Some football fans have short memories…

Port Vale manager Micky Adams.

Port Vale manager Micky Adams.

Football managers are a funny breed. Perhaps it’s the nature of a job where the casualty rate, for want of a better phrase, is so high.

Perhaps it’s the fact that they have to deal with big personalities in the changing room.

Perhaps it’s because they come under constant scrutiny from the media – and now fans in this digital age.

Or, perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above which makes them such unusual, fragile and frustrating creatures.

During the last 25 years I’ve met quite a few and I can honestly say that only a handful would be on my Christmas card list.

Many have huge egos and seemingly low self-esteem. Some are just plain rude – wandering into rooms and talking over people. Others simply can’t take criticism and are prickly to the point that they are an interviewer’s nightmare.

A handful of those I’ve had dealings with, however, are proper gentlemen who always had time for the Press and supporters alike.

Former Stoke City manager Lou Macari falls into this bracket – as does, of course, Vale legend John Rudge.

No matter what was going on at their respective clubs they always treated people with respect and in return earned the admiration of media professionals and supporters alike.

Joe Royle is another. I remember one wet night at Vale Park in the early 90s when his Oldham side had just beaten Rudgie’s lads.

As a cub reporter I was covering the game for the national and local press and – having filed one of my match reports – saw, to my horror, the Oldham team bus pulling away.

Needing quotes from Joe, I ran after it, flagged the vehicle down and the driver opened up the door.

He didn’t look too friendly, to be honest, but I asked if the manager was able to spare me two minutes.

‘Come up lad, you’ll catch your death of cold out there,’ said Royle – his head appearing at the top of the steps.

He sat me down, gave me a coffee and made the bus driver wait for five minutes while I conducted my interview.

This was such a rare, kind gesture by a football manager that it has stuck with me for more than 20 years.

My team may have been beaten that night but Joe Royle was gracious in victory and it’s remarkable how that can dilute a fan’s disappointment.

Football managers will always divide opinions – in the same way the word ‘fickle’ will always be inextricably linked with the words ‘football fans’.

Managers can go from hero to zero, and vice versa, in an incredibly short space of time.

For example, turn the clock back a couple of months and you’d struggle to find many Stoke City fans brave enough to leap to the defence of Mark Hughes.

Many were calling for him to be sacked, some were doing the ‘I told you so’ routine and bemoaning the departure of Tony Pulis.

But chairman Peter Coates – not known for his lack of conviction – wasn’t to be swayed.

I spoke to him after Stoke had beaten Aston Villa at the Brit just a few days before Christmas and asked him how Mark Hughes was doing.

‘Oh he’ll be fine,’ said the chairman, sagely. ‘These things take time.’

He was right, of course, and as I write this column the Stoke manager’s stock has never been higher among Potters fans who can now see exactly what he’s trying to do with his players – many of whom had previously been square pegs put into round holes.

As for the supporters, let’s just say that some of my Stoke City fan friends who were calling for Mark Hughes’s head on social media in December and January have changed their tune and are now denying they ever held such views.

Over at Vale Park, however, the reverse has happened. Micky Adams – who led Vale from administration to promotion in a remarkable season last year is suddenly being portrayed as the devil incarnate in some quarters.

Despite what many observers would consider to be a decent first season in a higher league – with Vale sitting mid-table – his future is uncertain.

After being on the receiving end of what he termed ‘disgusting abuse’ from a small group of supporters on Tuesday night following a calamitous away defeat at Bristol City, Adams said he was considering his future at the club.

This has sparked a huge reaction from fans – with many pleading for the manager to stay on at Vale and others saying they aren’t bothered if he leaves or even urging him to go.

After paying their money to travel an awful long way – only to watch their team put in an embarrassing performance – it’s easy to understand the anger of Vale supporters who made the trip.

The truth is Micky is a canny operator and knows exactly how to play the fans and the media.

