When John Askey took over Port Vale and lost his four games in charge, fans were wondering if he was the right man for the job. Granted, he’d taken over a struggling side but the early signs weren’t promising.
Fast-forward to the start of the new season and things have markedly changed. Askey has a three-year contract under his belt, the backing of new owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan, and the support of the majority of the Valiants’ faithful after guiding the club to League Two safety.
It’s a new era for the Midlands outfit and Askey is the face of it. He might not have enjoyed his time at Shrewsbury Town but his sacking had mitigating circumstances. After all, he had lost a number of the players he’d hoped to count on after Town’s run to the League One play-off final the previous year.
The Shanahans – the husband and wife team in charge of Port Vale following their takeover in May – have rightly praised his work since coming in on February 4th, taking Port Vale clear of the drop zone with an eight-point cushion. As a clear sign of their intent, giving Askey a three-year deal underlines the team’s new identity.
His achievements in the second half of the 2018-2019 season have already had an impact as we enter this new era. For a team that battled its way to remain in the Football League, Askey can start thinking about building for the future.
Indeed, at 15/2 for the drop, they’re not considered relegation fodder this time around. The football prediction from Betfair puts nine teams ahead of them for the bottom two and even gives Port Vale odds of 17/2 for promotion.
Much of that is based on Askey getting the most out of his players. Striker Tom Pope praised the side after their recent 1-1 draw with Colchester, highlighting the defence as being particularly strong.
It might seem an inauspicious start for the Midlands team but Colchester finished just outside the play-offs last season and the Valiants lost both home and away to them without scoring in 2018-2019. As Pope said, before the kick-off most people “weren’t too optimistic of us getting much”. Indeed, it’s a terrific point away from home, and one Askey will hope to build upon.
The new manager’s pedigree stems from his time in the National League with Macclesfield. He’d spent a number of years as assistant coach before taking over the reins in April 2013, initially on an interim basis before being appointed the permanent boss.
Macclesfield, for a number of years, were in among the teams vying for promotion. They regularly threatened the top two but again and again they came up short. That all changed last year when he guided the Silkmen to the Football League despite having one of the smallest budgets of any team in the division.
Now tasked with the challenge of getting Port Vale into League Two’s play-offs, Askey, who was once on the team’s books as a player at youth level, will quite rightly need time. His success at Macclesfield certainly didn’t happen overnight. After an encouraging first game, the manager has called upon the home fans to make Vale Park something of a fortress as he begins his first full year in charge.