Dear Keith Ryder…

Dear Mr Ryder, welcome to Vale Park.

If you’re wondering what that stone plinth is for at the bottom of the steps outside the main entrance, well, there’s a story there.

That’s where the statue of our greatest player – Roy Sproson – is going stand one day soon. Hopefully.

It was all paid for by the fans and should have been unveiled, well, ages ago – but there were, er… complications.

To be honest, it has been a dreadful few years for everyone connected with Port Vale.
I’m not sure where to begin, really.

There was this dream, you see, of a ‘fan-run club’ but that turned into a nightmare when some ‘fans’ decided they were more equal than others.

Vale’s shareholders (the bulk of whom were ordinary fans) lost their investment because the previous board of directors lost the plot – along with the goodwill of a majority of supporters.

The fans were lied to and treated with contempt. They were promised a multi-million pound investment which never materialised.

They watched in horror as Vale Park was remortgaged, bills went unpaid and a promotion campaign was torpedoed by a points deduction.

It was touch and go whether or not the club would survive at all, to be honest, such was the mismanagement of the previous regime.

But we’ve got the chance of a fresh start now and that’s where you come in.

It goes without saying, Mr Ryder, that you are inheriting a football club with a long and proud history.

The simple truth is that, in order to make a success of Port Vale, you need certain ingredients.

You need a plan and you need to have the cash to realise that vision – on and off the park.

But, crucially, right now you need to embrace the fanbase.

If I can give you any advice it would be: Prepare to have everything you say and do scrutinised to the nth degree.

I just hope you have a thick skin because you’re going to need one.

To be fair, most supporters are sick and tired of the in-fighting and the bickering and just want to get back to supporting the team.

But, in order for them to do that wholeheartedly, you must be honest with them and not mislead them or fill them with delusions of grandeur.

We’ve had enough false dawns at Vale to last a lifetime.

Let’s face it, Micky Adams – if he remains as manager – will be putting together an almost entirely new squad over the summer.

Next season, therefore, is likely to be one of consolidation and, fingers crossed, healing – rather than a nailed-on promotion push.

But I’ll settle for that after what’s gone on recently and I’m sure I won’t be alone.

No-one wins, but we are getting our club back. Now let’s see what we can do with it…

It’s looking like administration, then. Few people will be surprised because the writing has been on the wall for some time.
Only the outgoing board, in their arrogance and denial, kidded themselves they could salvage a desperate situation which was entirely of their own making.
It has felt like death by a thousand cuts and, in the end, no-one wins. Not the club’s staff, not the fans, not the shareholders – nor the club’s many creditors.
Yes, we can take some comfort from the fact Messrs Miller, Oliver, Lloyd and Deakin will soon have nothing to do with Port Vale FC.
What’s more, hopefully an administrator would make those responsible for the club’s plight pay dearly for their conduct in recent months.
However, administration remains a gamble and the Vale’s future is anything but secure.
Barring a jaw-dropping winning run, a 10-point deduction would almost certainly end any hopes of us grabbing a play-off berth.
In fact, we would all be doing the maths and wouldn’t be able to rest easy until Vale had 50-odd points on the board and were absolutely safe from the threat of relegation.
Let’s hope that will be enough of an incentive for the players who weren’t paid on Wednesday to get their heads down and stay focused until the end of the season.
Let’s also hope we don’t lose any of them or a very good manager who knows full well just how much the majority of supporters value and respect him and the work he’s doing.
At this point we should spare a thought for the club’s employees who face an anxious wait to see whether or not they will keep their jobs.
We should also acknowledge the near 1,000 Vale fans who have previously invested hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds of their own money to help save the club.
Their shares are worthless and have been for some time, if truth be told.
I am sure most of them never expected a return on their investment and were happy to have done their bit and ‘owned’ a little piece of the club they love.
But administration would take even that away.
Once again we would all be equal.
My thanks go to the city council at this point – or rather the councillors who would be taking a brave decision, under the most difficult of circumstances, to effectively underwrite the cost of placing Port Vale into administration.
Make no bones about it – the alternative is liquidation. In other words, our club would cease to exist, sold off to pay our debts.
There are serious public purse considerations involved in their decision, since administration at least offers the authority the chance to recoup some of its £2.25m loan to the Vale.
However, I’d like to think the councillors involved in last night’s meeting also went with their gut instinct – which should have been to help preserve 130 years of heritage and an asset to the city which means so much to so many people.
The fight against the board is almost over. Now the battle for Port Vale’s very survival begins.
The cancer at the heart of the club is being cut out but the operation to remove it has left the patient on a life-support machine.
Now it us up to us, the fans, to rally behind the team and help our club in any way we can.
Miller, Oliver, Lloyd and Deakin will soon be history.
Soon there will be no excuses: No reasons to stay away. No reasons not to put your money and time into your club.
Let’s make Tuesday night the biggest gate of the season. Let’s show Micky and the lads we are with them and, crucially, let’s demonstrate to the city council that they will be making the right call.
Let’s put aside our differences and leave the recriminations to the administrator and the proper authorities to resolve.
We’re getting our club back.
Now let’s see what we can do with it.

