Opinion: is it all pretence?

Opinion: is it all pretence?

Columnist Malcolm Hirst says ahead of the supporters’ meeting it’s time to “stand down Norman, stand down please…”

Malcolm Hirst writes…

Vale Park is a place devoid of joy for Vale fans and there seems no hope for the future beyond non-league football, whether that is this year or next…

I have been musing on the Ska protest movement of the 1980s of late with the fragmentation of society caused by Brexit. Once again we have seen neighbour pitted against neighbour rather than people standing together for the good of all. The Beat recorded a song called ‘Stand Down Margaret’ that, in part, called for Margaret Thatcher to resign and cause no further harm to our country. Some of the words are potent:

“I said I see no joy, I see only sorrow
I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow”

In thinking about the Supporters’ Club Meeting this Thursday, where Norman Smurthwaite has agreed to answer questions about his leadership of Port Vale, these words seemed quite apt. They reflect what I, and probably most Vale fans, think. Vale Park is a place devoid of joy for Vale fans and there seems no hope for the future beyond non-league football, whether that is this year or next. I found myself changing the chorus to:

“So stand down Norman, stand down please, stand down
I say stand down Norman, stand down please, stand down”

In an interview with ‘The Hollywood Reporter’, Dave Wakeling, vocalist in the band, said that: “Most everything about Margaret Thatcher was pretend… a way for the privileged to secure themselves at the expense of everybody else”. Scarily this seemed even more aligned to the fans of Port Vale. However, is Norman pretend and, if so, in what way?

Pretend rich? When Norman Smurthwaite came to Vale Park he pronounced he was rich enough to take us to the Championship and that there would be no loans. However, the reality is that we have seen the opposite. Under his tenure we have fallen from League 1 to League 2 and are flirting with a further relegation to non-league football. We have seen year on year budget cuts and gone from being debt-free to owing £3.7 in directors’ loans. As a club, we seem to have seen very little investment from this man who said he was rich enough to take us to the Championship.

Pretend dreamer? Norman promised the Vale fans a bright new tomorrow but, given our current plight, this seems a distant reality. Given the lack of investment is it any wonder that fans are beginning to wonder whether this goal was ever a reality?

Pretend words? In November 2012, Norman Smurthwaite said: “I’m a great believer that a person will demonstrate their value to me in what it is they do, not by what they say”. This is perhaps where Vale fans might feel most let down. There could be a few examples to choose from – let’s look at just a couple…

First, at the same press conference in 2012, Norman said: “There is no third-party money being dragged out of the club”. Yet Colin Garlick, at the Supporters’ Club meeting when asked about revenue going out of the club, said all commercial revenue is now staying in the club. The implication being it wasn’t previously. This was confirmed to me Tony Fradley after the Barnet match when he stated the commercial revenue had been staying in the club since September 2017. Secondly, following the appointment of Neil Aspin, Mr Smurthwaite promised to do whatever it takes to keep Vale in the Football League. However, in the

January transfer window, Vale were outbid by Forest Green for the services of Gunning and, for the second season in a row, we came out of the window with less quality than when it started. Is this really ‘whatever it takes’?

The question on many fans’ lips is whether Norman Smurthwaite’s offer to attend the Supporters’ Club meeting this Thursday is also pretend? The clear majority of people I have spoken to think he will not turn up. Will he be ill? An important meeting has come up that can’t be rearranged? Perhaps the heating will breakdown or the fans will be locked out? I hope he does attend. However, Norman is facing an uphill task to win over the fans. Whatever picture he paints of the future, will the fans believe him or will they think it’s just pretend? Whatever Norman says, unless it is that he is leaving, the chorus from fans is likely to be:

“I said I see no joy, I see only sorrow
I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow

So stand down Norman, stand down please, stand down
I say stand down Norman, stand down please, stand down”

@nlvmalc

This column represents the columnist’s personal views and not necessarily those of the Port Vale Supporters Club.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.