owners.

Having ‘Papa Smurf’, as he has affectionately become known, at Vale Park five days a week can only be a good thing.

He’s not come out of retirement to waste money and I know supporters will be pleasantly surprised by some of the announcements which will be coming out of a re-energised Vale Park in the coming weeks.

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