Thank you to Port Vale supporter Jamie for answering these questions!
How Long Have You Supported Port Vale?
I oddly have no connection to Burslem, born and bred in Leicestershire I fell in love with the Vale in the halcyon days on the mid-90’s when we briefly threatened to make the Premier League and Channel 4 had a Division 1 (now Championship) Midlands game on every Sunday so we got plenty of airtime. Don’t know what it was but they became my team and my first game was in 2001 when 15 away at Notts County, followed a few weeks later by my second at the Millennium Stadium as we won the LDV Vans Trophy (now the Checkatrade of course). If I had made the logical choice I’d have seen a miracle title and Champions League football but wouldn’t change it despite being pretty much downhill for the 20 years since the days of Martin Foyle, Tony Naylor, Van Der Laan, Steve Guppy, Ian Bogie and Gareth Ainsworth (our record purchase to this day from the Imps of course!)
Last Season’s League Finish?
21st in League One and relegated on the last day despite taking 4 away points in the last two as we came a De Freitas composed finish away from survival. Started like a train and was in the promotion picture until late October… then slid… fast!
What Do You Think Of Your Manager?
Neil Aspin is a Vale legend after being the tough-tackling centre half of the great 90’s sides… backed by John Rudge his manager from that time and our greatest ever manager. Aspo cut his teeth for a decade in non-league, discovering the likes of Jamie Vardy and Lee Gregory and he has done a decent enough job. Mid Table form since he took over has led us from a dire situation to one where we are in a decent position to survive… his true judgement will come next season when he has his own squad built though as he has effectively had to polish a turd left by Michael Brown.
Hopes/Expectations This Season?
Staying up… and we hopefully will achieve that, we may not need another point but should have enough in us to get a point or two should it be needed. Not quite what any Valiant had expected in the summer though when we mostly expected a challenge at the other end.
One(s) To Watch?
Tom Pope – legend returned in the summer for a second stint and has 18 for the season despite missing a month and playing with a hernia injury for three months, old-fashioned striker, powerful in the air but does have decent feet. Local boy and a dire hard Vale fan. Popey lived the dream in our promotion season of 2012-13 breaking many club records as he hit 33 goals including multiple hat-tricks and a four-goal salvo against his form club Rotherham. Is literally “one of our own”.
David Worrall – Winger signed from Millwall, a level above this with plenty of energy and can cause problems at this level. Regular Man of the Match winner, would probably be down already without him.
Ben Whitfield – On loan from Bournemouth and linked with the Imps in January before deciding to stay at the Vale, struggled since Xmas but is probably the most talented in the squad, questions over his attitude have been raised as he wasn’t starting, little nippy player with the ability to create out of nothing, when he clicks with Pope he can be unplayable (as Luton found out) but frustratingly it hasn’t happened lately bar his potentially Football League saving sub appearance against Chesterfield!
Top Seven Predictions?
Bottom Two Predictions?
Thoughts on Lincoln City?
We haven’t crossed paths for a few seasons but have been very impressed with how you’ve made the most of the wave of last season’s cup run and promotion to keep hold of the fans that came during that spell, most times you get them turn up for a big game then disappear so have marketed it really well and is a good example for other clubs to look at. If you can keep hold of them long term then it can only benefit the club. I didn’t come to Lincoln this season but the feedback on the set up at the time was positive with the Fan Zone. Have come to Lincoln a couple of times in our previous spell in League Two… recall Eric Lihaj I think it was taking a long throw and our keeper palming it in his own net whereas if he was left it then it would have been ruled out!
After watching your game Sunday (congratulations on that by the way) I expect a fairly physical encounter in which we will need to be fairly efficient to get anything from the game as you looked a side that is hard to break down, based on one game though of course!
Despite winning once since December we’ve actually been playing well and have only lost twice (arguably in two of the best performances) in the last 9… noticed you draw a fair few so fancy a 1-1 draw, Pope and Rhead in a battle of the local lads.
Random Fact About Your Club?
Vale Park is known as the “Wembley of the North” seems funny now but in the 1950’s it was built as the Norths answer with huge terraces and at the time the country’s most expensive pitch ever laid. Unfortunately, the 80,000 capacity was never achieved (settled at 50,000) but the signs of the idea are still visible in parts with the huge playing area, the perimeter area and the old family stand showing the octagonal type shape when originally built.
What are your proudest and most embarrassing moments as a Port Vale Supporter?
The 7-1 win against Burton easily the proudest (see below) most embarrassing… been a few but none will top being knocked out of the FA Cup by Chasetown of the Midland Alliance… I believe it was the largest placing gap between the giant killer and killed in the cup’s history! We missed two penalties and knew then it wasn’t going to be our night! This season though as an overall experience has been fairly embarrassing… our lowest finish for decades looks likely and could still find ourselves in non-league for the first time in a century. It isn’t like we have a bad budget for this level and our crowds are top ten at this level this season despite our poor season affecting numbers so the mismanagement has been shocking.
