OVF editor Rob Fielding thinks that even if the play-offs are out of reach, there are still some things Vale could do to get the maximum benefit out of the rest of the season.
1. Give young prospects a run out
With Ryan Inniss injured perhaps now is the time to re-introduce Remie Streete to the defence?
If the play-offs are out of reach then surely this is the time to give some players much-needed first-team match time?
Nathan Smith has earned plaudits at Torquay but he is injured so it’s probably impractical to bring him back to Vale early. However, with Ryan Inniss injured perhaps now is the time to re-introduce Remie Streete to the defence? And why not keep JJ Hooper, who has shown promise, upfront?
2. Release the retained list early
Other clubs have released their retained list early and I can’t see any reason why Vale shouldn’t follow suit.
Firstly, it benefits the players who are leaving the club to be told in advance so that they have more time to find a new club.
Secondly, if a player is set to be released at the end of the season it would justify the reason to drop them in order to give a young prospect game time (i.e. my first suggestion) instead. In other words, if say, Ryan McGivern is going to be released in the summer it makes more sense to give Remie Streete (younger, in need of first-team football and on a long-term contract) game time instead.
And releasing the retained list early also allows another important opportunity…
3. Start contract talks with key players
In addition to clearing out unwanted players, an early retained list also works in the club’s favour when it comes to signing up key players.
It wards off any chance of Vale losing their star players, potentially boosts interest in season tickets…
In the past, I have often been frustrated that contract talks have been shelved until the summer. By that time other interested clubs may have shown an interest and players’ heads may have been turned.
Of course some players may want to wait until the summer (and see what else is on offer) before entering talks but some may not. If Vale can get the likes of Enoch Andoh, AJ Leitch-Smith and so on to commit to a new contract early then it wards off any chance of Vale losing their star players, potentially boosts interest in season tickets and of course it means that Vale will have key players playing for them next season.
4. Give club servants a send-off
I never thought that Tom Pope was the messiah but I did appreciate his efforts in a Vale shirt and I found it slightly disappointing that he didn’t get a proper send-off in his final Vale game (it was an open secret he would leave the club after all).
If, as many suspect, this could be the final season for the likes of Adam Yates and Chris Birchall (with over 350 Vale appearances between them) it would be nice for them to get a decent send-off. If the retained list was issued early and there was nothing but pride to play for then there would be the chance to send both on for the last five minutes of the final home game of the season.