This has led to accusations from some quarters that he is simply ‘posturing’ as the season draws to a close ahead of contracts talks with Vale’s owner Norman Smurthwaite.

Personally, I think we Vale fans need to be careful what we wish for.

Micky and I have fallen out on a number of occasions but it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what he’s done for the Vale.

As with any club, sometimes Vale supporters have short memories.

Lest we forget Micky Adams pulled together a squad on a shoe-string budget while the club was in administration and guided the team to promotion.

This season, Vale were ninth in January and handily placed for an unlikely play-offs push but the manager wasn’t allowed to bring in the players he wanted.

Since then Vale’s form has been patchy, to say the least – which has coincided with the chairman espousing his views that the club isn’t ready for Championship football – and a mid-table finish is now on the cards.

To be fair, I – and I think most Vale fans – would have taken a mid-table finish at the start of the season.

Forget Tuesday night. Forget the knee-jerk reactions. I think Micky Adams is doing a terrific job at Port Vale.

I personally would be sad to see the best manager since John Rudge leave.

But, let’s be clear: If he does leave at the end of the season it won’t simply be because of a row with a small minority of supporters this week.

He will leave because of the farcical contracts situation which have left him and some of the club’s key players in limbo. He will leave because his position has been undermined on several occasions by ill-timed and ill-advised comments from the chairman.

He will leave because he will be offered what I think he considers to be a ‘relegation’ budget to work with.

No manager, player or owner for that matter, is bigger than a football club.

But, as Tom Pope said yesterday, I hope Micky Adams does stay at Vale and I honestly think he deserves a bit more respect for what he has achieved.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

It’s early days and there’s absolutely no need to panic. Enjoy the ride…

A frustrated Tom Pope.

A frustrated Tom Pope.

I hope no-one’s panicking just yet. I’m certainly not.

Although we’ve yet to record our first win of this campaign, it’s still very early days.

Granted, we’ve scored only one goal and have only one point out of a possible six in the league.

We’ve also crashed out of a potentially money-spinning cup competition.

However, to play devil’s advocate, I’d say we earned a good point on the first day of season against a decent Brentford side and, although we didn’t play particularly well, were rather unlucky against Walsall when the officials rather let us down.

In contrast, against Colchester we were clearly second best and created very little in the way of chances.

In fact, the only danger was to our own supporters – and Doreen Robbins’s plaster cast is testament to this.

The gaffer simply chose the wrong formation, and perhaps picked a couple of players he shouldn’t have, and has admitted as much.

After all, you can’t really blame the forwards for not scoring if they’re not getting any service from a sluggish midfield.

What we’re experiencing now is perhaps something of a reality check and, frankly, I’d rather we have it now than at Christmas.

We’ve stepped up a league, the opponents are better and they move the ball around more quickly.

It will take time for Micky Adams’s teams to adjust, to get used to their positions, and learn to play off lads who signed over the summer.

Being positive, the back four (and I think it should be a four) and the ‘keeper look solid.

Chris Neal and Adam Yates are playing well, in particular, and Robertson, Dickinson and Lines already look good signings.

I’d like to see Doddsy in the team, personally – playing behind the Pontiff. But perhaps that’s just me.

Let’s not lose perspective here. Ambition and aspiration is fine but it must be tempered with honest expectation.

I’d love us to repeat last season’s promotion heroics but I’m not going to kick the cat, so to speak, if we don’t.

Vale Park is looking terrific and will continue to improve. Meanwhile gates are bigger because the clubs we are up against – some of whom have infinitely bigger playing budgets – have larger followings.

It’s an exciting time to be a Vale fan and I, for one, am enjoying the stability and putting my trust in the new owner and Micky’s squad to continue to do us proud.

How Vale’s goal-den boy made history (and made his dad proud)

Tom Pope with his daughter Mollie Mae.

Tom Pope with his daughter Mollie-Mae.

There is an alleyway behind Buxton Street in Sneyd Green. This is where our story begins…

It’s where Tom Pope, his brother, and his mates would spend hours kicking a ball about like any young lads the length and breadth of the country.