Do you have a Supporters Trust and what role do they play at the Club?
We have the supporters club and they have links within the club but with the current ownership situation it’s mainly been limited to the meetings and liaising information back to fans along with fundraising activities.
Which was your favourite match involving Port Vale?
Aside from beating Stoke in our last meeting which was 16 years ago my actual favourite was against Burton Albion… it was the perfect night where everything came together… It was an April Friday night game at Vale Park in 2013… we were close to promotion to League One and we had a special 1994 (the last side to get promotion) event where prices were 1994 prices (£8) and the 1994 squad would be paraded at halftime…. We were 2nd having recovered from a stutter which had threatened to derail us. Burton were just behind us and had a mean defence, Vale Park was packed with the biggest crowd in two decades under the lights and the atmosphere was incredible… the players rose to it as we absolutely destroyed our promotion rivals, 3-0 at halftime, the lads from 94 paraded led by Rudge and even then the atmosphere was immense… rather than foot of the gas second half we just kept going and racked up a 7-1 win… Lee Hughes hattrick diving into the crowd and promotion was then inevitable. A great night and one that seems so far away right now.
Which was your least favourite match involving Port Vale?
In terms of enjoyment Bolton away last season! If you get the pleasure and fate puts you there next season you will realise how they fund League One players on tens of thousands a week! Even the Car Park cost £7.00 but no worries a new ground to tick off and a decent one at that… 3-0 down in 14 minutes and game over… (lost 3-1) a long day from Leicestershire and an expensive one and essentially it was a procession after a few minutes! A 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth was equally miserable in the mid-00’s!
Bruno Ribeiro – the biggest disaster ever to befall Port Vale? Is Michael Brown a close second?
We’ve had many disasters and both were two of a long line. The main frustration with the Ribeiro affair was the chairman’s actions to bring it about. After losing to League Two Exeter in the cup the chairman lost it with Page… despite being in the League One play off hunt with a decent squad at the end of the season he offered poor deals so the squad all left and effectively forced Page to quit (actually admitted this to fans in a fans forum!) he wanted promotion and despite us being 1 or 2 additions from possibly making that next step into the play offs he had a call from Jose Mourinho recommending Bruno Ribeiro, his mate who had left Ludogorets… star struck smurf went for it. We did this “experiment” linking up with the likes of AS Monaco and Benfica and bringing in players from these clubs and other top-flight Portuguese and Dutch clubs… oddly it started very well! Managers didn’t know how to play us at Vale Park and we quickly found ourselves at the top end… however Coventry figured us out and from then on we just never recovered before Bruno left. Michael Brown was dire, even his interviews were infuriating. We signed over 50 players between July 2016 and January 2018 mostly rubbish both managers signed in a scattergun approach!
What on earth is happening with the ownership of the club? Who is actually running it?
Pass! Norman Smurthwaite owns it, the story is a long and arduous one but the CEO runs it without any input bar financial (sort of) from Smurthwaite, he claims he doesn’t want the club but refuses to sell… then he loves the club… it’s one we all wish we knew the answer to! The main issue is we don’t really know whats happening, what the plan is etc. A lot is said that then contradicts what was previously said! We made nearly half a million profit last season (the highest in years!) and yet we are told we need 800k through to the summer despite a windfall of £1.9 million as a sell on for Jordan Hugill… nothing seems to make sense at the moment, a new owner may be in line shortly according to an interview tonight but we have heard this multiple times before… if you look how well you’ve been run the last two years… we are the alter-ego of that!
I cannot believe Michael Brown decided not to give Neal Eardley a contract in the summer. Your loss, certainly our gain. You opted for Lawrie Wilson instead.
I can! “Brown the Clown” made some very strange decisions which are still being felt today! In all fairness on paper, Lawrie Wilson was a great signing, proven at this level, decent track record (I believe you wanted him from what an Imps fan said on a forum I post) In reality his attitude was diabolical and within a few weeks he was out of the squad and now at Ebbsfleet. Our right back spot hasn’t been a major problem though as a youth product James Gibbons rose up and has in general done well (as long as we are not playing at Yeovil where he has managed to see red twice this season!)
Has the seating been finished in your main stand yet?
Nope! 20 years and counting now… it’s a bit of an embarrassment and will be running the Sagrada Familia close for construction time at this rate. Two administrations and the spiralling costs have seen it only come on in dribs and drabs in recent years. Mine shafts were found when the old stand was taken down and it just rocketed the costs… it’s a shame as it will look decent when finished!
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) April 12, 2018