OVF editor Rob Fielding says that keeping faith with Bruno Ribeiro may just help bring about a youthful and talented squad for future seasons.
Rob Fielding writes…
One of the strange conundrums of the summer appointment of Bruno Ribeiro at Vale Park was two seemingly contrasting statements by owner Norman Smurthwaite.
When Bruno Ribeiro was announced as manager Smurthwaite said that he was “absolutely certain we have the right man for the job” and that confidence seemed to be borne out by Ribeiro’s three-year deal.
However, just weeks later Smurthwaite made his “Plan B” comments to BBC Radio Stoke in which he demanded that Ribeiro’s side should be challenging at the top of the table by Christmas adding that “I would not have put in yet another relatively large amount of money just to sit and be mid-table mediocre.”
However, it seems somewhat nonsensical to appoint a manager on a long-term deal and then demand instant success or else…
For me, now the club have committed to Ribeiro, his staff and his many new signings, then they need to view it as a long-term project. And when you do view it as a long-term plan then (perhaps surprisingly to some) the future looks promising.
Yes, the football (Hartlepool game aside) has been pretty teeth-grating stuff in recent weeks, but what’s a couple of months of dreadful performances and a season of (to quote Norman) “mid-table mediocrity” when we’re talking about a three-year plan to take the club into the Championship?
I suspect the critical question that needs answering is – does Ribeiro really have what it takes to develop his squad in future years? No-one can say for sure, but despite the recent results, I think things look promising and that Ribeiro has quietly developed Vale’s squad into one packed full of young talent which could bear fruit in the future.
How did he do this? Well, there have been a couple of things that have definitely helped…
Firstly, it was to sign promising youngsters on decent, long-term contracts. The impressive Anthony De Freitas, for example, is on a two-year contract with an option for a further year. As is Rigino Cicilia. The contracts show faith in their ability, give them the stability a long-term deal allows and also appreciates that they may need time to develop their full potential.
Secondly, Ribeiro has also been far quicker to promote local youngsters into the first-team picture than predecessor Rob Page. Following the huge success of handing Nathan Smith his full debut against Bradford and keeping faith in Remie Streete’s talent, James Gibbons was the latest to get a first-team call. Dan Turner has also featured in recent squads.
For me, Ribeiro’s work in lowering the age of the squad and having faith in youngsters is very promising. However, by definition it is a long-term project and not one that will bring immediate results. Not only are the youngsters inexperienced and inconsistent but some also need time to adapt to the English league. There’s also the small matter of Ribeiro himself adapting to managing in the English game. These things take time.
Take a look at Rigino Cicilia (22)– who was castigated at the start of the season but after a period of acclimatisation is now a firm favourite and a contender for the first eleven. Others such as Kiko (23), Sebastien Amoros (21) and De Freitas (22) have all shown they are developing too. At the back, youngsters Jak Alnwick (23), Nathan Smith (20) and Remie Streete (22) are benefitting from regular first-team football.
How will that group fare next season? Well, some, such as Smith, may leave and some may fail to develop as hoped, but by August 2017 we could have a crop of really promising young talent on our hands.
And if we do, what a shame it would be to call a halt to the experiment and bring in a Plan B just because we’re not in a play-off spot by Christmas. If this is a long-term project I think that Christmas 2017 will be a far better time to judge whether the gamble on Ribeiro has been a success or failure.