OVF editor Rob Fielding wonders if a clutch of experienced signings is a sign of a new direction for the club. And it’s no bad thing, he argues…
Rob Fielding writes…
At the start of the season, chairman Norman Smurthwaite gave manager Bruno Ribeiro a stark ultimatum. His squad, with many continental additions, needed to be challenging for promotion by Christmas or the owner would resort to “Plan B.”
Smurthwaite is clearly determined to have Vale in promotion contention this season and it is widely understood that the “Plan B” would involve bringing in experienced, high quality players who have the experience that some of the foreign signings may be lacking.
Two of the club’s most recent signings – 32 year-old Ryan Taylor (over 100 Premier League games) and 29 year-old Martin Paterson (over 200 Championship games) now join 33 year-old Jerome Thomas (over 100 Premier League games) in the Vale squad.
It may lead fans to speculate – perhaps plan B is already in operation? After all, several of the summer additions are not squad regulars (such as Chris Mbamba, Kiko, Quentin Pereira, Gezim Shalaj and Anthony Defreitas) and many would argue that the majority of key players this season have all been players with experience of the English game (Anthony Grant, Sam Foley, Jerome Thomas and Jak Alnwick amongst them). Yes, Kjell Knops and Paulo Tavares have also been regulars but at the age of 29 and 30 they also have plenty of experience, albeit not in the English game.
If you add Knops and Tavares to the four I’ve already mentioned then five out of the six players are aged 29 and above. Add Paterson and new signing Ryan Taylor and you have seven players aged 29 or above.
A more experienced Vale?
It’s enlightening to see the average squad age if you took the opening home game against Southend and compared it to what could be Vale’s line-up in the future:
Southend: Alnwick, Mac-Intosch, Smith, Streete, Knops, Grant, Tavares, Foley, Defreitas, Thomas, Cicilia (average age – 26)
Future starting XI: Alnwick, Taylor, Smith, Streete, Knops, Grant, Tavares, Foley, Thomas, Paterson, Jones (average age – 27)
In just a few months, the average age of the Vale starting eleven has risen by a year. It seems to suggest that Vale believe experience is key.
This in itself is not a bad thing I hasten to add. After all, surely we all want promotion and if this is the best way to achieve it, so be it. We also still have plenty of youthful promise in the starting eleven – Alnwick, Smith, Streete and Jones are all in their early 20’s.
However, I believe it was asking a lot of new signings to adapt quickly to a new country, culture and league. That is not writing them off. I merely think some may take a little while longer to reach their potential.
If that is when Port Vale are happily returned to the Championship, so much the better…
Credit: Photos of Martin Paterson and Ryan Taylor are from the Port Vale FC website