It’s been a good week for the Valiants and Rob Fielding reflects on a number of positives both on and off the pitch…
Rob Fielding writes…
Off the pitch
1. It’s good to talk
All credit to the hard-working Supporters Club and the club’s administrators for providing regular updates to the fans. I’m sure Mick Cullerton (who appealed for more frequent updates) and myself (who has been bleating on about this for some time) are not alone in welcoming this positive development.
However, I was rather bemused by some negative comments that the administrators’ “best not to provide any definitive timescale” comment prompted. I am sure the administrators are not sitting idly by as some fans seem to think. I believe the administrators think that this is no time to rush into a decision over a preferred bidder without being completely certain that the deal is the best possible one for the club.
In other words, caution over speed, an approach I wholeheartedly endorse.
On the sidelines
2. All hail astute Adams
It’s been a great start for Micky Adams and one for whom he deserves a tremendous amount of credit.
It’s been a great start for Micky Adams and one for whom he deserves a tremendous amount of credit. I’ve been really impressed by the way he’s brushed aside setbacks like the Keith Ryder deal collapsing and just got on with the job.
This time last season, fans were bemoaning the manager as summer signings McDonald, Williamson, James and Green et al were looking cheap and somewhat ineffectual summer signings. This time around, we’ve added one of the most consistent Vale keepers in many a year, two of the division’s best wingers and an accomplished right-back.
That’s down to the manager and in my view, Micky Adams deserves a lot of praise!
3. A positive atmosphere!
And the feel-good factor seems to have rubbed off on the supporters with a noticeably louder and more positive atmosphere at games. I am sure it gives the Vale players a lift, so long may it continue. And after so many months of turmoil, the thrills and excitement on the pitch may eventually heal Vale’s fragmented fanbase.
On the pitch
4. Pope is more than a mere, mean goal machine
I always felt that Tom Pope was unfairly maligned last season as his game was about far more than just goals.
I always felt that Tom Pope was unfairly maligned last season as his game was about far more than just goals. His selfless build-up and link play was key to many of Vale’s better moments last season. In many ways, Pope reminded me of Steve Brooker in 2003 when he experienced a similar lean spell. Brooker may not have troubled the scorers that much but he didn’t half do an awful lot of work to help his teammates.
Now, Pope has added goals alongside assists, which is undoubtedly a bonus and I certainly would not be disappointed if Tom nets 20-odd goals this season. However, if he doesn’t, I just hope fans will appreciate what he offers besides a goal threat.
In particular, it will be interesting to see how many goals Louis Dodds nets while in partnership upfront. The last player in the “Dodds-mould” that Pope partnered was a certain Adam le Fondre at Rotherham back in 2009-2010. ‘Alf’ netted a mere 30 League Two goals that season, so Louis has only another 28 to go!
5. Hail the unsung heroes
I was also delighted to read some praise directed at Chris Neal this week. The keeper has looked excellent and it is notable how much players such as Clayton McDonald have improved playing in front of a skilled and communicative stopper.
I’d also like to highlight Chris Shuker’s contribution. I must hold my hand up and admit that I though Micky Adams was crazy to start playing Shuker in central midfield. I guess that explains why Micky is the Vale manager and I am not!
I think Shuker has been a revelation – in many ways, he’s the long-lost replacement for the likes of Whitaker and Bridge-Wilkinson
I think Shuker has been a revelation – in many ways, he’s the long-lost replacement for the likes of Whitaker and Bridge-Wilkinson – a midfielder who can lay on a pass and trouble the scoresheet as well.
While Tom Pope rightly got a lot of plaudits for his performance on Saturday, it was noticeable that at least two assists came from astute Shuker balls.
6. A lucky omen?
The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy may be maligned by some fans, but the finals at Wembley and the Millennium Stadium have been two of my proudest Port Vale memories. So, I’m delighted that Micky Adams took the tournament seriously and that Vale progressed at the expense of Tranmere.
It’s worth noting that those previous final appearances came after victories over the old enemy Stoke City in previous rounds. Well, with Stoke no longer in the lower divisions, is it an omen that “old enemies” Walsall are next up? Let’s hope so…
7. Good to talk to Brian
It was a pleasure to conduct an interview with former Vale striker Brian Mills. Brian came across as eloquent, articulate and intelligent. Funnily enough, so do a lot of the players that John Rudge managed and that I’ve had the honour to speak to. Is it a coincidence or a reflection of the managerial nous of John Rudge and the criteria he used when signing players?
I know which one I’d go for…