Why cancer isn’t what it used to be…

Inspirational teenager cancer sufferer Stephen Sutton.

Inspirational teenager cancer sufferer Stephen Sutton.

The ‘Big C’ they used to call it. Once you’d been diagnosed that was it. It was just a matter of how long you had left before the disease took you from your loved ones.

Cancer still retains that aura of dread but with each passing year the reputation of this indiscriminate killer diminishes a little.

This week’s news from Cancer Research that half of people in England and Wales now being diagnosed with the disease will survive at least a decade is hugely significant and should give hope to millions of people.

It is testimony to the wonderful work of scientists, doctors and researchers who have taken enormous strides towards confounding cancer since the dark days of the early 1970s when being given the diagnosis was seen as the end of the world.

New treatments, earlier diagnosis and screening have all played a part in increasing the life-span and, crucially, the quality of life of those afflicted by cancer.

All of this, of course, has been paid for by tireless fund-raisers who continue to underwrite these advances in medicine and treatment – often as a tribute to friends or family members who have been victims of the disease.

It is this triumph of the human spirit which, in my opinion, is doing more than anything to chase away the spectre of cancer.

Just look at the way the courage of cancer victim Stephen Sutton, struck down by terminal illness in his teens, has touched the hearts of people across the UK and even around the world.

Stephen’s legacy won’t simply be the millions of pounds he has raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust. It will be a legacy of hope and inspiration for thousands of young people who find themselves in a similar, crushing, situation.

Then there’s little Frankie Allen, from Burslem, whose beautiful smile as she battles leukaemia has prompted hundreds of people across the Potteries into action to show her she’s not alone.
We’re with you ‘til the end of the line, kid.

And what about Maia Handyside, from Stone? The 13-year-old’s bravery in telling her story in The Sentinel recently has brought into sharp focus the affect cancer has on young people – acutely aware of their own self-image.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine – former Sentinel journalist Richard Firth – did something amazing.

Together with my colleague John Woodhouse, he ran the London Marathon in aid of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) in honour of his young daughter who was affected by the disease.

I’m sure Richard won’t mind me saying that, like me, he’s not really got the build of a long-distance runner but nonetheless he completed this astonishing feat for his princess and I am in awe of him.

This is that triumph of the human spirit I mentioned earlier.

Last but by no means least, who could forget North Staffordshire’s very own Women Fighting For Herceptin – led by the indefatigable Dot Griffiths?

Their fortitude in overcoming a postcode lottery and forcing the Government to make the cancer drug Herceptin available to all women who wanted it was a genuine game-changer which has enriched the lives of thousands of women all over the country.

I could go on because there are countless examples of resilience shown by people affected by this most insidious of illnesses.

The important lesson to learn from all these remarkable individuals is that remaining positive, no matter what the circumstances, is crucial – not only to your own well-being but to those around you.

In August 2008 yours truly was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. My mum had spotted an innocuous-looking lump on my neck and forced me to go to the doctor.

When I got the diagnosis I confess I went into panic mode. All I could think was that I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and that’s a pretty awful prospect.

I bottled up my feelings, made a will and steeled myself for the worst.

The reality, however, wasn’t nearly so grim and I well remember the words of my consultant as he was explaining what would happen in terms of treatment.

He said: “Cancer isn’t what it used to be.” He was right.

I was lucky. I had a couple of operations and a course of radiotherapy. I now take tablets daily because I don’t have a thyroid and, as a result, face a constant battle with my weight. But it’s no great hardship really. I’m just glad still to be here writing this for you.

Cancer never really goes away. Every time I see an advertisement for one of the cancer charities I have flashbacks to the moment I was given the news.

I pray nightly that it never comes back and my missus gives a monthly donation to Cancer Research UK.

I still visit the consultant once a year – in fact, I’m with him again next week.

If I’ve learned anything (and this may sound ridiculously obvious) it’s that life – for as long as you have it – and the way you live it, is all that matters.

I’m genuinely grateful for every day. Yes, even the ones when I have to get up for work at 5am or don’t finish ’til midnight. I’m extremely grateful for my family and friends. For my daft-as-a-brush dog. For the great job I have and the privilege of writing this column. For my geeky hobbies. For the places I visit. For my perennially-troubled football club. For the people I meet. For every night the kids keep me awake when they’re poorly. For every school homework project and parents’ evening. For every hug and every ‘I love you’.

