Since the departure of John Askey in January 2021 and the subsequent appointment of both Darrell Clarke as manager and David Flitcroft as director of football, Port Vale haven’t looked back.
In fact, even though the side eventually finished mid-table under Clarke, there were several encouraging signs that were pointing towards a bright future under the former Bristol Rovers and Walsall boss.
Fast forward to the end of this season and many of the plans that were evidently put in place following Clarke and Flitcroft’s arrival are coming to fruition. Vale have been playing excellently all season on the whole, perhaps defying the odds among many supporters by finishing in the play-offs and providing a better brand of football than what the Vale faithful had to endure under Askey. While Vale fans were perhaps making use of enticing opportunities like a Unibet bonus and backing clubs operating on larger budgets for promotion at the start of the campaign, such as Salford City and Leyton Orient, the realisation that their beloved Valiants are capable of doing the same was slowly starting to hit home, although it did take a while due to Vale’s relatively slow start to the season.
Now, with the campaign drawing to a close and Port Vale’s plans for next season being put together in the background, Clarke will surely be looking to make a number of changes following his desperation to clear out any deadwood last campaign. Of course, this time around the former Salisbury City boss won’t need to rip it all up and start again, but promotion to League One would mean a tougher challenge, a raise in the overall quality of opponents, and a potentially more fluid and varied way of playing at times. In the event of Vale failing to win promotion, though, the evident need for continued evolution is still there and Clarke appears to be all for it. The bright coach isn’t one to rest on his laurels and will undoubtedly be assessing several areas where his squad can improve further during the off-season.
Additional support for Proctor and Wilson must be the priority
Although Jamie Proctor and James Wilson are two of the club’s leading scorers along with the likes of Ben Garrity, goals have been a problem for Port Vale at various times throughout the season.
In terms of striker options this summer, they’re potentially extensive. Whether or not the club has the finances to snap up various talents from within the division remains to be seen and, ultimately, the club’s position will undoubtedly be dictated by the outcome of the crucial play-off matches, but there are some goal-getters that Vale would surely love to sign if they could. Scoring 25 goals in League Two for Newport Country this campaign, Dominic Telford will surely have caught the eye. Oldham Athletic’s Davis Keillor-Dunn is another appealing option after scoring 15 goals in a struggling side.
Creative midfielders also on the radar
Whether or not another striker could help ease the burden on Proctor and Wilson is up for debate, but some additional creativity in midfield could also help them flourish further next campaign. Given the need for more goals on the whole, Darrell Clarke will be mulling over a number of attacking threats from the midfield area of the pitch in the summer window. Creative players that could potentially be of interest include Northampton winger Mitch Pinnock, who has 13 assists and nine goals to his name in League Two this season, alongside Leyton Orient’s on-loan midfielder Theo Archibald, a talented player who could be available from parent club, Lincoln City.