With Port Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite talking to a consortium in the US, which players should any new owners of the club consider?
With the business end of the season approaching, Port Vale are on the cusp of snatching a play-off place. Since the busy festive period, the team have turned the campaign around and are now looking up towards the play-off fight rather than the ongoing relegation battle towards the bottom of the table. With a bit of luck, Vale can still reach the play-offs and from there, who knows.
At the very least, it’s foolish to rule Vale out – especially considering the recent good form. Rob Page’s men are on the charge and it’s hard to imagine any slow down on current form. It will be tough but there’s no reason why Page cannot sneak his squad into the play-offs. An impressive play-off push may also help to attract new owners.
Having said that, this Vale side isn’t complete just yet. In fact, the squad is far from perfect and after chairman Norman Smurthwaite announced in December that the club is up for sale and that he is talking to a US consortium this week, fans will no doubt hope that if a new owner comes in they would seek to improve the squad.
Here are six potential signings we think would make good additions.
At 23 years old, he’s still very fresh and has plenty of scope for improvement…
The highly-rated Aldershot defender has attracted plenty of attention across both League One and League Two this season and Vale were in fact linked with a move for the youngster throughout the January transfer window. Omar Beckles, who signed a one-year deal with Aldershot last summer, is widely regarded as one of non-league’s brightest young talents and he won’t be available for very long. At 23 years old, he’s still very fresh and has plenty of scope for improvement – especially if he makes the step up to a Football League side and competes against better players on a weekly basis. Vale could definitely do with an energetic, hard-working central defender – especially if he has potential to grow and mature into a top talent in the future.
The likes of Portsmouth and Bradford City were just two of the clubs linked with Beckles in the previous transfer window and Port Vale will face stiff competition for the youngster’s signature. He’s not exactly being hunted down by top-flight clubs and if Port Vale push on and secure a play-off spot this season, they may be able to twist Aldershot’s arm and gain permission to speak directly with Beckles at the very least. Beckles’ main qualities include his strength and aggression, ability to bring the ball out of defence and physicality in the air. After playing non-league football for a few years, Beckles has learned how to handle himself and distribute his skillset effectively – something that would certainly appeal to Port Vale.
In years gone by, Tom Pope was an excellent leader at the forefront of Port Vale’s flourishing attack and arguably Vale have failed to replace him. Cue a potential move for Oxford wonderkid, Callum O’Dowda. The forward has enjoyed a relatively low-key campaign, scoring four goals and assisting four more – although his performances have attracted plenty of League One sides and even Championship side Derby County have been linked with a bid for the youngster. O’Dowda isn’t the finished package by any means but he’s certainly got the flair and talent to get Vale’s fans excited again. At the very least, he’d be an excellent addition to the squad.
O’Dowda has been a key reason for Oxford’s rise to prominence this season and The U’s, who are set to face Barnsley in the final of the Football League Trophy on Saturday 3rd April, will fancy their chances of winning at least one piece of silverware this season. According to odds on oddschecker’s online round-up, Oxford are generally priced at 12/1 to win League Two this year. However, the Football League Trophy may be their best opportunity for success and Michael Appleton’s men are just 5/6 to lift the cup at Wembley. One thing’s for sure, if they are going to win either of these competitions, O’Dowda will play a key role and could even score the winning goal to secure promotion or a famous cup final victory.
Without a doubt, Tariqe Fosu is an incredibly bright prospect and his best years are certainly ahead of him. The Reading midfielder, who was loaned out to Fleetwood Town earlier this season, is dynamic, strong and aggressive – three traits that are needed to succeed in the middle of the pitch. Vale have a number of competent midfielders but Fosu could be a smart investment for the future, especially if he continues to grow and mature into a real top talent. So far, he’s shown glimpses of quality but has struggled with consistency. Playing on a regular basis for a League One side would certainly help Fosu to improve and who knows, he could lead Vale up the table and into the second tier of English football.
The midfielder could be the driving force behind a resurgent Port Vale next season. Although Reading wouldn’t necessarily be willing to give Fosu up cheaply or on a loan deal, he’s well worth the investment based on his recent showings. Vale could make a hefty profit on Fosu if he continues to improve at his current rate. He’s never going to be a world beater but he’s certainly good enough to hold his own in this Vale side – even at such a young age. If the club does get some investment, Fosu should definitely be one of the first names on his transfer list. After all, he’s already shown enough quality against England’s elite clubs this season – even if they were “only” the Manchester United under-21 side!
(Crystal Palace, currently on loan at Port Vale)
The central defender has shown plenty of promise during his brief career at Vale Park and the club should do everything they can to turn his season-long loan into a permanent deal. Inniss has been impressive and appears settled at the club. It only seems fair that he is offered a chance to move to Port Vale on a full-time basis after impressing Page and the backroom staff throughout the campaign. Inniss is destined for bigger and better things but for now, Vale may be the perfect landing spot as he looks to make an impact whilst playing regular, first-team football – even if it is in League One. Inniss’ imposing stature and physicality help him to bully opposing attackers.
Without a doubt, Inniss has potential to make it in English football. After watching him for 90 minutes, you immediately want to watch him again – he’s that good. On the field, he’s an absolute machine and takes no prisoners but off the field, his warm personality suggests that Inniss would be an excellent player to have around the training ground, especially with younger members of the squad coming through. In a way, he’s captain material and it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Inniss achieve his ultimate goal of featuring at the top of English football. He’s certainly gifted enough to make it at a higher level but his temperament and psychological side of the game are yet to be seriously tested – and he will learn those traits in the lower tiers of English football.
The 17-year-old is an extremely talented prospect but remains incredibly raw…
The 17-year-old is an extremely talented prospect but remains incredibly raw. It would be foolish for the Premier League side to keep Poole sat on the sidelines and a potential loan deal looks plausible. The Welshman might well fancy his chances of sneaking into the Manchester United side, especially if they keep current boss Louis van Gaal at the helm. Van Gaal has handed debuts to a number of youth team players this season and Poole might believe he has a good chance of snatching a place in the United first team if he continues to shine and develop through the ranks at Old Trafford – even though the likelihood is Van Gaal shall leave at the end of the season.
While a permanent deal is very unlikely, United might consider a loan deal. At the end of the day, the Red Devils will want Poole to get the best possible experience during his formative years and playing in the under-21 team might not be the best for his development. The young Welsh star has real potential and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see United keep a close eye on him in the coming years. While they may want to keep him in-house for nurturing reasons, Poole may push for a move to Port Vale – especially if it means he may break into the Welsh international side sooner. In the long term, he could well take on a role similar to that of Ryan Giggs as he’s shown plenty of attacking talent down the wings during his brief tenure in the sport.
(Cardiff City, currently on loan at Port Vale)
Before Matthew Kennedy arrived at Port Vale, most supporters knew very little about him. The young Scotsman is an extremely talented, nifty winger and, although he is yet to open his account for the club, he’s been a constant menace throughout the last few months. He joined Vale from Cardiff City back in January and has played over ten times for the club in all competitions. Kennedy is unique and Vale don’t have anyone quite like him. In terms of his natural ability, he’s obviously talented but he remains very raw. Port Vale is perhaps one of the best places for his development and Rob Page will help him to improve even further as the season goes on. Who knows, he may enjoy his time at the club and push for an extended loan next year.
Kennedy managed to get an extension until the end of the current campaign. While he hasn’t managed to score and his final ball often leaves a lot to be desired, Kennedy has shown enough over the last few months to suggest that he deserves to be considered for next season. If Page and his backroom staff are still heavily involved next year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them push for Kennedy’s signature on a permanent basis.