Opinion: good bye Nathan Smith and good luck

Rob Fielding is bemused why some Port Vale fans feel that defender Nathan Smith has somehow “let the club down” by wanting to leave.

Rob Fielding writes…

I can’t understand some fans who are criticising Nathan Smith for having the temerity to want to leave Port Vale and play at a higher level.

I was about to use the phrase he’s been a “magnificent servant” and then I realised how loaded that phrase is. Unlike some fans who seem to think players should put Port Vale ahead of family and personal ambitions, I prefer to see football players in more realistic terms. Nathan Smith was no “servant” – he was employed by Port Vale, he never let the club down and now he wants to move on. He really should be thanked for his contribution and leave with our best wishes, not catcalls.

He really should be thanked for his contribution and leave with our best wishes, not catcalls…

After all, this is a player who has done himself proud at Vale. He was loaned out to Torquay United to further his football education, but in an early indication of his work ethic, he worked so hard he came back with both the young and senior player of the year awards. He then broke into the Port Vale first-team and matched his awards at Torquay by picking up the Vale young and senior player of the year awards. During that time, he never did anything controversial off the pitch, didn’t tweet dodgy remarks, didn’t get into trouble in nightclubs, no, he was a model professional. On the pitch it was the same story. He was young when breaking through into the first-team so there was the odd dip early on, but in recent months he has progressed to be a master of consistency, a model player who always did his best for the Valiants on the pitch.

Even in leaving the club, Smith has been the professional. To me, it’s clear he has privately signalled to the manager that he wanted to leave but he’s waited till his contract ran out rather than agitating during the season and despite the desire to leave, he never let his standards slip on the pitch this season. He’s done everything by the book and even those within the club such as owner Carol Shanahan and manager John Askey say there has been no hard feelings about Smith leaving. But why can’t some fans see it that way?

We should remember the defender’s spell with fondness and now move on. Being a player is not being a fan. For a football player, a spell at Vale Park is an occupation not a life choice. We shouldn’t castigate a young man for wanting to progress during what is a short career.

So after 199 appearances, eleven goals, a young player of the year award and a player of the year award it’s time to say “Best of luck Nathan and thanks for your hard work in a Port Vale shirt!”

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