Site editor Rob Fielding says a change of attitude is needed by Port Vale as the club enters a low ebb.
Rob Fielding writes…
It was just the 18th May when one fan posted on the OVF forum that “Without a shadow of doubt Rob Page is a stabilising factor at the Club and if he were to leave I shudder to think who the owner would possibly bring in to the hot seat.” Well, four days and later and guess what… now the Vale are at a real low point.
Fans are feeling the loss of manager Rob Page and with near silence from the club about potential replacements there is a negative undercurrent right now.
I believe it’s right that chairman Norman Smurthwaite is taking a low key personal approach. Spells on Twitter and posting on the OVF forum didn’t work and I for one think it’s the best approach to keep away from social media and use the official club website to communicate. However, right now the club are not doing the latter. There’s next to no information on the official website and it seems that with the Chairman’s “difficult” relationship with the Sentinel there’s precious little in the local media too. Keeping the fans in the dark and not adopting a positive attitude when season ticket sales are crucial seems the wrong approach.
So with the manager gone and the club adopting silent tactics, is it any surprise that fans’ discontent is growing? Although some may say that this was a disastrous time to lose the manager, if you look for silver linings in clouds then you could argue that it could have been worse (on the eve of the new season, for instance).
I believe the only thing that fans and club alike can do is try to remain positive.
How does the club remain “positive”? Well for me, it’s all about the message. At the moment the club’s silence does little to boost supporter confidence (mainly because there simply is no message). But despite Page’s exit there are still positive (not great ones but still positive) statements that can be made. For instance, what about “we are determined to bring in the best man for the manager’s role” or “things are progressing we have a number of strong candidates” as strong, positive statements for the club to make?
As for appeasing the fans? Well, a rapid appointment of the right person would clearly be a massive boost (and with rapid in mind, that is why I personally believe Michael Brown is the right appointment), there is some compensation money from Page’s move and perhaps most crucially of all if the club move quickly there is still time to encourage out-of-contract players to stay, add newcomers to the squad and bond the squad ahead of the new season.
But there’s an elephant in the room.
A rapid and right appointment and positive statements from the club are all very well in practice but there’s little sign that these will happen in principle. I am concerned that we have an owner who wishes to sell but can’t find buyers. I have no problem with Norman Smurthwaite wanting to give up Vale but if he is serious about exiting he needs to have a realistic selling price and be actively looking to leave. We have many mixed messages and many loose ends at the moment (where is the proposed CEO/general manager?) and this messy approach is making Vale appear disjointed, disunited and disorganised.
If Norman wants to go then I would suggest his best approach is to continue to devote his full attention to the club until a sale can be agreed and to actively sell the club at a realistic price. Otherwise there is a real danger that his asset will decrease rapidly in value, fans will become even more disenchanted and the club will end up in a negative spiral.
But it’s not too late. The club could take its head out of the sand and communicate professionally and positively. It could appoint the right man as manager and with a reasonable budget and in the long-term, if Norman wants to stand aside he could be realistic with his asking price.
The problem is – that’s three uses of the word “could” in the last paragraph. Yes, we’ve been here before. I’m not the only Vale fan who has made comments like this. Sensible comments that aren’t going to cost money but simply involve a change of attitude from the club hierarchy. The problem is – we fans can say this all we like but it’s ultimately up to the club to action them. Will they do so?
Sadly, I’m not holding my breath.