Yes, it’s only four games into the season but the Vale’s awful run of form is giving much cause for concern argues Rob Fielding.
Rob Fielding writes…
A confession. I was a big fan of Michael Brown getting the Vale job. I actually like the concept of promoting from within and perhaps unearthing a possible managerial talent. I liked Brown as a player and I liked the coaching staff he assembled. I really wanted him to succeed.
However, right not, like a lot of fans, the doubts are beginning to set in…
However, right not, like a lot of fans, the doubts are beginning to set in.
I cannot for the life of me think why he thought that starting a game against close rivals Crewe (no, Tom Pope it’s not a derby game) with one striker upfront was wise. Tom Pope may have been the spearhead in 2012-13 but the current version needs someone to feed off him. That’s not to fault Tom’s attitude and workrate, he played his heart out, but in the first-half he was starved of service and only really came to the fore when Rekeil Pyke ran off him.
I then listened in bafflement to Michael Brown’s explanation of his “flexible” system to BBC Radio Stoke. It didn’t look very flexible to me. As far as I could see, Michael Tonge shielded the defence with Whitfield and newboy Worrall in front and Harness and Stobbs on the wings. In other words a 4-5-1 and not an “attacking” three upfront as Brown appeared to be suggesting.
So why did Brown pick it? Perhaps his summer dealings had something to do it. Pope is currently Vale’s only fit and experienced striker. Now you could say it’s bad luck to have Anton Forrester and Tyrone Barnett out injured – but anyone who has studied their career will know they are regular visitors to the treatment room. If you buy injury-prone players then well, they are likely to get crocked.
It’s the same as the situation in goal. Rob Lainton remains the only experienced keeper but has had a wretched time with injuries earlier in his career. It’s therefore a bit baffling that out of the four keepers on professional contracts, three of them had one senior game between them at the start of the season. With Lainton injury-prone would it not have been sensible to get experienced cover – perhaps in the form of a player-coach? That’s not to play down Hornby’s performance on Saturday by the way, he did really well in his fourth senior game.
But excuses like “it’s an inexperienced side” tend to ring untrue when you consider that – firstly that Vale have brought in Tonge, Kay, Pope, Worrall, Wilson, Montano, Barnett and Pugh this season – they bring bags of experience to the table. Secondly, if you buy the “we’re too inexperienced and learning” line – then ask – who has given the club such an inexperienced squad.
So, what to do?
After the fuming and the frustration over the defeat to Crewe has died down, the manager will no doubt remain in his job. However, he is rapidly running out of time to prove he’s the right man to take the club forward on the pitch. While the bigger picture obviously remains whether the club has the right owner with the right vision in charge, Brown desperately needs a good performance against Oldham on Tuesday evening.