That was the week that was. So where are Vale now?

To have so much good news in seven day should hopefully have put a smile on the face of every Port Vale fan.

It has been a week of milestones which has delivered relief and happiness in equal measure.

The unveiling of the long-awaited Sproson Statue was a day for young and old alike to savour.

Eleven years in the making, involving the efforts of literally hundreds of people, the finished product is an inspirational masterpiece.

The fact that so many people were there to witness the ceremony spoke volumes about the high regard in which the Sproson family is held.

The York game itself was something of a damp squib: A poor performance and a game in which we were lucky to escape with a point, if truth be told.

However, that was swept under the carpet on Tuesday evening when news finally filtered through that the club had been bought.

Congratulations to Norman Smurthwaite and Paul Wildes and good luck to them in the coming months and years as they look to build the viable, successful business they are promising.

Having spent some time with Norman and knowing something of their track record it seems we may actually have owners who know a thing or two about customer service.

They’ve got a bargain and understand that the potential of Port Vale is massive – if they can a) increase the number of bums on seats and b) make Vale Park a thriving business venue when we are not kicking a ball about once a fortnight.

That Vale thumped sorry Bristol Rovers four-nil just hours after the takeover had been confirmed really was the icing on the cake.

So where are we now, as a club, in the cold light of day?

We are out and administration and debt free. There are no loans involved in this buyout.

The administrators will soon become liquidators of the old Valiant 2001 and some previous directors could well have to answer for their actions.

We have new owners who have pledged to take nothing personally from the club in terms of salaries or dividends.

We have a quality manager and a good squad which is perfectly capable of achieving promotion and which will now be strengthened.

The fans have a respected voice in the Supporters’ Club which the new owners have stressed they want to work with.

What’s more, local lad Tom Pope is banging in goals for fun while Roy Sproson watches over his beloved Vale Park.

Pride has been restored.

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

Roy’s home at last. Vale supporters take a bow…

It was the completion of a project that refused to die at the club that refuses to die.

On Saturday the slate-grey skies cleared and the sun shone on Port Vale’s golden one.

Around 1,000 people were there to see his triumphant return to Vale Park.

Many in the crowd never saw Roy Sproson pull on a white shirt. Indeed, quite a few weren’t even old enough to remember his nephew Phil’s 495 appearances for the club.

Hopefully the unveiling of the Sproson Statue left them in no doubt about the importance of this remarkable family to the Port Vale story.

It took 11 years to realise the vision of a permanent memorial to the club’s greatest servant.

Along the way the project has ground to a halt through lack of funding, red tape, the intransigence of previous directors and personnel changes among the fund-raising committee.

But there has always been someone there to pick up the baton and keep the dream alive.

Even three weeks ago there were nay-sayers. When the project’s key driver Pete Williams fell ill I rang the monumental masons to be told there was no way the statue would be completed by November 17.

There were no words for the plinth, the granite hadn’t been cut, the event at the club hadn’t been organised and none of the VIPs had received a formal invite.

But Port Vale fans did what Port Vale fans do. They got their hands dirty, mucked in and made Saturday a wonderful celebration nonetheless.

Afterwards Phil Sproson told me the family thought it had been a perfect day and was thrilled that so many people had turned out to pay their respects.

It was never in doubt…

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

Time for Football League to deliver a double celebration


There is a man at the Football League who has it within his gift to make us all very happy in the next few days.

Last Thursday preferred bidders Norman Smurthwaite and Paul Wildes received verbal confirmation from the League that their bid to take-over Port Vale had been accepted.

A week later and we’re still waiting for the written confirmation which will take the club out of administration and herald a new era at Vale Park.

The money has been transferred to the solicitors, the Football League has everything it has asked for. The administrators are happy. The preferred bidders can do no more.

So let us hope that the Football League’s in-house lawyer Nick Craig completes his work before next Wednesday when the preferred bidders’ period of exclusivity expires.

After all the heartache, what we absolutely don’t want is for the administrators to have to go back to the drawing board and look for yet another new buyer.

This isn’t a Keith Ryder vanishing act/lack of money scenario. The ball is now firmly in the Football League’s court and, frankly, Port Vale and its fans have been waiting long enough.

So, Mr Craig, please help us make it a double celebration and give us the good news before Wednesday.

It will be the icing on the cake after tomorrow’s Sproson Statue unveiling.

