It’s been a dramatic and controversial summer and it seems there is more to come… Rob Fielding offers his opinion on Vale’s off-season business.
Rob Fielding writes…
Wow! It’s been an eventful summer if you’re a Port Vale fan. After weeks of speculation and no little controversy it seems that things will be a lot clearer next week when a new manager, head of recruitment and potentially up to 13 new players are announced.
In my opinion, with so many things going on there were definitely some incidents that were avoidable and should not have happened. For instance, the chairman’s digs at former manager Rob Page and Sentinel journalists Michael Baggaley and Martin Tideswell. I understand that Smurthwaite may not get on with any of them but really some times it’s best to stay off Twitter and keep your thoughts to yourself. I was somewhat disappointed at the digs at Page (who I felt had been dignified and had done well in his first full season) and Baggaley (who I feel is far from the “cut and paste” caricature Smurthwaite tries to hammer home). The digs at Page, Baggaley et al came across as undignified and unnecessary.
However, these are very much side issues compared with the main event. It now seems certain that Vale are eschewing the normal managerial appointment and going for a foreign coach and foreign players. Now, on paper this sounds radical and possibly mould-breaking but I have to sound a few words of caution first.
Will the manager know enough about the game? We’ve seen both sides of this conundrum at Vale. The inexperienced John Rudge flourished wheras the inexperienced Lee Sinnott floundered. Will “continental” players also work? While we have visions of Ronaldo or Messi style talent walzing through opponents remember that Achille Campion, Nico Jalink and Jermaine Holwyn were all foreign signings – and none of them set Burslem alight with their skills.
I also worry about the squad gelling and the subsequent team spirit. Last season’s Vale squad was the result of a gradual, less dramatic recruitment policy and had characters such as Louis Dodds and Carl Dickinson to gee the dressing room up. My concern would be a quiet dressing room full of disparate foreign players and one unable to attract that “team” ethos.
But enough of the negativity, there is of course a flipside to this. While other clubs battle to appoint another club’s failure as their boss and scramble around for allegedly overpriced British talent, the Vale have gone off on their own tangent. There is precident for this. Swindon did very well for themselves with their connection with Spurs and the new Vale manager’s connection to Man Utd boss Jose Mourinho could also pay dividends.
If Vale can perform on the pitch then that will go a long way to addressing many other issues. Fans will come to games to watch entertaining football and the Valiants could also benefit from gaining a reputation as a “footballing side.” For instance, neighbours Crewe have often benefited in the loan market from their determination to play the right way and Vale could do likewise.
It’s a brave move by Norman Smurthwaite, that’s for sure. As a fan I really do hope it pays off and the Valiants shove the bookies’ “favourite for relegation” tag down their throats. But a gamble would not be a gamble without risk and I would imagine that Vale fans are feeling equal quantities of excitement and trepidation as we count down to the new season.
And one thing’s for sure. We won’t forget this summer in a hurry!