By his own admission, there was nothing at that stage to indicate he would go on to become an icon at the club he has supported since he was a boy – one of only two Vale players since the war to score more than 30 goals in a season.

Tom, a former pupil of Sneyd Green Primary and Holden Lane High School, said: “If you’d have asked any young lads back then I guess loads of them would have wanted to become footballers.

“There’s not so many these days because they’ve got other distractions but all I honestly ever wanted to do was play football.”

Born into a Vale-supporting family, young Tom was taken to home games by his grandfather and stood in the Lorne Street.

“I’d have been about five when I first started going,” he said. “Dad wouldn’t let me go in The Paddock because he didn’t think it was for children so I spent my first few seasons kicking a can about in the Lorne Street.

“My dad went on the buses to every Vale away game for about 15 years I think and he only stopped to come and see me when I was playing for Crewe.

“My fondest memories as a Vale fan are of the early to mid-nineties and the team John Rudge put together – the likes of Martin Foyle, Neil Aspin, Dean Glover, Ian Bogie and Bernie Slaven etc.

“I guess players like Neil Aspin will always have a special place in the hearts of Vale fans. I used to love his mazy runs from the edge of his own penalty area which never amounted to anything. He would have run through walls for the Vale.

“Then there was Foyley. He wasn’t the biggest of strikers but he was good in the air, strong and such a great finisher. His record speaks for itself.”

Despite his love of the Vale it was Crewe Alexandra’s highly-acclaimed youth set up which nurtured young Tom’s skills between the ages of six and 13.

He wasn’t, however, offered a contract by the Alex and so turned his hand to window-fitting while playing for Biddulph Victoria.

It was his performances (and goals) in the Midland Football Alliance which finally persuaded Crewe boss Dario Gradi to sign him.

Tom turned pro in 2005 at the age of 19 after two unsuccessful trials with, you’ve guessed it… Port Vale.

He spent four years with the Alex and was the club’s top scorer with 10 goals from just 17 starts during the 2008/9 season.

That season, however, Crewe were relegated from League One and Tom signed for League Two rivals Rotherham for a then joint club record fee of £150,000.

His time in Yorkshire wasn’t a particularly happy one and goals were few and far between.

He missed out on a trip to Wembley because of a broken metatarsal and when he returned to fitness found himself behind Adam Le Fondre and Ryan Taylor in the pecking order.

By his second season with the Millers the then Rotherham boss Ronnie Moore was quite prepared to sell Tom to the highest bidder as he hadn’t been scoring regularly.

Several clubs expressed an interest but it was Jim Gannon who tempted Pope to Vale Park.

“It was about the only thing Gannon did right, wasn’t it?” I ask.

Tom smiles. “You could say that. I was grateful of the opportunity Ronnie Moore gave me to get out on loan, to be honest. I think he just wanted to get my confidence back up.”

In August 2011 Tom joined the Vale on a free transfer, having been released by Rotherham.

He said: “There were five or six clubs interested in me at that time and Vale’s offer was by far the lowest on the table, to be honest. I took a huge pay-cut. I’m not just talking a few hundred quid either. But there’s more to your career than just money.

“This is where I’m from and my family and friends are here. In the end it was an easy decision for me.”

He played 45 games last season but scored just five goals as Marc Richards went on to become Vale’s leading scorer for a fifth season running.

Tom said: “We were a different team last year. We didn’t really have any wide players to speak of. Lewis Haldane was out injured and Rob Taylor kept having little niggles.

“All our play came through the middle of the park and when you’re a bloke who likes to get on the end of crosses there wasn’t much in the way of service for me.

“To be truthful I think there were quite a few Vale supporters who would have been glad to see the back of me during the summer. Thankfully, Micky Adams gave me a one-year deal and I’ll always be grateful for the faith he showed in me at that time.”