Tomorrow, it won’t matter whether you sit in the Paddock, the Bycars End or the Lorne Street stand.

It doesn’t matter whether you were Black and Gold, Starve ‘Em Out, or still hold affection for the previous board.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a season ticket, you walk up to games or you are a lapsed fan – someone who perhaps recalls the days when either Roy or Phil Sproson wore a Vale shirt.

Tomorrow none of that matters. Tomorrow all Vale supporters can come together to celebrate one family’s special association with our club.

It was 11 years ago that a group of fans sat around first discussing the idea of a permanent memorial to the club’s greatest servant.

Yes, it’s a crime that it has taken so long for the project to be completed but we shouldn’t allow any negativity tomorrow.

So many people have been involved in the Sproson Fund and have worked on the Sproson Statue project.

Then there are the thousands more who have donated sums large and small to help realise the dream of acknowledging Roy Sproson’s achievements and his family’s remarkable service to Port Vale.

There are many statues of great and famous footballers and managers at grounds across the country – celebrating domestic success and international honours.

Now Vale Park has one which is unique in that it honours one man’s devotion to his local club and his family’s record of more than 1,360 appearances for that club.

Tomorrow is a day of great pride and a day of memories. But is also a day to look forward with renewed hope that the talismanic Sproson name can inspire Port Vale for generations to come.

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

Urgent plea regarding Sproson statue at Vale Park


Very soon a statue of Port Vale’s greatest servant – Roy Sproson – will take pride of place outside the club’s main entrance.
It’s been a long and fraught journey for the fund-raising team who have masterminding the project.
Nevertheless, groundwork began several weeks ago and visitors to Vale Park on Saturday will spot the progress that has been made towards giving Roy his rightful place up on a pedestal with other sporting greats.
Today, however, Sproson Fund organiser Pete Williams contacted me to say they had suffered a setback.
A company which had pledged key materials – namely bricks, gravel, sand and cement – has now unexpectedly withdrawn its offer to help with the project.
Thus Pete is appealing for any local individuals or firms with links to the building trade to keep the scheme on track by donating materials.
Anyone who can help is asked to contact Pete Williams on 01782 661484 or 07522 679886.
NB: My regular Vale column returns to The Sentinel tomorrow.

Tell me why the Vale board still remains


I’VE run out of adjectives to describe the goings-on at ST6 1AW.
As if the EGM wasn’t bad enough, now we have more shenanigans regarding the Sproson statue.
Work should have started this week but that has been delayed by red tape.
Why any potential problems weren’t raised last week when Sproson Fund representatives visited the club is beyond me.
Yet again, this smacks of busy-bodies at the club throwing obstacles in the way of a genuine community project.
It doesn’t matter whether you are pro-board or pro-change with regard to this story.
Many Vale supporters have dug deep into their own pockets to pay for the statue to the club’s greatest servant.
Frankly, they – and Roy himself – deserve better treatment.
Then again, why am I not surprised?
This nonsense comes from the environment where a board of directors which has no moral legitimacy refuses to quit.
Can anyone tell me why Bill Bratt, Glenn Oliver and Mike Lloyd remain in post as Port Vale directors?
Not only did they lose a vote of no confidence but more than three quarters of shareholders voted to get rid of them.
Yet here we are, more than a week after the EGM, and these remnants of the old guard remain.
In doing so, they are preventing – I would guess – around 1,000 Vale fans from renewing their season tickets which is going to make for a pretty poor atmosphere at home games.
At the same time they seem to be doing everything within their power to prevent Mark Sims taking up his directorship.
One wonders if the AGS investors would have been asked to jump through the same hoops.
But, of course, that may not be necessary now as this much-heralded investment in the club from the other side of The Pond seems to be morphing into a sponsorship arrangement.
Funny that, because the Press Release sitting on my desk definitely says ‘sponsorship and investment deal’.
The £500,000 in cash, for which AGS would have received two seats on the board, actually seems no closer than the fabled Harlequin deal.
All the while the summer is slipping away and we have a manager who is unable to sign players to ratify contracts because there are only three board members.
Micky Adams says this has prompted him to put himself forward as a director of the club.
I’m a huge fan of the gaffer but this is not something I, as a shareholder will be endorsing.
I would suggest it would be far better if the board pulled their fingers out and speeded up Mark Sims’ appointment – and that of a North London Valiants representative.
Then Micky can get on with the job of managing the players without having to worry about the internal politics which are crippling our pre-season.