Cancer won’t be eradicated in my lifetime but with each passing decade the fear, pain and loss it inflicts will diminish and we can all play a part in that.

Cancer isn’t what it used to be, you know.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

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Why Freedom of the City honour would never stop The Sentinel doing its job

The Sentinel's offices in Hanley.

The Sentinel’s offices in Hanley.

We like to think we’re reasonably well informed at The Sentinel but I have to say the announcement that the newspaper we work for is set to be honoured with the Freedom of the City came as something of a shock to our newsroom.

That doesn’t mean to say everyone who works here isn’t thrilled at the prospect, of course.

It’s simply a reflection of the fact that it wasn’t something any of us envisaged. Such honours, rare as they are, tend to be given to other organisations or notable individuals and we dutifully tell everyone about them and record the news for posterity.

It’s a rather exclusive club we may be joining if councillors approve the idea.

Members include Lucie Wedgwood, the North Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s) – as was, Sir Stanley Matthews CBE, Stoke City FC and – very soon, hopefully – Robbie Williams esquire.

That the Freedom of Stoke-on-Trent is set to be conferred on The Sentinel as we mark our 160th year is a huge honour, a welcome boost to its employees, and a timely acknowledgment of the newspaper’s place in the city’s history.

Who knows what the aspirations of the founding fathers were when they launched The Staffordshire Sentinel and Commercial and General Advertiser on January 7, 1854?

However, I dare say that if you had told them the product of their invention would still be chronicling local life in 2014 they would have been pleased at the thought.

The format may have changed, it may have evolved into something markedly different to the original offering, it may have a website currently generating 50,000-plus visitors each day, but the basic function of this newspaper remains the same as it ever was. To inform, educate and entertain the people of North Staffordshire and South Cheshire.

Do we make mistakes? Sure we do. When you’re producing the equivalent of a small novel every day you’re bound to – no matter how many pairs of eyes you have scanning the pages and web uploads. But hopefully people can see we do far more good than harm and I like to think most Sentinel readers trust the paper, rely on its integrity, and understand that its journalists do things in all good faith for the right reasons.

Which brings me neatly on to what being given the Freedom of the City actually means for an organisation like the local newspaper.

Does it mean, as some mischievous commentators may claim, that we’re too close to the city council?

The suggestion is patently absurd given that The Sentinel is unquestionably the most passionate advocate of Potteries folk and the only organisation locally with the resources or the know-how to consistently hold decision-makers to account.

I don’t believe any self-respecting councillor would want The Sentinel to be anything other than a critical friend of the local authority and an organisation they, like anyone else, can turn to for help and support.

After all, if you remove us from the equation who else would attend all the meetings, quiz elected members, speak to residents’ associations or let people vent their spleen to tens of thousands of taxpayers six days a week through well-thumbed letters’ pages?

No, there’s absolutely no danger of this fantastic honour somehow equating to an unseemly, cosy relationship between The Sentinel and the city council – or anyone else for that matter.

The truth is, certainly during my time with this newspaper, the organisations have worked together on many intrinsically positive initiatives and yours truly has been involved with most of them.

Those that spring to mind include the Staffordshire Saxon project; the annual City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Awards (now in their 39th year); The Sentinel Business Awards (now in their 20th year); the recent Robbie Williams tourist trail, exhibition and charity fans’ festival and the bid for a HS2 hub station.

We work with our colleagues at the city council on these projects because they are hugely positive, they champion local people and they help our city aspire to better things.

Now add those projects to The Sentinel’s campaigns for a new North Staffs Hospital and for the cancer drug Herceptin to be made available to all women on the NHS or our fight to save Port Vale FC and the name of our county regiment.

Then there’s the Young Journalist Awards, the Stoke’s Top Talent variety competition and the Our Heroes community awards.

You start to build up a picture of how, over time, this newspaper is a genuine force for good and can hopefully understand why a local lad like me who used to deliver The Sentinel in Sneyd Green during the mid-1980s is enormously proud of working for it.

Of course, these are just some of the campaigns and projects which this newspaper has been involved with during my 15 years here.

Think of the good The Sentinel has done over 160 years, the help it has given, the information disseminated to generations of families through good times and bad, and the role the newspaper has played and continues to play in local democracy.

