OVF editor Rob Fielding isn’t disappointed that Vale haven’t produced a string of headline-grabbing signings this summer. Instead, he praises the relatively unsung, long-term work that has gone on this summer and feels that it bodes well for the future of the club.
Rob Fielding writes…
There have been some differing reactions to Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite’s tweet back on June 27th that “the sweetie jar is open and news will be released today onwards. I hope you like what you see.”
Judging by some forum messages, a section of the fans have been underwhelmed by developments since Norman tweeted that message.
I, for one, am delighted with the progress my club has made in recent months…
Unless there are more startling developments to come, I think the tweet may have upped expectations to unrealistic levels but I, for one, am delighted with the progress my club has made in recent months.
There was a feeling that Norman’s tweet was suggesting some headline-grabbing activity in the transfer market. But does a signing have to be high-profile to succeed? After all, Ian Taylor, Steve McPhee, Andy Jones et al were complete unknowns when they signed and they did brilliantly for the club. Compare those signings with the more high-profile signings of Keith Houchen, Shane Tudor and Andreas Lipa who had distinctly less illustrious Vale careers. And their failings looked worse because of the higher expectations that fans had.
I know that not all “big” signings are bad. After all, Lee Hughes and Darren Purse both played key roles in getting the club over the promotion line. But in my view, the benefits of a well-known veteran player are short-term. Lee Hughes’ experience will no doubt be vital next season, but at 37 years of age, he should be the exception rather than the rule among the squad.
I don’t need big-name signings, just good ones…
Take the rumours surrounding Vale and Ricardo Fuller. Would his ageing legs and injury problems justify such a hefty layout on his wages? Personally, I’m happier that we’ve spent that money on Kaid Mohamed and Gavin Tomlin instead. Both players, aged 28 and 30 respectively, should be at their peak, rather than being a declining force such as Fuller. I don’t need big-name signings, just good ones.
In my view, the real work at Vale Park so far this summer has not been the signings brought in but the work going on “behind the scenes.”
The new club shop and ticket office is in a more sensible, more visible location. With its increased floor space and new stock it should bring in more revenue both from Vale fans and perhaps more importantly non-Vale fans – local residents who now have a brand-new branch of Sports Direct on their doorsteps. The club needs to fit in to the Football League’s transfer budget limits so the more revenue brought in, the bigger the transfer budget. A new, improved shop and ticketing facilities can certainly help in that regard.
The emphasis on developing a family club and encouraging younger fans is also clear. The temporary use of a portion of the Bycars End is a sensible start but once the Lorne Street is complete and the unused half used for families then I think we will be able to properly concentrate on nurturing the next generation of fans. Not only that but the finished stand will complete the ground and perhaps even make Vale Park a more attractive proposition for sponsors (after all, a ten year-old building site isn’t the most attractive view when being shown around the ground)
Attracting young fans is such an important thing. If just one out of every hundred (and let’s hope it’s more) youngsters becomes a Vale fan it will be worth it as throughout that fan’s life they will buy season tickets and merchandise and in turn perhaps brings their children, family and friends along. The income that generates will far exceed the small initial loss the club will endure by letting hundreds of children in for free.
But perhaps the most intriguing progress this summer is the construction of the Vale development squad.
I notice that several members of the squad are “rejects” from “bigger” clubs such as Reading, West Ham and Leicester City. This concept of taking unknowns from bigger clubs and trying to resurrect their careers reminds me of John Rudge’s sterling work during his tenure at Vale Park. Rudge’s “chancers” were a regular feature of his transfer dealings. And for every Steve Rimmer (who managed just two appearances and a red card after signing from Man City reserves) there was a Darren Beckford (who managed 91 goals in 215 games and generated a £975,000 transfer fee after signing for £15,000 from the same club).
If we can produce a regular supply of first-team players from the Development Squad, I’d be every bit as delighted as I would if made a headline-grabbing signing…
If just one of the ten apprentices (and hopefully it will be more) on the Development Squad makes the grade, the investment will be worth it. Although they will not be “big name” players, if we can produce a regular supply of first-team players from the Development Squad I’d be every bit as delighted as I would if made a headline-grabbing signing (and because they’d be “home-grown” I’d cheer them that little bit more…)
So, whilst a new club shop, a family stand and a development squad may not have the glamour of a big-name signing, it bodes well for the long-term future and stability of the club. The future looks bright…
Top image: Andy Jones, Ian Taylor, Darren Beckford and Steve
McPhee were all “unknowns” when they were signed