So what’s been the difference this season? Why is Tom Pope, at the age of 27, now breaking records and picking up awards?

He said: “Believe it or not this summer was my first pre-season in a while when I’ve been able to train properly.

“I would go running round Forest Park and up to Bradeley and I felt good.

“I remember we went to Ireland for the pre-season tour and I started scoring a few goals and the gaffer (Adams) took me to one side and said he’d never seen me looking so sharp. That really gave me a boost. I was ready to go.”

Of course, Vale started the season in administration and there were no guarantees there would even be a club in 2013.

It was a worrying time for fans but also for the club’s staff and players who – at one time – went unpaid.

Tom said: “It was extremely difficult for us all. We could see and hear what was going on and I think it was obvious that the club needed a new board and a change of direction.

“Of course, as employees, you can’t speak out. You’ve got a job to do and you just have to get on with it – no matter what you think.

“Thankfully, we had a great set of lads in the dressing room and in Micky Adams we had a strong leader to hold everyone together and I think he deserves enormous credit for that.

“Do I think the supporters were right to campaign for change? Yes I think they were. We’ve got a good set of fans and they usually know when something’s not right.

“The club is certainly in a better place now than it was 12 months ago. It’s a happy ship.”

This season’s heroics have seen Tom, nicknamed The Pontiff and The Sneyd Green Sniper by the Vale Park faithful, named League Two Player of the Year – among other accolades.

Barring a barren spell around March-time he’s been prolific all season and his goals are effectively Vale’s goal difference of plus 30-something.

He said: “It makes such a difference for a striker like myself having good, creative wide players in the side.

“Jeno (Jennison Myrie-Williams) and Ashley Vincent will always cause problems for defences because of their trickery and pace.

“I’ve tried to stay more central – rather than doing lots of chasing around – and I’ve had good crosses coming in. Fortunately I’ve been able to put quite a few of them away.”

Does he think players in the current squad could step up to the level required to survive and thrive in League One?

“Definitely,” he said. “We’ve got some very talented lads in the dressing room. You look at skilful players like Doddsy (Louis Dodds) and you think that actually playing at a higher level might suit them.”

Whats it like to be a Vale fan, though, playing for the club you love and scoring goals?

He said: “To be honest I try to keep my feet on the ground. I know I’m very lucky but I don’t tend to get carried away.

“Of course I can hear the supporters – I used to be one of them shouting for Foyley and the like – so I know what that’s all about.

“It’s hard to believe they are shouting for me, to be honest, and I try to block it out and concentrate on my game. I know it’s special for me but now isn’t the time to start thinking about records and awards and personal targets.

“I’m not someone who thrives on praise. If I score a hat-trick then the manager will shake my hand and that’ll do.

“My dad is very like Micky Adams in that respect. I’m sure he tells all his mates how proud of me he is but he wouldn’t tell me. If I score a hat-trick he’s more likely to pick me up over a mis-placed pass. Him and the gaffer know how I tick.”

What about the future, then, for a bloke who is enjoying the form of his life while juggling the responsibilities of being a dad?

“I’ve said before I’d like to see out my career here. I’ve probably got four or five good years left and I love the place.

“The new owners made me an offer which was respectful and it ties me to Vale for another two seasons. I’d love to think I could stay beyond that too and score a lot more goals.

“Let’s put it this way – it would take an offer of silly money to tempt me away at this stage and, if that were to happen, then I’d obviously have to think about my family and see what’s right for us.

“At this moment in time, however, I’m enjoying my football and I want to be able to look back in five, 10, 15 years’ time and have people say to me: ‘What a season that was. What a team we had back then’.”

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.

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.

Here’s hoping for a happy ending to a football fairytale

valebadge
In all honesty I would have taken four points from the last two games.

However, after the euphoria of Friday night’s unforgettable 7 – 1 drubbing of promotion rivals Burton, I got my hopes up for the Aldershot game and saw us taking all six.