Ignore the trolls who will inevitably pour scorn on this column on our website. It’s easy to mock and disparage which is why the internet remains the virtual equivalent of the Wild West.

The Freedom of the City is an honour that would be gratefully and graciously received by The Sentinel’s current generation of journalists on behalf of everyone who went before and everyone who comes after.

Here’s to keeping people informed for the next 160 years… whether that be through film, the internet, via phones and tablets, or by you getting good, old-fashioned print on your hands.

We’ll still be The Sentinel: Local and proud.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

Act now to preserve historic town hall and Fenton’s unique war memorial

The Great War memorial inside Fenton Town Hall.

The Great War memorial inside Fenton Town Hall.

I received an email, out of the blue, at two minutes past four on Sunday morning.

It was sent by a man I don’t know on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean who wanted me to pass on a message of solidarity to people here in the Potteries.

Ryan Daniels is a teacher who lives in Braintree, Massachusetts.

He had spotted a video on the internet and was moved to contact The Sentinel to give his best wishes to campaigners here in Stoke-on-Trent who are campaigning to save Fenton Town Hall.

I say save because I genuinely fear for the future of this historic building, and its hidden treasures, if Fenton Community Association loses its fight.

As we approach the centenary commemorations of the start of the Great War, Ryan Daniels is one of those who is fearful that our city is about to lose something very precious indeed.

For inside Fenton Town Hall is a memorial to hundreds of men from Fenton who gave their lives for King and country during the First World War.

It is a memorial that very few people will actually have seen – unless, that is, you have had cause within the last 40 years or so to visit what was the City Magistrates’ Court.

The large plaque, made from Minton tiles, features the name of almost 500 men from the town and was commissioned just a few years after the war ended as a permanent memorial to their ultimate sacrifice.

They are names that will be familiar to Sentinel readers. Among many others, there’s an Abberley, a Bourne, a Clewlow, a Colclough, a Cope, a Durose, an Egerton, two Finneys, a Goodwin, a Holdcroft, a Meakin, a Mottram and a Povey.

The list goes on and on. All common Stokie names. All names you’ll recognise.

But you can’t visit this memorial that so few have seen because since the Ministry of Justice relocated its magistrates’ court to Newcastle-under-Lyme, Fenton Town Hall has been closed to the public.

It is now up for sale and campaigners face the daunting task of trying to raise £500,000 in just six months to purchase the building under the auspices of a community trust.

They would like to make it a focal point for the community once more. They would like local businesses to operate from inside the town hall.

But first they have to persuade the city council and the Ministry of Justice that the previous use of the building known to Sentinel hacks as ‘Fenton mags’, benefited the local community.

Given its history, I fail to see how Fenton Town Hall can be viewed as anything other than a building which has served the people of the Potteries for generations.
But perhaps that’s just me.

All that said, could it really be that the Ministry of Justice is still about to visit a great injustice on the people of Fenton and our city as a whole?

As the bean counters in Whitehall attempt to raise whatever funds they can through the sale of public assets, one has to fear for the future of the memorial.

Imagine it being bulldozed to make way for, perhaps, housing or new retail premises.

As it stands, these are very real possibilities.

Let us not forget that it is only by a quirk of fate that Fenton Town Hall finds itself in such a precarious position.

Some 10 years ago the building which brought all of the city’s magistrates’ courts under one roof in 1968, passed from local ownership to that of the state.

Suddenly, the future of one of Stoke-on-Trent’s six town halls was no longer in the hands of local people or even the local authority.

To make matters worse, Fenton Town Hall isn’t even a listed building.

Why? Because a man with a clipboard – a man perhaps used to grander architecture than this ‘portly’ Gothic edifice in red brick and stone and without a feel for the history of our city – once said so.

Personally speaking, I find it hard to conceive of a Potteries where one of the Six Towns doesn’t have a town hall – an iconic civic building to call its own.

The building of Fenton Town Hall in 1889 was funded at a cost of £6,000 by local pottery owner and philanthropist William Meath Baker.

It suppose it was no real surprise when it was chosen three decades later as the location for the impressive, tiled Great War memorial.

Fentonians of the day would doubtless have considered this a building that would last for many hundreds of years.

Yet here we are in 2013 with a huge black cloud hanging over the town hall and its hidden war memorial.

As we turn our thoughts towards commemorations for the Great War, I find it inconceivable that anyone would wish to dismantle or move this tribute to the fallen.

