Now is our time: Just one more big performance please, lads

Adam Yates, Tom Pope and Lee Hughes show their passion.

Adam Yates, Tom Pope and Lee Hughes show their passion.

These are the moments you live for as a football fan. The reason that people care so much.

There will be tension tomorrow. There may well be tears before bedtime: Hopefully tears of joy.

But above all there will be a passion built of a momentum that has been growing since that opening day victory against Barnet.

So much hinges on this game: If the Burton game was huge then this is colossal.

A victory would almost certainly see us promoted given our astonishing goal difference.

That achievement would surely rank among English football’s greatest comebacks – a testament to Port Vale’s fans, its players, the coaching staff and the club’s new owners.

I can say now that there was a moment, a couple of days before Vale went into administration, when I honestly didn’t know whether or not we’d have a football club to support in 2013.

I wondered if perhaps in forcing out the discredited board of directors who had brought the Vale to its knees we had also doomed the club. That’s how close we came to oblivion.

It was, in some respects, a huge gamble but one that many of us felt was essential in order for Vale to have any kind of future.

As a result our club started the season in administration – with players and staff going unpaid for a time.

Indeed, some players turned their back on Port Vale precisely because its survival and, therefore, their financial future could not be guaranteed.

I remember supporters turning up to clean the stadium, do some painting and prepare Vale Park for the new season.

I recall the bucket collections, the sale of t-shirts and mugs by the Supporters’ Club and the umpteen meetings to try to help the Vale in any way possible.

I will never forget the pride felt by so many on the day the Sproson statue was finally unveiled.

Amid all the furore Micky Adams, his staff and players have been quietly going about their business.

Against the odds, with a small budget at the beginning of the season, they have somehow battled their way into the promotion places and now history awaits.

They deserve enormous credit for their performances thus far and all we ask is that tomorrow, once again, they make us proud.

One more big performance, perhaps blessed with a goal or two from the Sneyd Green Pontiff, will be the icing on the cake of a fabulous season.

I believe.

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.


Three points there for the taking against struggling Dons

It’s crunch-time then. A must-win game in the eyes of most of us at home tomorrow against struggling Wimbledon.

We’ll be told no games are easy and that the Dons are ‘scrapping for their lives’ near the foot of the table.

Spin it anyway you want to: It’s three points for the taking in my eyes – especially has Micky Adams has a pretty much full-strength squad to choose from.

Our form over the last five or six weeks certainly hasn’t matched the blistering start we made to the start of the season.

Injuries and suspensions have played their part, for sure, but it is also fair to say that a few key players have been somewhat below par.

They include wingers Ashley Vincent and Jennison Myrie-Williams who will doubtless be champing at the bit to feed the Pope and get back on the score sheet tomorrow.

Over the course of a season very few players are able to maintain the same levels of enthusiasm and performance. (The Sneyd Green Pontiff being the obvious exception to that rule at the moment).

Hopefully the gaffer will simply point at the league table before kick off and show anyone who may be feeling a little low on confidence our goal difference of plus 21.

I was delighted to see Louis Dodds back in the team last weekend – especially when he repaid the manager’s faith with a goal which earned us a terrific point away at Cheltenham.

If you go back to the start of the season it was the partnership of Pope and Dodds, supported by the rampant wingers, which got us off to a flyer and it is good to see us returning to that formula.

The centre of the park remains a concern to me, however, because I feel we miss Doug Loft’s energy and all-round play when he is stuck as make-shift left back.

Wherever Lofty plays, however, we’ve surely got enough quality and creativity to turn over tomorrow’s visitors.

As an aside, there’s been much speculation over whether or not John Rudge may return to Vale Park in some capacity once his contract expires at Stoke City in June.

Very sensibly, Rudgie refused to be drawn on such questions when he rang me earlier this week.

I reckon whatever the future holds for the great man, his legacy as a true great of Potteries football is secured and I’m sure there will always be a warm welcome for him in Burslem.

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

The Wonder of You: Victory and relief at last for Port Vale fans

When Norman Smurthwaite sent a text on Monday to say all was good and that the takeover of Port Vale would be completed the following day I felt an enormous sense of relief.

Yesterday marked the end of a very long and, at times, incredibly dark road for Port Vale, its staff and its long-suffering supporters.

For me, personally, the takeover means I can now step down from the Supporters’ Club (SC) committee knowing that we have achieved what we set out to achieve.

The self-interested few who were running Port Vale into the ground 12 months ago are history and will very soon be hearing from the liquidators of the old Valiant 2001.