Peace at last… but can we learn from our mistakes?

It seems peace may finally have broken out in Burslem.
Fans’ groups who have been the bane of those in charge at the Vale have called a ceasefire.
Many of the objectives of the supporters who fought for change have now been realised.
Unpopular board members have gone or are going and many protesters have adopted a ‘wait and see’ policy with regards to the £8 million Blue Sky investment.
Mark Sims – the only man elected on to the board by a majority of shareholders at June’s EGM – has finally shown his hand.
He claims to never have been given enough financial information to have allowed him to make a decision on signing up to director’s guarantees and therefore won’t be joining the board.
Whatever the truth, it’s another loose end tied up and no great surprise given the amount of time that has elapsed since Sims was actually voted in.
Thus the utopian vision of a supporter-run club may be dead but the powers-that-be have offered an olive branch of sorts.
Through the Supporters’ Club, a fan-elected representative will be given a seat on the board – without having to sign up to a director’s financial liabilities.
If this happens, that would be the one positive from this whole messy civil war.
We have a great manager and a decent squad which has every chance of pushing for promotion.
I am sure everyone would agree that seeing an extra 1,000 plus fans on the home gate will be fantastic.
If we can harness the passion of those who worked for the Black and Gold group, North London Valiants and Starve ‘Em out and focus it on taking Vale forward then the supporter-base could be a genuine powerhouse for the club.
I would also like to praise NLV for donating their remaining ‘fighting fund’ cash to the Sproson Statue Fund and the Supporters’ Club. It was a wonderful gesture.
But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that all in the garden is suddenly rosy.
Make no mistake: This uneasy truce hinges on the board and chief executive’s ability to deliver on the promised investment and, crucially, to be open and honest with supporters.
Many questions remain over the details and timescale of the Blue Sky deal.
There are also those who are unhappy with the current make-up of the board and who see a conflict of interest with the club’s chief executive becoming a director.
Vale’s current regime needs to understand that they must take the rough with the smooth.
They must accept that they have made mistakes and stop being so defensive. A little humility would go a long way right now.
Supporters scrutinise what’s going on at the Vale because they care.
I would suggest that the moment they stop caring is the time that the club’s hierarchy should really start to worry.

Shareholders’ poll a step forward

I’D like to applaud the North London Valiants (NLV) fans’ group for canvassing shareholders regarding the Mo Chaudry takeover proposals and the competency, or otherwise of the current board.
In fact, the directors’ subsequent decision to poll shareholders on Chaudry’s bid now smacks a little of “after the horse has bolted”.
The results of the NLV poll are fairly conclusive – with 77 per cent of the respondents saying they had no confidence in the board to make the right decisions about future investment in the club.
These results were based on responses from 40.5 per cent – or 339 – of Vale’s shareholders.
This means that even if there has been some jiggery-pokery lately, and those figures have been influenced by people buying up £50 worth of shares here and there, it’s still a pretty damning indictment of the board.
Having said that, I’m still pleased all shareholders are to be given the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to Chaudry’s vision for the Vale.
For months now anti-board protesters have vented their anger over the fact the directors don’t seem to be listening to the supporters.
They couldn’t understand why none of the potential investors in the club were seen as worthy of pursuing.
The campaigners want an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) so that  regular shareholders with just a few hundred quid invested in the club could have a say.
Well they haven’t got an EGM just yet, but this poll at least gives us all a voice and, if conducted with transparency and openness, may deliver a level of accountability that has been lacking for some time.
It will be interesting to see the figures – in terms of the split between individual shareholders as opposed to the percentages of shares.
We could have a situation where, as with votes at the annual meeting, the majority of people vote for something, but because they own a relatively small number of shares they ultimately lose.
Which brings us back to the crux of the debate.
The remaining six directors in this war of attrition are likely to ultimately decide the fate of Chaudry’s proposals – something which flies in the face of the original Valiant 2001 ethos of For Us All and one-man, one-vote.
Many claim this is inherently unfair, but if you had sunk tens of thousands of pounds into the Vale, wouldn’t you want more of a say than Joe Bloggs with his £50 stake?