I hope you feel the same and are moved to sign the petition to help protect it and thereby honour the men immortalised by that long, sad roll call.

I will leave the final words to my new American friend Ryan Daniels whose great, great grandfather fought in France with a U.S. cavalry regiment during 1917-18 and, unlike the men on the Fenton memorial, was fortunate enough to make it home.

Ryan wrote: ‘I suppose I am sending this email to show that complete strangers separated by a vast ocean do care and wish goodwill to the people of Fenton in their struggle to preserve this vital piece of UK history’.

Sign the petition at: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-the-desecration-of-this-great-war-memorial

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel

Fond memories of my one encounter with the Queen

I remember the day quite clearly. It was Thursday, May 1, 1986 and yours truly, my mum, younger brother Matthew and my nan and grandad waited in the weak sunshine for the arrival of a very special visitor from Stoke Station.
I have to admit I wasn’t that keen on flowers and I certainly didn’t understand the term ‘regeneration’.
Nevertheless, we had just bought season tickets to the National Garden Festival which had transformed a 180-acre eyesore which had, until 1979, been the site of the Shelton Bar steelworks.
After five years of planning, earth-moving and landscaping and millions of pounds of Government funding, the Garden Festival – billed as a celebration of the best of British gardening – was ready to receive its Royal seal of approval.
I had never seen the Queen before and even 14-year-old me, besotted with football and Dungeons & Dragons, was excited as we stood in the drizzle with 14,000 other people waiting for Her Majesty to arrive.
I had never seen so many police officers and I remember grandad telling me they were worried about the threat of a terrorist attack.
We didn’t have a great spot in the crowd, if truth be told, and I remember craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the monarch as she stepped out of a shiny black Rolls-Royce.
She was wearing a vivid blue woollen coat and a black hat and seemed to have a fixed grin as we waved our Union Flags and Garden Festival carrier bags like things possessed – convinced that she was waving at us.
We listened to the opening ceremony during which the Queen said some very nice things about Stoke-on-Trent and told us she thought pottery pioneer Josiah Wedgwood would be proud of what had been achieved at Etruria.
Then she joined civic dignitaries for a one and a quarter mile train ride around the Garden Festival.
That’s when most people lost track of Her Majesty and, like us, went off to explore the remarkable site.
My brother had his picture taken with children’s telly witch Grotbags and I was chuffed to have met Central TV news presenter Bob Warman.
We marvelled at the strange waterfall made of Twyfords bathroom ware, enjoyed having a nosey around the new show homes and were thrilled to be taken on a cable car ride.
Then I remember great excitement as parachutists paid tribute to the Queen by dropping in, unexpected, on Festival-goers.
The Red Arrows also flew over the site and left a red, white and blue vapour trail which was pretty cool viewing to a teenager like me who was still harbouring dreams of joining the RAF when he left school.
After touring the festival site the Queen made her way over to the new Beth Johnson Housing Association complex in Etruria Locks – arriving in style aboard a red, white and blue narrowboat decorated with flowers.
As the boat went by, dozens of Sentinel employees could be seen waving from the newspaper’s new offices next to the Festival site.
This was the first and only time I laid eyes on the Queen and, having shared the occasion with my family, the memory is all the more special to me.
Since then I’ve been fortune enough to chat to Prince Edward, meet Prince Charles and Princess Anne and take photographs of the late Princess Diana and her sons William and Harry during a visit to Alton Towers.
However, I remain a great admirer of the Queen who, through all the trial and tribulations of the last two decades has remained a dignified and reliable ambassador for both the monarchy and Britain.
Whoever succeeds her certainly has big shoes to fill and I dare say we will never see the like again – both in terms of Her Majesty’s longevity and grace.

Titanic’s captain was just a bloke from Stoke in the wrong place at the wrong time

I was lucky enough to be enjoying a tour of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery as staff were putting the finishing touches to its new Titanic exhibition.

As the centenary of the disaster approaches, bosses at the city centre venue are understandably hoping for an increase in visitors riding, if you will pardon the pun, on a wave of nostalgia for the ill-fated liner.

But what struck me most about the display was the way in which people were being asked to vote on who they thought was to blame for the demise of the ‘unsinkable’ RMS Titanic.

Pictures of some of the ship’s officers are pinned to the wall – along with details of their role in the doomed maiden voyage.

