Sixty five years and out..

Sixty five years and out..

In Rob Fielding’s latest “One Vale View” column, he applauds one Vale fan’s brave decision to give up his season ticket, despite his sixty five years of support of the Valiants. It just so happens, that the Vale fan in question is his father and the man to whom the OVF website is dedicated…

It’s not often that the person to whom OVF is dedicated gets a feature about him, but my dad’s support of Starve ‘Em Out this season will bring to an end his sixty five year spell as a Port Vale home supporter.

Gerry Fielding, who will be eighty next year, has decided that in protest against the board he will not enter Vale Park this season. A season ticket holder, a shareholder and a Vale fan to such an extent that the exterior of Fielding Towers has been painted black and white for decades, he has decided that enough is enough.

Yes, OVF is dedicated to “one Vale fan” – my father – via this dedication on the “About OVF” page: “Rob Fielding dedicates this site to Gerry Fielding – who once decided to take his son to a dreary Vale home defeat against Lincoln City, way back in 1980. We’re both still going to this day! If it hadn’t been for my Dad, this site and my love of this football club may never have happened… Enjoy the site!”

Looks like I’ll have to ditch the bit about “still going to this day” but how has this come about?

This is obviously not the actions of a young hothead as some Starve ‘Em Out critics would have us believe. My dad’s Vale support out-stretches most supporters (and comfortably that of the board members) by some margin. It lasts even longer than Vale Park, which only came into existence in 1950 (my father started in 1946 at the end of World War Two). He can recall the Iron Curtain side, pass on memoirs of kicking a ball with the likes of full-back Stan Turner, numerous boards before this one and he’s been a constant by my side at most of Vale’s greatest days (Wembley, the Millennium stadium and that Spurs game to name but three). He’s been ill recently, but even that hasn’t stopped him turning up, no matter what the weather.

So, is he happy to take this radical approach and cast aside his season ticket?

Well, in a word… no. But he sees it as the only way for him as a Vale senior supporter to make his feelings about the board plain.

Has he reached this decision purely because of my stance and that of OVF you may ask?

Again, in a word… no.

My father makes his own decisions and on this one he followed his own path.

A former accountant, he has delved deep into the club finances and remains deeply concerned at the figures.

A stickler for democracy, he has written to Bill Bratt on numerous occasions about the failure to observe the one shareholder, one vote pledge. Club replies didn’t come at first, but he persisted, and some weeks after his initial letter, he finally had a phonecall from the Chairman asking him if he could come around to talk to him. My Dad refused – “You can write down your explanations so I have them on record” was his reply. He still hasn’t received a satisfactory answer.

He was present at the EGM and was also OVF’s representative at the Micky Adams vote monitoring. In short, this is not a casual Vale fan, he lives and breathes the Valiants. This was not a decision he has taken lightly.

How about me? What are my feelings on his decision?

I am proud that he has taken his stand.

It’s not easy for me to boycott home games. But being based in Aylesbury, with three children to keep me busy, makes rejecting the chance to travel a 200-odd mile round-trip to a home game somewhat easier to swallow. But my dad’s been supporting Vale for twice as long as I have, he still lives in the area and his Saturday in the Lorne Street is his routine, a chance to put any personal issues behind him and cheer the lads on. It’s a tremendously brave move and I applaud him for it.

I keep telling him that I believe Starve ‘Em Out is a long-term campaign and if everyone keeps the faith, the fans will win out. But will it be soon enough for my dad? In his advanced years, he has made this decision with the very real knowledge that he may never set foot in Vale Park again. To me, that is a tremendously brave and self-sacrificing thing to do.

So, I’m hoping that the board read this and I’d ask them:

• Do you have ANY moral justification for remaining in your position if, by doing so, you lose fans like this?
• Can a club survive if it loses life-long fans in such a manner?
• How can you justifiably accuse people like this of having an “agenda against the club” being “habitual liers” or being “morons” as people close to the club have done in the past?
• Does a club without fans like this have any soul at all?
In my opinion, their answer to each question should be one word… no.

As, for me, it seems I picked the right person to dedicate OVF to.

Honourable, principled, independent and brave, Gerry Fielding demonstrates in abundance the very values OVF strives to follow and it’s therefore fitting that this website is dedicated to him.

About the author: Rob Fielding has been a Port Vale fan for thirty years. He founded the award-winning website in 1996. These are his personal views and he welcomes your comments on them.

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