OVF editor Rob Fielding is delighted to see a Vale squad which now contains a spine of locally developed talent.
Rob Fielding writes…
It’s been a while since a Port Vale squad has contained quite so many locally born or produced youngsters. It could be a source of real hope.
James Gibbons and Nathan Smith, both locals and youth team graduates, have been joined in recent weeks by compatriot Ryan Boot. It means three of Vale’s back five are local, under 24 and graduates of Vale’s increasingly productive youth system.
When you add in squad members Dan Turner and Billy Reeves (OK, not locally born but still a product of the youth system) plus Mike Calveley (who played against Crewe) there is much for the Vale youth coaches to be proud of.
There’s not only the youngsters. Adam Yates and Tom Pope are part of a squad that could become the pride of the Potteries because there’s a lot of Potteries players to be proud of within it.
When you add in Director of Football John Rudge and manager Neil Aspin, both of whom know the club inside out after their long spells, it seems that the squad and coaching staff now boasts a spine who have been with Vale long enough to know what it means to the local area and the fans.
We’ve had previous false dawns with local youngsters – the likes of Ryan Brown, Sam Johnson, Ryan Lloyd and Joe Anyon all initially promised a lot but sadly failed to deliver. But I think there is reason to believe that Smith and Gibbons have already proven their worth and Dan Turner is also looking highly promising. That’s a decent ratio (we all know that there are always going to be some who don’t make it) and it’s also wise of Vale to secure promising youngsters to long-term deals quickly.
This conveyor belt of locally produced talent is something that could really benefit the side long-term. Crewe observers have said for some time that talented youngsters will pick out Crewe because they think they have a better chance of breaking through to the first-team. If you’re a youngster in the Potteries right now, you will surely be thinking that a move to Vale and a spell in the youth team could result in a realistic chance of a first-team place.
It can also help things off the pitch. For a while now I’ve bemoaned that Vale has been seemingly devoid of identity or a long-term goal. Could this focus on developing talent via the youth team provide the club with an identity? As a fan I would be very happy to see the youth team coaches continue to develop local talent and it will surely delight supporters to see young talent come in and play for their club.
The development of local talent therefore has benefits both on and off the pitch. Long may it continue.