This is a novel approach to telling the Titanic story through the people whose actions (or lack of) contributed to a catastrophe which captured the imagination of the public in 1912 and which endures to this day.

Among the suspects is the skipper who is, of course, the sole reason why one of the most land-locked cities in England is staging an exhibition to mark this most horrific of maritime disasters.

Captain Edward John Smith, from Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, was given the plum job of sailing the White Star Line’s luxurious new ship from Southampton to New York.

When news of the liner’s fate first reached the UK, my predecessors at The Staffordshire Sentinel wrote in glowing terms about the man dubbed ‘The Millionaires’ Captain’ – so favoured was he by the great and the good.

Smith was described thus: “He is one of the most experienced commanders and his knowledge of the Atlantic and its moods and phases is perhaps unique”.

Our report of April 15, 1912 – the day after the Titanic struck an iceberg – went on to speak of him as “exceedingly popular with his officers” and admired for his “tact, firmness and professional skill”.

Sadly, I reckon our city’s relationship with Captain Smith and, indeed, with the Titanic will always be a uncomfortable one.

It should have been a voyage that went down in history as a feather in the cap of our city.

Instead it was the great ship itself which went down in the icy waters of the Atlantic – bringing ignominy to one of our most famous sons.

Despite various inquiries and new evidence unearthed since the wreck was discovered in 1985, many questions remain about an event which has been immortalised in poems, books and by Hollywood.

The bottom line is that, like it or not, Captain Smith, from Hanley, was in charge of the Titanic on the night it sank with the loss of 1,517 lives.

No attempt to apportion blame on outdated safety procedures, inadequate numbers of lifeboats, missing binoculars or various members of the crew can free our man from that heavy burden.

You cannot rewrite history and I, for one, am glad that Captain Smith’s statue is in Lichfield.

I can’t think of any reason why Stoke-on-Trent would want to commemorate this unfortunate man beyond the plaque tucked away in Hanley Town Hall.

Our connection to the Titanic is nothing to be proud of – rather it is a quirk of fate.

Captain Smith just happened to come from Hanley and just happened to be the top man on the Titanic when it sank.

He didn’t design the vessel. He didn’t build it and, despite various romantic stories, we don’t know for sure how he conducted himself during those final two hours after his ship struck an iceberg.

It would be a different story entirely if he had personally rescued third class passengers from below decks, carried a dozen children to safety or ensured better use was made of the pitiful number of lifeboats the Titanic had.

The fact is we just don’t know what happened to the man who was at the centre of this awful human tragedy.

As a city we understandably celebrate the fact that the man who designed the fighter plane which helped to turn the tide of the Second World War comes from our neck of the woods.

But Captain Smith of the Titanic is no Reginald Mitchell of Spitfire fame.

To my mind, he was simply a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Memories of the ‘Black Pearl’: A Vale legend who still gives me hope…

This is my favourite Sentinel photograph from the 1980s.

No matter how bad things get at my beloved Port Vale (and right now it’s pretty bloody grim) it is an image which reminds me that there will always be hope.

The picture was taken on June 3, 1989, and shows Robbie Earle shedding tears of joy as he rests in the players’ tunnel at Vale Park after scoring the winner in the old Third Division play-off final (second leg) against Bristol Rovers.

It is a wonderful image that, for me, is evocative of a special time in sport – a time before the internet and 24-hour TV and radio ruined the mystique surrounding many of our heroes.

Robbie – or the ‘Black Pearl’ as he was affectionately known in Boslem – was the best player I ever saw in a Vale shirt.

He had it all: Skill, good in the air, a burst of pace and a never-say-die attitude which is sorely lacking in many modern-day pros.

The fact that he was a local-lad-made-good just added to his aura and he was adored by Vale fans. He still is.

Robbie played almost 300 games for the club between 1982 and 1991, scored 77 goals and is inextricably linked with the most successful period in Vale’s history.

He achieved similar cult status with Wimbledon fans and went on to represent Jamaica 33 times – famously scoring the country’s first ever goal at a World Cup Finals.

One of the few footballers to make a successful transition from the game to punditry, Robbie is – in my opinion – one of the most charming, articulate and insightful commentators on the modern-day game.

But for some storm in a teacup in 2010 over the misuse of World Cup tickets by someone else, his star would still be rising with ITV.

