Uche Ikpeazu extension could boost play-off hopes

Port Vale manager Rob Page is hoping to extend Uche Ikpeazu’s stay at the club beyond the January return date agreed with his parent club, Watford, when he arrived in the summer.

It is little surprise that Page wants to keep the London-born striker at Vale Park, given the form that has seen him hit five goals in 12 league appearances, and Page underlined the benefit of Ikpeazu’s development to both clubs in his comments to the Sentinel.

Ikpeazu is clearly a talent, but he has yet to make an impact at Watford, where manager Quique Sanchez Flores is enjoying a positive start to life in the Premier League, and attempting to nurture a side that will keep the Vicarage Road club playing at English football’s highest level for a sustained period.

While Vale fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Ikpeazu in action can head to Vale Park for the visit of Peterborough, Watford fans can head to ticketgum to grab their seats for the visit of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.

It’s quite a contrast of prospects for the 20-year-old; stay at Port Vale and thrash it out in League One, or push for a return to Watford, try to force a way into Flores’ plans, and get a chance of playing against some of the world’s best players.

His chances of getting into Watford’s team do look remote and thankfully for Vale fans a look back over Ikpeazu’s career in the last two years shows he is no stranger to toughing it out in the lower leagues in order to develop his own game and enhance his chances of becoming a player who can compete at the highest level.

As recently as March, Ikpeazu was embarking on a third spell at Vale’s rivals Crewe Alexandra, where he proved a success during each of his short stays at the club.

His first loan at Gresty Road came during the latter half of the Alex’s 2013-14 campaign, when he netted four goals and made two assists in 15 games for Steve Davis’ team – only ten of which he actually started.

Those goals included a superb brace against Bradford City, the first of which saw him sprint nearly half the length of the Valley Parade pitch before lobbing the goalkeeper from outside the penalty area.

Ikpeazu’s spell at Crewe that year was a bright spot during a difficult season for the club, and he returned the following November for a two-month, eight-game loan that saw him net another two goals for Davis’ men.

Watford recalled him, only to send him back out for a spell at Doncaster in January of this year, but he failed to score for Rovers, and came away with no goals from his third spell at Crewe, from March 2015 to the end of last season.

Of all Ikpeazu’s loans to lower league clubs, his current spell at Port Vale has been perhaps the most fruitful, with the tall forward playing some of his best football and netting a memorable winner in the 3-2 victory over Wigan in September.

He seems to be enjoying his role at the club, and the fans already regard him as something of a cult hero.

Vale have already been boosted by the deal with goalkeeper Jak Alnwick and if Uche’s deal can be extended beyond January, the duo may prove to be the difference that gives Vale a chance of a charge into the play-offs this season.

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