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.

Let’s stick together and finish the job

Vale manager Micky Adams.

Vale manager Micky Adams.

It’s amazing what a difference a win makes: How, a clean sheet and a couple of goals can reinvigorate supporters and inspire some optimism.

This time last week there were some, probably a minority, calling for Micky Adams to be sacked. Perhaps some still are.

But to have given the manager the boot with eight games remaining and us sitting in the automatic promotion spots wouldn’t have made any sense at all.

Not to me, at any rate.

If we get to the end of the season, don’t get promoted and then our new owners want to discuss the manager’s future with him behind closed doors then fine.

But you don’t sack your manager when you’re third in the table. Unless, of course, you’re owned by a Russian billionaire.

Yes, our form of late has been poor. Yes, the manager has to take some responsibility for team selections and tactics that haven’t paid off.

Yes, in an ideal world we would all have hoped the Ryan Burge Twittergate incident could have been handled differently.

I, for one, just want to see the lad who has been a key component of our successful midfield back in the team ASAP.

But for all of the disappointment and frustrations of the last month or so, we still find ourselves handily placed for the run-in.

When times get tough then that is when the manager, the player and the club itself need our support.

That’s when we need to take a step back and get some perspective.

That’s what Norman Smurthwaite provided with his calm assessment of the situation and rallying cry to fans this time last week.

Twelve months ago we were in administration and had you told Vale fans back then that in a year’s time we’d be second in the table most would have laughed.

Had you told most supporters that we’d have new owners who would have increased the wage budget for players by 40 per cent they would have scoffed.

We are in good shape and it is still all to play for this season. Let’s stick together and finish the job.

Let’s forget about the teams around us and forget about winning the league. That would just be a bonus.

Finishing in the top three and avoiding the lottery of the play-offs has to be our priority.

Seven cup finals: That is how we have to approach the remaining games – starting tomorrow with what, on paper, has ‘home win’ written all over it.

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.

‘Not the time for falling out. The players and manager need a cuddle…’

Vale co-owner Norman Smurthwaite.

Vale co-owner Norman Smurthwaite.

Norman Smurthwaite says he knows exactly what the Port Vale players and manager need right now – and it’s not criticism.

The club’s chief executive and co-owner has called on supporters, home and away, to get behind whoever wears the shirt.

Smurthwaite said: “What the players and the manager need at this moment in time is a cuddle. They need us – the owners, the staff at the club and – crucially – the fans, to put our arms around them and make them feel warm and loved.

“We can all see what is going on. We know that results haven’t been going for us, but criticising the players and the manager who have put us in the automatic promotion places won’t help.

“Every other team and set of fans is out to get us. Our team and our manager are there to be shot at, and we can help take some of the heat off them by encouraging and supporting them at this difficult time.

“The younger players aren’t daft. They know that this is their time and they know that unless they do the business they could end up painting and decorating Vale Park rather than playing here, which is a real privilege.

“Of course, fans are entitled to their opinions and I understand their frustrations, but the truth is that everyone at the club is just as disappointed as them at the way things have gone recently.

“I can assure the supporters that no-one hurts more than the players and the manager when we get beat. Micky Adams is a proud man and he doesn’t accept failure.”

On the subject of the manager, Smurthwaite was unequivocal in his support.

He said: “Micky Adams is going nowhere. He will be at York on Saturday, he will be with us until the end of the season and I fully expect him to be with us next season when we will hopefully be in League One.

“There is no doubt that Micky Adams was one of the key reasons for me buying this football club.

“As much as I saw potential in the stadium, I could see that we were lucky at this level to have a manager of his calibre and experience.

“I was also struck with what he and the group of players he had assembled had achieved in the early part of the season before we came in and spent money to strengthen the squad.

“If ever I’m feeling low I think back to that terrific day in the FA Cup at Sheffield United. I was so incredibly proud – even though we lost the game.