As it is, he is currently plying his trade in the U.S. (as well as being a columnist for The Sentinel, of course).

Robbie hasn’t ruled out a return to Vale Park some day – perhaps even via a foray into management.

However, with the club in disarray and a financial basket case, that possibility seems remote at present and I’m more than happy to remember him as one of the best attacking midfielders in the country who just happened to wear black and white.

I first met Robbie properly when I sat next to him at a Sentinel awards event in 2008.

Having arranged the seating plan I will confess that I deliberately sat him next to me and spent all night like a kid in a sweet shop forcing him to reminisce about his time at Vale.

He was charming and patient and took my endless prattling in good humour – sharing dressing room anecdotes and more recent stories relating to his former team-mate turned Hollywood star Vinny Jones.

A few months later, when I was diagnosed with cancer, a parcel arrived at my home.

Inside was a signed t-shirt. The message read: “From one Vale legend to another. Best wishes, Robbie Earle x”.

It was the best tonic I could have wished for.

Meet Robert Fitzgerald Earle MBE in the street and you will find him a warm, self-effacing and engaging bloke who still has a genuine passion for the club where he made his name.

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

How can we believe what Deakin and Miller tell us anymore?


I guess the questions asked by Port Vale supporters and handed in by the Supporters’ Club committee to Peter Miller last Thursday are going to go unanswered, then.
Why am I not surprised? As I wrote on Friday morning, I wasn’t holding my breath for Perry Deakin or Peter Miller to provide answers. Clearly they don’t give a monkey’s what we all think.
Clearly the new era of openness and transparency ended before it had begun.
The truth is, given the misleading statements and factual inaccuracies they have served up to Vale fans in recent weeks and months, I dare say nobody would believe them if they did attempt to answer fans’ questions.
On Friday night, however, the chairman did decide to issue a statement of breathtaking blandness which claimed he and Mr Deakin had saved the club from administration.
It then attempted to create a smokescreen about an allegedly ‘stolen document’.
Ironically, that statement didn’t take issue with any of the facts in Friday’s Sentinel story and wittered on about the issuing of nil-paid shares being ‘standard business practice’. Try telling the fans, shareholders and former directors that, Peter.
That statement on the club’s website was the equivalent of Mr Miller ignoring the fact that his house was on fire in order to show us his new curtains.
FACT 1: As a result of Friday’s story we know that both Deakin and Miller were elected to the board without having put any money into the club. (Although hundreds of shareholders can be forgiven for thinking the word ‘purchased’ meant they had stuck some dosh in).
FACT 2: Mr Deakin thinks Mr Miller is worth his astonishingly generous remuneration package for a previously unpaid figurehead role. Interestingly, I can’t find a single person who agrees with him.
FACT 3: Despite repeated requests, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Port Vale have so far refused to have a proper, sit down chat with The Sentinel to answer the kind of questions the Supporters’ Club committee handed in last week. Oddly, they keep cancelling the meeting.
You see, I reckon whatever Mr Deakin and Mr Miller come up with next – be it impressive sales figures or another small-time investor – their credibility with most Vale fans is now shot.
They have missed deadlines, issued misleading statements to shareholders and supporters, and contradicted themselves on so many occasions that it is genuinely hard for us to separate fact from fiction anymore.
So let’s not have them wriggling out of the big pledge, shall we?
Remember: It’s £5 million into Port Vale from Blue Sky by next September. That’s what we were told. And a further £3 million for pre-season tours and heaven knows what else.
If, in the coming days and weeks, the board attempts to move the goalposts and deny the sums they said were involved in the Blue Sky investment or tries to blame fans for the deal falling through then we know it was all pie in the Blue Sky in the first place.
I, for one, certainly look forward to hearing the opinions of directors Mike Lloyd and Glenn Oliver on recent developments. They’ve gone awfully quiet, don’t you think?
If either of you gentlemen are reading this, then feel free to give me a bell. You’ve got my number.
By the same token, I’m available 24/7 for Blue Sky boss Hank Julicher, should he ever chance upon this column.
Rest assured that right now Vale supporters who care about their club are working behind the scenes to get to the truth.
They are pushing on many fronts in a battle we simply can’t afford to lose and, for once, it seems all fans are united.
*Anyone wishing to comment on recent revelations can write to The Sentinel’s letters pages by emailing me at: martin.tideswell@thesentinel.co.uk