Vale boss Rob Page isn’t ruling out bringing in a striker on loan and, if he does, perhaps he should do so with both eyes fixed on next season.
Three defeats in a row look to have cost Vale the chance of making the play-offs, so it seems the right time to start looking towards the 2015/16 campaign.
Page is still keen to pick up as many points as possible between now and the end of the season, but it’s only natural for thoughts to start turning towards what he needs next year.
Yes, the porous defence does need sorting out but nevertheless, a striker has to be top of his list, especially due to the likelihood of Tom Pope not being at the club beyond the summer. Pope is reluctant to take a pay cut and that could lead to him moving on. And it’s hardly going to be a great loss if Alex Nimely goes, given the AWOL former Manchester City youngster has made just one substitute appearance since signing.
Vale certainly need someone to properly replace Pope, who could still match last season’s tally of 16 goals. He is still the club’s joint-top scorer this season, alongside Ben Williamson, while another player whose future is uncertain, Mark Marshall, has chipped in with six goals.
If Vale want to be in a position to maintain a more sustained challenge for the top six, and ensure they’re not sucked into a relegation battle next season, then a striker capable of scoring at least 15 goals, maybe even 20, is required.
There are plenty of strikers on the market, just like online betting offers, but finding the right one to suit your needs and fulfil your requirements is the tricky bit. That’s why trying to bring in someone for the last few weeks of the season could be beneficial.
Page did have a look at former Newcastle and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra in training, but decided a deal wasn’t right for the club. Chopra has since signed for Scottish club Alloa Athletic and, seeing the pictures, you can tell he’s not in the shape needed to trouble League One defences just yet. However, he’s worth monitoring while he’s at Alloa as his track record suggests he would be capable of scoring plenty of goals at this level, if he is fit.
If Page is trying to bring in someone on loan before Thursday’s deadline, then it should be with a view to next season. There seems little point in signing someone just to make up the numbers for the final few games. Instead, having a close-up look at a striker who is out of contract in the summer in a competitive environment and seeing how he fits into the club’s ethos and squad would be worthwhile. Alternatively, a few calls put into Premier League clubs could unearth a young striker who would be able to spend all of next season on loan at Vale. Getting that kid in now would give him a chance to bed in early.
With the likes of Pope, Marshall and Michael O’Connor all out of contract at the end of the season, Vale will have enough on their plate sorting out those futures. If they can get a head-start on their summer recruitment, then it could prove crucial.