“On that day I saw our potential. I saw how we could stand toe-to-toe with teams from a higher level, play good football and have fantastic supporters.

“It is about re-discovering the spirit of earlier on in the season when the club was fighting for its life.”

On Tuesday night, midfielder Ryan Burge took to Twitter to claim he was just five minutes away from Bristol Rovers ground on Tuesday when he received a text saying he was not in the Vale squad.

Asked what he thought about players voicing their disappointment at being left out of the squad on social media, Smurthwaite said he was disappointed.

Smurthwaite said: “In a perfect world this kind of thing wouldn’t happen and issues between the manager and the players would remain behind closed doors.

“However, I trust the manager and the players to get their heads together and sort these kind of things out.

“They are grown-ups and they’re paid to do a job. This isn’t the time for fallings out.

“At the end of the day we need the best possible team out on the pitch on Saturday – irrespective of personal grievances.”

Despite Vale’s recent poor run, Smurthwaite said he was still “loving” the challenge.

He added: “It was unfortunate but I had to be away for a few days and I returned to a real storm.

“But nothing will divert myself or Paul (Wildes) from our goals. We are here for the long-haul.

“I hope that the fans can see that we’re doing our bit and are happy with what we are doing.

“It is a massive learning curve because we are still relative newcomers to the business of football, but I’d like to think the fans can see that we’ve done everything that’s been asked of us.

“As an example, the wage bill for players and player support has gone up by 40 per cent in the time we’ve been here. That’s a significant investment to try to help the manager.

“Paul and I, and our staff, are working hard – perhaps doing the not-so-glamorous things which make the business sustainable because we want to build Port Vale up and go higher.

“There are lots of positives, lots of things we are working on which the supporters aren’t aware of just yet, but which will help the club down the line and improve the experience for fans.

“However, we understand fully that all that matters in the end to our customers is what happens out on the pitch on a Saturday or a Tuesday evening.

“I don’t believe that our early season form was a fluke. The fans know what our lads are capable of. We’ve seen the best of them and we’ll see it again soon – I’ve no doubt about 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.

Let’s be positive and keep faith with a team forged out of adversity

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It would be the easiest thing in the world right now to be negative; To condemn the manager and the players for the recent poor run of form.

But, for me, the glass is still half full and I don’t see any value at this juncture in laying in to a team that still sits second in the table with a goal difference of plus 29.

As anyone who follows Vale knows we never do things the easy way and I suspect supporters will have to grit their teeth and cross their fingers until the final game of the season.

Love hurts, as Roy Orbison was oft heard to say, but Vale fans will doubtless keep the faith with this team forged out of adversity.

I never thought we’d win the league but I do think we will still secure automatic promotion with five wins and a couple of draws from the remaining games.

Tuesday night’s goalless draw against Bradford – a team that are no slouches, by the way (as their cup runs proved) – at least stopped the rot.

On another day the Pontiff would have had a hat-trick and I expect normal service to be resumed soon and a visiting team to Vale Park to be on the end of a good hiding.

Remember that the teams in the chasing pack can’t win every game and have to play each other in the coming weeks.

The players need to forget all about the Cheltenhams, Rotherhams, Burtons and Exeters, stop looking over their shoulders and concentrate on what they did so well earlier in the season.

Even without skipper Doug Loft, whose tackle on Tuesday night was no less rash than the one which earned Sam Morsy a red card earlier in the season, we are hardly short of options in midfield.

For me, both Morsy and Ryan Burge warrant a starting place in order to help us win the crucial midfield battles – as does the excellent Louis Dodds who, in my opinion, is the best man to play off Tom Pope.

If the gaffer doesn’t believe Ashley Vincent is doing the business then can I be cheeky and suggest he gives Ben Williamson a start in his place?

Williamson’s goals return compared to that of, say, Calvin Andrew is far superior and his pace always causes teams problems.

I guess my point is that the manager has choices – thanks to the support of the new owners in the transfer market.

Now he just has to make the right ones.

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.

