Opinion: one season on and the Port Vale squad still looks unbalanced

Opinion: one season on and the Port Vale squad still looks unbalanced

Despite a busy summer, the Port Vale squad this season looks to be an unbalanced one, Rob Fielding argues.

Rob Fielding writes…

While I still believe that the bigger picture remains the ownership of the club and the drive and ambition to take the Vale forward, with Norman Smurthwaite indicating there is no imminent sale, it’s perhaps time to look at playing matters instead.

One thing that has struck me is that despite the end of Bruno Ribeiro and his continental experiment, this season’s Vale squad is arguably just as unbalanced as last season’s one…

One thing that has struck me is that despite the end of Bruno Ribeiro and his continental experiment, this season’s Vale squad is arguably just as unbalanced as last season’s one.

In 2016/17 Vale used a multitide of keepers but had problems finding the net with only loanee Alex Jones looking likely to score. A number of wingers were used but the central defence was pretty settled until Remie Streete got injured.

This season seems to be along similar lines. If Vale’s interest in Millwall winger David Worrell bears fruit then the Valiants could have five wingers in their squad. Three of them will be loanees which is surely a situation that won’t please their parent clubs (who will be wanting maximum game time for their youngsters).  The Valiants will also have four keepers on their books but only one – Rob Lainton – with any kind of first-team experience. With Lainton’s sorry injury record over the years, it’s a bit of a mystery that an experienced back-up option wasn’t sought.

There’s mitigating circumstances for the lack of options upfront. While some may have predicted that the luckless Anton Forrester may pick up a knock, it was a real blow that Tyrone Barnett got injured without even playing a full game. Nevertheless, it seems odd that following those injuries Michael Brown hasn’t strengthened upfront – after all for all their potential, Rekeil Pyke and Dan Turner are relatively untested and with Tom Pope’s recent injury record surely some experienced cover upfront is required?

The left-back situation is similarly odd. Vale knew that Kjell Knops was out for the long-term so it seemed odd that their first signing was untried Graham Kelly – surely one for the future? Kelly is one of two untested youngsters, the other being youth team graduate Charlie Walford, to make the first-team squad before Brown added Gavin Gunning, a centre-half who is notionally a left-back and Tyler Denton. So, we have five players in Knops, Kelly, Walford, Gunning and Denton – with only Gunning having any sort of Football League experience.

All this gives an odd balance to the Vale squad and it’s almost as if Michael Brown is repeating the failings of his predecessor.

I sincerely hope he proves me wrong.

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