OVF editor Rob Fielding says – whisper it quietly – but Vale have a method to the footballing side and it’s one that could be a successful one.
Rob Fielding writes…
Amid the swirl of crazy rumours linking Mario Balotelli with Port Vale, there was a report in the Liverpool Echo that showed the wider public’s ignorance of the summer changes at Vale Park. Commenting on the link the newspaper said – “Wolves, fair enough. Fresh from a takeover, the Midlands club are aiming high, and it wouldn’t be an outlandish move for the Championship club to attempt taking him to Molineux, surely? But Port Vale?”
It’s a typical reaction from those who have been unaware of Bruno Ribeiro’s appointment and his close relationship with Jose Mourinho – the man apparently giving advice to Balotelli. Sure, it’s unlikely that the striker would opt for League One anyway but if you knew more about the Vale manager you would at least understand the origins of the rumour.
However, even in League One, there is confusion and ignorance over Vale’s tactics. Rochdale manager Keith Hill commented before Tuesday’s game that Vale were an “unknown quantity.”
I’ve argued in a previous blog post that Vale needed an identity on and off the pitch. In the post I explained that two clubs with definite philosophies – Southampton (with an emphasis on young player development) and Bournemouth (an emphasis on a style of play) have had success in recent years and I suggested that this was something for Vale to consider. In Norman Smurthwaite’s third year in charge it now looks like he has done just that. There is a clear footballing philosophy and I think it’s one that’s both sensible and potentially lucrative.
So what is it? Here’s how I interpret it.
1. Vale will play entertaining and stylish football under Bruno Ribeiro who stated when he joined the club that he wanted the team to “play out from the back.” Clearly the aim behind this is primarily to win games but it can also attract lapsed fans back to be entertained too.
2. The players coming into the squad are, by and large, young players (early 20’s) who can develop at Vale Park and potentially be sold-on. New signings Anthony Defreitas (22), Riginio Cicilia (22), Anton Forrester (22), Sebastien Amoros (21) and Nathan Ferguson (21) all fit that bracket while last season’s additions Remie Steete (21) and Jak Alnwick (23) are of the same age too. Meanwhile youth team graduate Nathan Smith is still 20 years of age.
3. There is clearly a long-term strategy with these players – just look at the number of “two years with an option for a further year” contracts that they signed under. That is a clear indication that Vale think the newcomers can develop over time.
4. There’s also an “open door” policy with the youngsters at Vale – something that wasn’t always the case before. That means that the likes of Remie Street and Nathan Smith are deemed good enough to start in the first-team and that in turn offers hopes to the likes of James Gibbons, Dan Turner and Ryan Boot that it’s not all about foreign additions and that they can also force their way into the first-team.
5. It’s also a game of percentages. Not all the foreign signings will work out (Carlos Saleiro has already left) but the club will hope enough will to earn some significant transfer funds and not all the team can be promising youngsters (which is why the likes of Paulo Tavares, Anthony Grant and Sam Foley are vital too). In many ways it reminds me of the John Rudge transfer philosophy. It was never a 100% success rate but for every failed signing (the likes of Derek Swan for instance) there was a undiscovered gem such as Ian Taylor. If Vale can equal Rudge’s transfer record we are in for a period of very great success indeed.
So can that philosophy be summed up in a line or two? I’m going for:
Playing football the right way and entertaining the fans while bringing in young talented players both from abroad and from within and developing as many as possible into top players.
It’s early days yet but if Ribeiro’s early success continues perhaps in the future there will less eyebrows raised at the Liverpool Echo when Vale’s on-pitch philosophy becomes more widely known…