Vale fans have every right to an opinion when going gets tough

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The reaction following Tuesday night’s defeat at home to Exeter was entirely understandable.

Supporters are angry, frustrated and genuinely concerned that a team that looked odds-on for automatic promotion six weeks ago has lost its way.

What was a terrific run of form in January suddenly feels like a long time ago and we are stuttering rather than strutting towards the end of the season.

What seemed like a fairly simple equation in terms of points required for going straight up now seems probable rather than a nailed on certainty.

The goals have dried up. Confidence players like our wingers simply aren’t producing the form they did earlier in the season.

It has also been plain in recent games that the opposition has flooded the midfield and we’ve been overrun.

These are the facts. This isn’t an over-reaction. I’m not being disloyal to the team or the coaching staff.

What’s more, fans have every right to criticise and question when things go wrong – just as they lavished praise on the team and the manager earlier in the season.

I still think we will finish in the top three and I’m not pushing the panic button just yet.

But, by the same token, it is time we recognised who and what’s at fault here.

This, I guess, is where we all become amateur football managers so forgive my clumsy attempt, as follows.

Yes, some players are under-performing, but isn’t the simple truth that we got our tactics wrong on Tuesday night?

Playing what is effectively a 4 – 2 – 4 formation against a team which sets up 4 – 5 – 1 is asking for trouble in my book.

Ryan Burge and Doug Loft, as good as they are, need back up when a team swamps the middle of the park.

Sam Morsy or Chris Shuker could easily have bolstered the midfield against Exeter – leaving the Pontiff as the loan target man.

I wouldn’t dispense with our wingers, irrespective of their indifferent form of late, because both are capable of producing moments of creative magic.

However, I would always favour either Ben Williamson or Louis Dodds playing alongside (or just behind) Tom Pope, rather than Calvin Andrew – even if he did score the winner against Torquay.

As Mark Grew said a month ago it is a case of horses for courses now. Or at least it should be.

Six wins and two draws are all we need so let’s keep the faith.

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.

We’re the best around. Now let’s finish this… #pvfc

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So we are still blessed. The Sneyd Green Pontiff didn’t leave Boslem during the transfer window for fifty quid and a dozen oatcakes.
How about that? ‘Vale hang on to key players shock’.
As Norman Smurthwaite asked back in November: ‘Port Vale isn’t in a distressed state so why would we sell our best assets?’
It didn’t stop the rumour mill, of course, but we are lucky that Tom Pope himself is hell-bent on being the man to fire his home-town club to promotion.
The fact that he remains a Vale player until the end of the season at least is absolutely massive.
Yes, I’d feel better if he was contracted until the end of next season – as the Chairman indicated some time ago – but I guess we have to trust that this will come to pass.
I understand why contract talks are on hold for the rest of the squad – as whether or not we are in League One will obviously have a bearing on things.
My only hope is that the likes of Myrie-Williams, Vincent, Dodds, Williamson, Burge and Loft are all still playing alongside Tom Pope at Vale Park come August.
As it is, smart business during January has seen the new owners give Micky Adams the backing to build a squad which is very capable of seeing us over the line.
Since the televised game away at Wimbledon, where Popey’s superb equaliser salvaged a point for us, results have gone for Vale.
We now have a really good cushion between us and the teams in fourth spot and below as well as games in hand over some of them.
Two eminently-winnable home games in quick succession give us the chance to put even more daylight between us and the chasing pack.
I’ll be honest – I’m not fussed if we finish first or third so long as we go straight up and I suspect most Vale fans aren’t either.
So long as we avoid the lottery of the play-offs I’ll be happy. Winning the title would simply be the icing on the cake.
The manager is understandably playing down expectations and taking each game as it comes.
But he will know that every three points ratchets up that expectation because it takes us one step closer to the promotion dream.
I believe in Micky Adams and this squad. We shouldn’t be afraid of any team in this league. We can beat anyone.
Now let’s go and finish this.