As it turned out the atmosphere on Tuesday was tense, the performance forgettable for the most part, and the officials indescribably awful.

I’m just about getting over the feeling of deflation as I left the ground.

It was the classic banana skin and a draw was probably a fair result in terms of chances created – albeit the visitors were gifted their goal by dint of the fact that the linesman and referee failed to spot Darren Purse being shoved to the ground.

They say it’s swings and roundabouts when it comes to decisions going for and against you during the season.

On that basis, after 90 minutes of Tom Pope being climbed all over and the referee giving the visitors everything and tolerating their play-acting, I’d say Vale are due a few.

With hindsight, it was more important that we beat Burton as that game was the proverbial six-pointer.

We’ve been fortunate in recent weeks that results have gone for us and that’s why we have a five-point cushion.

But there can be no complacency. A win tomorrow away to a team that have nowt but pride to play for could seal a remarkable promotion.

Vale’s terrific, noisy away following will probably be similar in number to Rochdale’s home support and that could well set the lads up for a famous result.

We’re unbeaten in five and with the Pontiff, Lee Hughes and Jennison Myrie-Williams in the team I’d like to think there’s enough firepower to see us over the line.

As anyone who follows Vale knows, we seldom do things the easy way and they team historically has a habit of putting supporters through the mill emotionally.

This season has been no exception but we just need to hold our nerve, stick together and finish the job.

If we do and Vale go up automatically to League One it will be genuine Roy of the Rovers stuff.

Think about it: A club that started the season penniless and in administration and was rescued by its supporters is fired to promotion by a life-long Vale fan from Sneyd Green.

We’ll be dancing on the streets of Burslem.

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.

The city’s football clubs need their fans now – for very different reasons

Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite celebrates the 7 - 1 home win over Burton Albion.

Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite celebrates the 7 – 1 home win over Burton Albion.

Turn the clock back 12 months and you would have been given very good odds on the current state of affairs at football clubs in The Sentinel’s patch.

Alternatively, you may have been sectioned for suggesting such things.

At the time Stoke City were heading for another comfortable, if unspectacular, mid-table finish in the Premier League.

The icing on the cake was that Potters fans had enjoyed a Europa League adventure courtesy of the previous season’s heroics in reaching the FA Cup Final.

The football may not have been pretty at times but pundits were describing Stoke as an established Premier League team.

Such was his relationship with owner Peter Coates, it seemed that only an unthinkable fall from grace would place Tony Pulis’s position as manager in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, over in the Mother Town, things were looking grim for the Potteries’ other professional club.

In administration for a second time in 13 years, players and staff at the club were going unpaid and Micky Adams’s team were set to miss out on promotion thanks to a 10-point deduction inflicted by the Football League.

To this day, very few people realise just how close Port Vale came to oblivion which makes the events of recent months such a blessed relief for me.

The renaissance began with the (second) takeover announcement which was followed quickly by the long-awaited unveiling of the statue to the club’s greatest servant – Roy Sproson – funded entirely by Vale fans.

Perhaps a little bit of Sproson magic has rubbed off on the current squad because what has happened since has been nothing short of incredible.

Nobody, including Tom Pope himself, would have dared suggest that a bloke from Sneyd Green, a life-long Vale fan at that, would become only the third player since the war to score more than 30 goals for one of the Potteries clubs.

No-one who followed the Vale, least of all me, would have predicted that a squad mainly comprising free transfers was capable of challenging for automatic promotion.

Of course, the season’s story isn’t yet complete and I, for one, won’t be counting any chickens until it is mathematically impossible for Vale to cock it up.

However, the Lazarus-like revival of the club in the north of the city will, I trust, give some hope to our cousins down the A500 as they face a daunting six games to stave off relegation.

I mean it most sincerely when I say that I hope Stoke City get the points they need to survive in the Premier League.

It’s good for the city’s profile that they’re up there and it’s good for my long-suffering Stoke fan mates who remember only too well third tier football and attendances of less than half what they get nowadays.