Crucially, Port Vale is out of administration and under new ownership.

I’m proud to say that during the last 12 months the SC has grown in membership from 200 to more than 1,600.

And, after 11 years, the Sproson Statue is finally in-situ and looks magnificent.

It is about 18 months ago that I stumbled from the EGM, shell-shocked that the will of the vast majority of ordinary shareholders in Port Vale had been denied.

Hopefully, I’ve kept a promise to a supporter called Caroline who was standing outside on that day.

Fast forward a few months – December 1, 2011, to be precise. That’s when the SC committee members had their first spectacular falling out with Perry Deakin and Peter Miller.

What began as a cordial discussion descended into a slanging match when Messrs Miller and Deakin were presented with evidence of the issuing of half a million pounds worth nil paid shares.

Then they locked us out of Tommy Cheadle’s. The gloves were off.

What followed was several months of digging, arranging meetings, seeking legal advice and protests.

We exposed the fact the Blue Sky deal was dead and unearthed the sorry saga of the re-mortgaging of the club and the Gibraltar loan.

We even went as far as to create an interim board in preparation for a second EGM which never happened.

Of course, the SC was able to draw on a reservoir of goodwill formed by years of unhappiness and unrest.

It was able to bring together groups like North London Valiants, Black and Gold and the Starve ’Em Out campaign under one umbrella.

Let’s never forget it was these people who started the fight. They laid the foundations for change.

Ultimately, together, these groups and the SC were to prove an irresistible force – one which put paid to the likes of Miller and Deakin, Mike Lloyd and Glenn Oliver.

When the club went into administration earlier this year there was absolutely no guarantee that Port Vale would survive.

But thanks to the city council we were given a lifeline that we clung to for grim death.

Fans collected money in buckets, bought mugs and t-shirts and showed the local authority that they were right to help save our unique local heritage brand.

Then the Keith Ryder affair almost derailed everyone’s good work.

However, yesterday we crossed the finish line. Together.

I can’t give any guarantees about the future. Football is football. Owners and fans alike are fickle. Circumstances change. Players and managers come and go.

But I think Port Vale is now in a better position than it has been for many years and its success or otherwise is now down to the business people who run it – not the SC, not shareholders, not the administrators nor the cretins who used to be in charge.

Port Vale will be run by some blokes who know full well the importance of making it a customer-focused business.

Who knows, we may even have a shot at promotion this season with the Sneyd Green Pontiff leading the line. At least now we can focus on what’s happening on the pitch rather than off it.

During the last 12 months I have fallen out with everyone: My colleagues at The Sentinel; my friends on the Supporters’ Club committee; various bidders; the administrators and even club staff.

My friends and I on the SC committee have been called all the names under the sun by keyboard warriors who haven’t been prepared to say it to our faces or lift a finger to help.

They include supporters of failed bidders for the club, former club staff, former directors and even disgruntled ex-SC committee members.

Some people still maintain we were wrong to campaign for change. Some people will never admit when they’re wrong.

I’ve witnessed unbelievable self-interest from people who really ought to have known better.

I’ve been abused while collecting money in a bucket at the Bycars turnstiles and on The Sentinel’s website by some wag who now refers to me as ‘the mob’s favourite journalist’.

How my gaffer must love that. Not.

Frankly, being involved with Port Vale Supporters’ Club has been a thankless task.

We’ve often doubted ourselves. There have been countless hours spent on the telephone and in meetings. Many a sleepless night because of what we’ve learned.

We’ve been party to discussions which have left us genuinely gobsmacked and been given information which has been dynamite. Much of it still is.

But we’ve only ever acted in what we consider to be the best interests of the club. That is the truth.

Just ask the administrators or Norman Smurthwaite if you don’t believe me. Just ask Phil Sproson and the wider Sproson family.

There’s a book in this and one day soon, perhaps, I will sit down with Gary Benson and write it.

Or maybe not.

Again, it depends what’s in the best interests of Port Vale and, sometimes – as we have learned, it’s better not to rock the boat.

It has been a privilege working with Gary and Pete Williams, my other colleagues on the SC committee and our solicitor Stephen Inglis.

It has also been a genuine pleasure to meet so many decent, honest and passionate Port Vale fans – many of whom I’m now proud to call friends.

Whatever the future holds I’m confident that Vale will be alright precisely because of people like Gary and Pete and the hundreds more who have fought this fight with us.

Today we can all be proud. Now we really can look forward and not backwards.

We’re Vale, aren’t we?