Norman Smurthwaite got it right, now it’s time for fans to turn up in numbers…

Norman Smurthwaite got it right, now it’s time for fans to turn up in numbers…

OVF editor says that despite many doubters, including himself, Norman Smurthwaite increasingly looks to have got the key decisions right in recent months.

Rob Fielding writes…

After all the doubts, the controversies (such as the Sentinel dispute) and the many, many tweets, it’s increasingly looking like Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite got the summer’s biggest decisions right.

Let’s be honest, I bet very few of us expected this cracking start to the season but the chairman was confident throughout that his decisions were the right ones. And to be fair to him – they do appear to be. I have to pay tribute to Norman Smurthwaite for his big gamble this summer. So far, all is good and it looks to have paid off.

I have to pay tribute to Norman Smurthwaite for his big gamble this summer. It does look to have paid off…

I’m absolutely delighted to write that last paragraph. I hold my hands up and will admit I was worried over the summer. I really did think the gamble could easily go wrong. The managerial appointment took ages to happen and then there seemed to be a mass influx of inexperienced players, almost as if Vale were desperate to get players, any players, in. However, I believe that I underestimated manager Bruno Ribeiro.

I know not every player will work out (and Carlos Saleiro has already left) but an impressive proportion have already had an impact. Kjell Knops has negated the departure of captain Carl Dickinson at left-back, Sebastien Amoros, Paulo Tavares and Anthony Defreitas has had promising moments. There’s still time for the likes of Kiko, Rigino Cicilia, Chris Mbamba, Quentin Pereira and new signings Gezim Salaj and Miguel Santos to come in and impress. It’s hugely encouraging but it gets even better…

Not only has Ribeiro’s signings worked out but other less-exotic signings have also paid dividends. Anton Forrester and Alex Jones have found the target while Jerome Thomas has obvious class and experience. And don’t let’s underestimate the impact of some of the younger Vale players – Nathan Smith and Remie Streete have both thrived under Ribeiro.

There’s also a footballing philosophy which I touched on in a previous editorial. The squad is jammed full of young, skilful players (yes, with the odd veteran) who have potential to be sold on for a decent profit. That’s a sensible long-term strategy. There is a clear style of play on the pitch. That should attract new signings and fans alike. Yes, Vale now have an identity – something to distinguish them from the rest of the pack. It’s a good sign.

This is a Port Vale side that genuinely ticks an awful lot of boxes…

  • Good style of play – tick!
  • A crop of promising youngsters – tick!
  • A locally-born youth team graduate impressing in defence – tick!
  • Pacy and dangerous forwards – tick!
  • An experienced spine to the side – tick!
  • Strength in depth – tick!
  • An impressive new manager – tick!
  • A philosophy and style on the pitch – tick!

Now it’s time for the fans to show faith in Smurthwaite’s summer gamble, to back the side and turn out in numbers…

It’s been a hugely impressive start by the Valiants. With the side strong in all areas, Vale supporters can now go into matches full of confidence. Fans who like a punt will be flocking to sites like free football tips for the weekend at thatsagoal confident of predicting Vale success. But Vale now need more than punters simply looking for a return.

Right now Vale are looking an increasingly well-drilled unit. A defence that has conceded the least number of goals in the whole Football League, a young attack that is scoring goals, options in all positions, an impressive style of play… They are worth watching so now all we need are the big crowds to support the side.

After all, a positive Vale Park crowd can help this side do even more. Only last Saturday, Scunthorpe boss Graham Alexander was moaning that the home fans influenced officials. That was a sub-5,000 crowd. Imagine what impact 7-8,000 or even more could do?

Now it’s time for the fans to show faith in Smurthwaite’s summer gamble, to back the side and turn out in numbers. I also wonder what impact a ticket promotion would have right now? Offering a reduced price for the Peterborough fixture may boost the gate and if newcomers see the fare on offer they may well come again.

So, are there any negatives at the moment? No there aren’t. However, I would add that the icing on the cake would be securing the futures of some key players at the club. Agreeing terms with Enoch Andoh and Anthony Grant may be too much to hope for (we can still hope) but contract extensions for the likes of Nathan Smith, Sam Foley and Remie Streete would give fans a further boost and could perhaps keep the good times rolling at a resurgent Vale Park…

Season in stats…

  • Games played: 7
  • Record: W4 D1 L2
  • Clean sheets (all competitions): 4
  • Goals conceded (League): 2
  • Goals scored (all competitions): 8
  • Goals conceded (all competitions): 3
  • Goalscorers: Five (Forrester 2, Jones 2, Smith 2, Streete, Grant)

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