With the Coronavirus epidemic, massive match cancellations, lockdowns, quarantine and other news that keeps coming in, the 2019/20 season will not have been a restful one for anyone.
Port Vale Football Club has also had its dose of media coverage during the season! Pending the end of quarantine and the resume of competition in our favourite sport, let’s take a look back at some of the highlights of this year. And it’s Tom Pope who wins this year’s Most Publicized Player of the Year award. But what happened with Pope?
In January, a certain Tom Pope made headlines in England after the match between Manchester City and Port Vale thanks to a simple tweet in which he mocked international defender John Stones.
Manchester City were playing host to Port Vale in the third round of the FA Cup, the modestly tenth-placed team in League Two (England’s fourth division). While the Citizens won without too many problems (4-1), this match will remain the one that propelled Tom Pope into the limelight. So who is Tom Pope will you tell us? He’s the Port Vale forward. The 34-year-old Briton has scored ten goals in 37 appearances this season in League Two.
Last June, Pope posted a tweet mocking the level of John Stones after England’s 3-1 defeat by the Netherlands in the League of Nations semi-final, “I’ve just finished the summary of England’s game! I know that I play in League Two, that he plays for the national team, that he earns £150,000 a week, that he’s a thousand times better than me but I would love to play against John Stones every week! I’d plant 40 a season!”
Before the match, and that’s the beauty of urban gossip in Britain, the tweet had been picked up by a few people on the internet and was on the front pages before the match. Once the team sheets were in, it was confirmed. John Stones was in defence while Tom Pope was also in the starting line-up for the Valiants. The long-awaited duel was about to take place. The duel of Stones-Pope in front of our eyes.
Guess what happened? Well, Tom Pope headed home against the Man City defence, we’ll skip the fact that his head-to-head duel was not against John Stones, but the point was made. He did it! If that equalising goal turned out to be mere consolation in the end, the Port Vale striker had just made his point. A seasoned user of the social network, he couldn’t help but react with a heartfelt tweet. In all modesty, of course: “I was completely wrong when I said I could plant 40 in one season… It would surely be more like 50!”
Already repeatedly accused of misbehaviour by the English Football Association, he had once again made a name for himself on Twitter, his favourite playground. The Port Vale striker has already been suspended for one match due to an inappropriate comment made against a supporter. He compared the fan to Sloth (Sinok, for VF fans), a character with an unflattering physique from the film The Goonies in a post he has obviously deleted since then. The 34-year-old player will therefore missed a trip to Swindon Town and was also fined 1500 pounds.
After this turbulent start to the season, the club’s fans and supporters were disappointed to see all games cancelled because of Coronavirus. It is hard to know how and when the stadiums will reopen and welcome back hundreds, or even thousands of spectators to come and support their favourite team. What is certain is that some clubs are firmly opposed to seeing football to resume as long as there is a risk of contamination for them and their fans. Others refuse to play behind closed doors. It is therefore governments and federations that will have to decide what happens next.