Page being proved right over summer squad signings

Page being proved right over summer squad signings

Rob Fielding says some fans may need to change their opinions of Rob Page’s summer contract moves.

Rob Fielding writes…

After key contributions from some of Vale’s squad players in recent games, I suspect some fans will be eating humble pie.

After both played their part in Vale’s recent run, will those fans now admit that the manager was right?

Manager Rob Page got an awful lot of stick for handing the likes of Chris Birchall and Adam Yates new deals in the summer – but after both played their part in Vale’s recent run, will those fans now admit that the manager was right?

For me, I think Page offered the likes of Yates and Birchall deals for a number of reasons. Both are known quantities (you never know if a new signing will work or not), both deals appeared to be relatively cheap (both reportedly took pay cuts) and both were not signed as first choices but as experienced cover.

There is also an element of “wanting change for change’s sake” with some fans. The argument goes that players at other clubs could do a better job if they signed for Vale. That’s not always the case. There’s a comment I frequently make on the OVF forum and I will be repeating it a lot in this article. Past reputations mean very little. It’s not about a player’s record at another club, it’s what he does for Vale that counts. Just look at signings such as Shane Tudor, Justin Miller or Colin Miles. Lauded at other clubs, yet they failed miserably at ValePark.

I think it was a sensible decision by Page to retain Yates and Birchall. And his other summer deals were sensible too.

It can be argued that what the manager achieved over the summer was a new, improved spine of the side. After all, Vale started the season with a new goalkeeper, two new centre-halves, two new central midfielders and a targetman upfront.

In the manager’s defence, I think there’s an awful lot of things that Page has got right – despite fans’ misgivings.

In the manager’s defence, I think there’s an awful lot of things that Page has got right – despite fans’ misgivings.

Such as? Well, not rushing players is one. I do wonder if Enoch Andoh would have had quite the same impact had he been played during last season’s struggle for survival. Likewise, Sam Kelly, who didn’t start the season well, has bounced back with a goal and assists in recent games. The problem is that fans lack patience and demand instant results. Kelly has never played a sustained number of first-team games and clearly Page has decided not to rush him. Arguably, that decision (and that to introduce Andoh earlier this season) is now vindicated.

Some will say that the hole in Page’s planning was a “proven goalscorer sized hole” but considering that Vale made it clear that they would have loved to have signed Swindon’s Andy Williams – it was an issue that had clearly crossed the manager’s mind too – he just hadn’t been able to get his man.

Having said that – signing a striker on previous goalscoring reputation isn’t a way of guaranteeing success (after all, as I’ve mentioned already it’s not about a player’s record for other clubs, it’s what he does for Vale that counts). Andy Williams has scored one more league goal than AJ Leitch-Smith. Yet at the start of the summer, Leitch-Smith wasn’t seen as the answer to our problems because of his record at other clubs (I repeat – it’s not about a player’s record for other clubs, it’s what he does for Vale that counts).

So, sometimes goalscorers can appear in unlikely players. Tom Pope was hardly prolific before he joined Vale and suddenly became a reliable source of goals. This could now be the case with Leitch-Smith who looks a reborn player with the confidence of his recent glut of goals.

No doubt some fans will argue that Page’s contractual decisions look good because the club are currently riding high on a good run of form. However, as so many are keen to jump on the manager’s back when the club doesn’t do well, isn’t it about time he got some praise during the good times too?