What happens when Pope stops performing miracles?

What happens when Pope stops performing miracles?

Occasional columnist James Russell mulls over the need for Vale to supplement veteran Tom Pope’s goals…

James Russell writes…

Even though Port Vale have secured their League Two status for the season, the mood around the club won’t be a joyous one. This season’s relegation scrap was preceded by relegation from League One last year and instead of consolidating, the Valiants have found themselves circling the plughole that drains into the mire of National League football.

What will be concerning manager Neil Aspin is, if you take away Pope’s contribution of being involved in 22 goals, the situation looks a desperate one…

Tom Pope has been the saviour at Vale Park this season by finding the net 17 times in 40 league games as well as contributing five assists. The Valiants have only managed 49 goals in the league during their 45 games, which is the fifth lowest in the division. What will be concerning manager Neil Aspin is, if you take away Pope’s contribution of being involved in 22 goals, the situation looks a desperate one.

Pope turns 33 in the summer and, sooner or later, his powers will begin to wane as the inevitability of ageing begins to restrict his goal return. By the time that happens, the Valiants need to have replaced their talismanic frontman or face falling through the trapdoor and down into the depths of the National League bunfight.

Signing a proven goalscorer will be at the top of Aspin’s list over the summer and it may turn out to be a busy transfer window. Midfielder Cristian Montano was the club’s second highest goalscorer with seven and David Worrall the third with five. There will need to be a shift in thinking and a big effort to sort out the lack of firepower given that this isn’t a one-off problem. Last season, the Valiants only managed 45 goals and paid the price.

Barnet may find themselves relegated from League Two this season and they have only scored six fewer than Port Vale. The Bees are 2/5 to go down in football betting and that will serve as a reminder to the Valiants of the very real dangers of not finding the net.

If Port Vale are to mount a serious promotion push next season they will need to find players that can collectively bring another 25 goals to the club. Accrington Stanley, who are going up as champions after winning the league, have 27 more goals than Port Vale this season and Luton, who will go up automatically, have netted 45 more times than the Valiants. 

The only way to up the goal ratio by almost 50% from this season is to spend, hunting around in the bargain bin for rough diamonds or seasoned pros means another roll of the dice, and it seems Port Vale are beginning to run out of lives.

Without Pope’s current miracles in front of goal, Port Vale will have to rely on divine intervention to keep them up next season. They are far from the promised land of the Premier League or even the Championship and another summer ambling about in the transfer wilderness will surely be the straw on the camel’s back. The rebuilding job over the summer will be the most critical one the Valiants have had for some time.

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