OVF editor Rob Fielding is both pleased and excited after some splendid summer transfer dealing by the club.
Rob Fielding writes…
I have to say that, on reflection, this summer has seen some excellent work by Rob Page and Norman Smurthwaite and in my view; this Port Vale squad is stronger than last season’s.
Even after the loss of Mark Marshall and Tom Pope, arguably two of last season’s key performers, I think this is a better Vale team…
Even after the loss of Mark Marshall and Tom Pope, arguably two of last season’s key performers, I think this is a better Vale team.
Yet, despite the likes of Ryan Inniss, Uche Ikpeazu and Remie Streete all arriving, I think that tying Michael O’Connor to a new contract was absolutely key. This season, he could be paired with any of Anthony Grant, Sam Foley or Michael Brown – as a result, the centre of midfield looks very strong and will give Rob Page the option to perhaps play more than two in the centre away from home.
Moving to matters upfront, well, I’m not one of the Pope critics and though I hoped we’d kept him clearly we couldn’t do so on unsustainable wages. However, it has to be said that Pope, good player that he was, wasn’t getting any younger and was picking up injuries.
I am pleased with the current Port Vale forward line because, just like the midfield, there are plenty of options…
I am pleased with the current Port Vale forward line because, just like the midfield, there are plenty of options. You can select the guile of Dodds and Leitch-Smith, or if the defence is lightweight the power of Uche Ikpeazu. Add to that mix the raw potential of Achille Campion plus the raw pace of Enoch Andoh (perhaps a very useful weapon from the bench alongside another “supersub” Colin Daniel) then I think we’re OK upfront.
Last season, the defence was definitely Vale’s Achilles’ Heel and it’s probable that the Valiants will start with three new signings in Purkiss, Streete and Innis. How Inniss and Streete gel will probably decide Vale’s fortunes but on paper, it looks an exceptionally promising pairing.
However, games are rarely won on paper and I think that Rob Page has been canny in keeping seasoned professionals such as Adam Yates, the much-maligned Chris Birchall and Richard Duffy in the squad. For all their potential the likes of Streete and Innis will benefit from the experienced Duffy while I think Birchall and Yates’ value as squad players are under appreciated. It may not have been a popular move by Page but it was a sensible one.
I also like the potential of this Vale squad. Nathan Smith is clearly one for the future as his loan spell at Torquay indicates. I am also excited by the promise of Sam Kelly and Enoch Andoh while Sam Johnson now has a chance to prove his worth in the opening games. The emergence of players from the ranks shows Vale’s future promise and I hope that should young players fail to get into first-team squads, that the Vale will then loan the likes of Andoh, Lloyd and Deen-Conteh out, if possible.
I hope that the “derby” game against Crewe allows Vale to start the season strongly…
Leaving aside future prospects, the squad looks stronger than last season and I hope that the “derby” game against Crewe allows Vale to start the season strongly. Add in a rejigged backroom staff and this summer has seen some much-needed and some would say, much-overdue changes throughout the first-team.
It’s perhaps too early to predict a successful season for the club, but whatever happens, one certainly cannot fault their summer signings.