The OVF editor says some criticism is justified but much of the manager’s work has been under appreciated by his critics.
Rob Fielding writes…
Manager Rob Page has been subject to relentless criticism from some this season, but I would argue that a large part of it is unjustified.
Here are some areas where the manager’s efforts have been under appreciated…
Surely a key part of a manager’s role is the ability to bring good players into the club. I think Page’s summer signings make happy reading.
Arguably Page doesn’t get enough credit for getting them to the club…
Clearly the signings of Jak Alnwick, Anthony Grant, Sam Foley and Ben Purkiss all benefited the side – but arguably Page doesn’t get enough credit for getting them to the club. Page has also arguably made his critics eat their words with some of his more unfavoured signings such as AJ Leitch-Smith and Sam Kelly.
I remember reading the criticism when AJ Leitch-Smith was signed and the moaning when Sam Kelly made a slow start to his Vale career. Where are those moaners now? Clearly Page and his team have worked on both players on the training ground and those who complained “AJ” was a “cheap” and “panic” signing will be revising their opinions now.
Kelly had never played League football before and was gradually introduced. It’s something Page also did with Enoch Andoh but in these “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” times he’s been criticised for not playing Andoh last season. Well, perhaps like Kelly, it wouldn’t have helped to rush him?
In fact, I would say that with the exception of Alex Nimely (and every manager has a stinker of a signing in their CV) Page’s additions have been very impressive.
Improving the players
Another factor which Page doesn’t get much praise for is his ability to make existing players into better ones. I am sure that given the choice (and their rumoured wages) Richard Duffy and Ryan McGivern would not have been at Vale this season. However, Page worked with what he had to hand and has melded them into an effective centre-back partnership.
As a measure of how much work has clearly taken place, it’s worth remembering that at the start of the season, fans had written off McGivern and that Duffy was still being criticised for his performances the previous campaign.
Wheeling and dealing
Perhaps where Page does fall down is utilising players that he does bring in on loan…
Every manager has to move players in and out to facilitate changes to his squad. I would argue that Page clearly has enough contacts and know-how to get players out on loan and free up the wage bill. For instance, Sam Johnson, Ryan Lloyd, Achille Campion and Nathan Smith have had loan spells which not only frees up some wages but also gives the players valuable experience.
Perhaps where Page does fall down is utilising players that he does bring in on loan. Jak McCourt was brought in on the simple premise of cover for the then-injured Michael Brown but the Leicester player managed just 101 minutes of action. Similarly, Tommy O’Sullivan was similarly under-employed during two spells last season.
If the players are simply there for cover and not expected to play much of a part perhaps Page needs to re-think this policy. Would it be better to promote players from the youth team instead of using other club’s players if cover is all that is needed?
Style of play
Despite criticism (which to be fair can be justified at times) of negative tactics, I would argue that the style of play under Page is much easier on the eye than that of Micky Adams. This season we have seen skilful players such as Ebo Andoh, Sam Kelly and AJ Leitch-Smith thrive under Page’s more thoughtful methods.
And now on to more negative matters…
The three negatives
The manager deserves our patience and certainly deserves a bit more praise…
OK, so this article seeks to back the manager but some of the criticism can be justified: the tactics have been negative at times, the team still struggle at set-pieces and there can be a reluctance to try out certain players.
However, surely all of those things are perhaps symptomatic of a rookie manager. Let’s not forget that Page has been in charge for a mere 15 months.
To me, I feel these three things can all be improved with experience.
What is more important is whether Page has the natural talent to succeed and take Vale forward. I would argue that with his transfer business, improvement of existing players and style of play the manager deserves our patience and certainly deserves a bit more praise…