The truth is I’ve mellowed. Perhaps it is the events of recent years have changed my perspective on things.

Yes, If Vale were playing Stoke in the cup tomorrow It goes without saying that I’d want Vale to murder them.

But right now the two clubs are poles apart – so much so that Stoke City aren’t on the radar of most Vale fans and vice versa.

Yes, there are some supporters on both sides who would be only too happy to see the other club go out of business.

Honestly, there are.

But I’m not one of them. Apart from anything else, I thoroughly enjoyed the Vale/Stoke derbies and would love to see them return some day.

I genuinely believe there’s room in this city for two successful professional football clubs.

I appreciate the fact that last Friday night, when cheap admission prices swelled Vale’s attendance to almost 11,000 for the first time in years, there were a number of Stokies in that crowd.

I also recall during the dark days of last March, April and May how some Stoke City fans attended games and gave generously to the Save The Vale collection buckets.

Stoke’s current crisis – one win in 13 games and the serious risk of being dragged into a relegation scrap – is one of a footballing nature. One that two wins would sort out.

However, as we know, the financial implications of dropping out of the top flight are enormous and everyone connected with Stoke City – from the owners to the fans in the cheapest seats – are feeling the strain right about now.

Tony Pulis – the man who got them into the Premier League and took them to their first FA Cup Final – is being almost universally vilified by fans on forums and radio station phone-ins.

Supporters have hesitated to renew their season tickets and Fortress Britannia suddenly seems far from impregnable.

The next few games will sort the wheat from the chaff and perhaps sort the hard-core of fans from the band-wagon jumpers of the last five years.

Both clubs need their supporters right now – for very different reasons.

I hope some of the 5,000 extras who turned up at Vale Park on Friday night will return to help usher in a successful new chapter in the club’s history.

I also hope Stoke City’s infamous twelfth man is enough to drag them over the line to safety.

Whether or not that will be enough to save the manager’s job remains to be seen.

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday

This is Port Vale’s biggest game for many years. Be there!

valebadge
The biggest game in Port Vale’s recent history. That’s how we should view tonight’s home fixture against Burton Albion.

Our season won’t be decided by these 90 minutes but the result will undoubtedly have a huge bearing on whether or not we finish in the top three.

On Monday, once again, the results went for the Vale: The Pontiff’s late equaliser snatched a valuable point for us away at promotion rivals Chesterfield; Cheltenham did us a favour by beating Northampton and ex-Stokie James Beattie, of all people, scored the goal for Accrington which denied tonight’s opponents a priceless win.

With just five games left I’ve heard people say that 77 points may be enough to secure automatic promotion. I don’t think so.

I’m still looking at 80 points as the target if we want to go straight up.

I think it’s vital we don’t lose against Burton or Aldershot and I’d happily take four points from these two games.

Having endured a torrid period of a month or so when our form and results were poor, it seems we’ve finally turned a corner.

Despite giving away soft, sloppy goals the spirit in the camp seems terrific – with fringe players coming in and doing their bit to cover for the injured and suspended.

We’ve gone behind in the last two games – something the gaffer won’t be too pleased about – but then shown real character and desire to rescue four points.

After a barren spell, Tom Pope is finally fulfilling his destiny and could well go on to emulate Andy Jones’s post-war goal-scoring record of the mid-Eighties.

At the same time, Jennison Myrie-Williams is back to his tricky, creative, penetrating best.

Micky Adams now has some big decisions to make in terms of team selection tonight and for me, once again, the battle will be won or lost in midfield.

That’s why skipper Doug Loft’s return to the team is so very welcome as his all-action performances have re-energised us in the centre of the park.

Surely we are looking at the biggest crowd of the season tonight who will hope to create the kind of atmosphere generated by Vale’s awesome away following which puts some Premier League clubs to shame.

Proud doesn’t cover it.

Our fate is in our own hands and fans of a club that started the season in administration can’t ask for more than 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.