View From The Stands – Port Vale Fans Have Their Say
We recently asked a selection of die-hard Vale supporters their opinions on things Vale-related.
Gerard Austin, from Hartshill, is the club’s match photographer, a role he has undertaken for a number of years now. He attends all Vale’s home and away games.
Ally Simcock, from Stoke, is on the national council of the Football Supporters’ Council and is a support liaison officer at Port Vale and former Chair of the Supporters’ Club.
Eddie Jackson, from Hartshill, has followed the club man and boy and still attends all Port Vale games, home and away. He has also been a programme contributor and proof reader.
Dan Beech, from Burslem, is a Vale fan of 30 years and has assumed many roles at the club, including ball boy and programme seller.
Only a couple of weeks to go before the season kicks off in earnest on 5th August. What do you make of Vale’s comings and goings so far?
Gerard: I have to say I’m quite pleased. There seems to be a decent blend of experience and youth, with Lawrie Wilson the stand out signing for me.
Ally: I have been quite impressed by some of our signings so far. Probably the most significant was the first signing of Tom Pope, which really helped to lift spirits after our relegation.
Eddie: A massive clear out was near-essential after last season. Usually you can get rid of a few players who are surplus to requirements and replace them with better quality players but that was not an option this time. I was sorry to lose Streete and Purkiss while Eagles seems likely to be lost to us. Some of the additions are of decent quality, including Pope and Wilson. Kay, Barnett and Montano also seem capable of doing a decent job at this level. Three or four quality additions before we kick off at Crawley might make me uncharacteristically optimistic.
Dan: I think that is was the only option after such a poor season. Brown has obviously used his contacts to bring in some quality players, I have been impressed with the signings so far. A good mix of youth and experience.
Whilst Norman Smurthwaite remains the owner of the club, he appears to have taken a back seat. How do you see that working out?
Gerard: I think as Michael Brown is now in charge of playing matters other factors will hopefully take care of themselves. Success on the field is paramount and as Vale appear to be adding a bit of quality, off field matters can be parked for the time being.
Ally: I think Norman is very passionate about Port Vale Football Club and will find it difficult to take a back seat. However, he currently is doing so and the club is being run by Colin Garlick. I guess we will see how it works out once the season starts.
Eddie: His back-seat role does not seem to have prevented us bringing in reasonable players. It isn’t clear yet to what extent he remains the power behind the throne. Will Tony Fradley be a puppet Chairman or have genuine executive power? If the latter then it may work out OK but there is no substitute for the actual sale of the club.
Dan: I think that Norman will be around in the background for some time to come as it appears there is no rush to sell. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain a backseat throughout the season.
Following the disappointment of relegation, CEO Colin Garlick has listened to the supporters and has been pleased with season ticket sales. Is there a renewed sense of optimism amongst the fans?
Gerard: Optimism is always fueled by results. We’ve sold more than I thought we would, but maybe our signings recently could attract a few sceptics to improve the total further.
Ally: It is reassuring for the fans to have their concerns acknowledged and the season ticket deadline extension was a great gesture. We ended last season on a real downer, so anything above that is a bonus.
Eddie: At the end of last season there was a real sense of pessimism and many fans were saying they would not renew season tickets and would rarely attend games. Some sensible ticket offers appear to have worked quite well, assisted by the early addition of Pope to the squad. Vale fans seem to have turned out for the various friendlies and I think they are willing to give the team a chance. I have been very impressed with the willingness of Colin Garlick to listen to the concerns of fans and take appropriate action with various initiatives.
Dan: From everything I have seen come out of the club since Norman stepped back, the club has been run on a much more professional basis with communications only coming from official channels and that can only be a good thing. It has certainly given me a little more optimism about the upcoming season and I hope that Colin will be around for many years to come.
After taking over a squad he described as ‘unfit’ last season, Michael Brown now has a real opportunity to put his stamp on things and has been busy during the summer. What is your opinion on his ability to become a success at Vale Park?
Gerard: Michael is a sensible, experienced guy in football. He’s also surrounded himself with the same. I’d guess our management team have over 2,000 games worth of experience in football. As a group they have a good opportunity. Only time will tell.
Ally: I have been impressed with Michael Brown during pre-season, his training regime has been challenging and fitness is obviously his main priority. I am feeling quite positive as we near the start of the season, ask me again at Christmas!
Eddie: Michael Brown benefits from one feature immediately: he is not Bruno Ribeiro. Bruno did not have the players doing the usual intense fitness training, seen by most as essential if the players are to hit the ground running. Michael Brown seems to have addressed that problem. With him in charge and an impressive backroom staff in the form of Chris Morgan, David Kelly and Chris Kirkland I believe Vale will hold their own. It would be wonderful to see the Vale amongst the front runners this season.
Dan: Last season Brown was in a very difficult position with players he obviously didn’t want at the club that had very limited ability. Now there are no excuses as it is his side, he has had a full preseason to condition the players how he wants to. Last season I thought his substitutions could have been better but hopefully he has now got a little more experience, better decisions will be made.
Any other business?
Gerard: A few points early on will breed confidence. Let’s hope we have enough talent and ability to change, if teams become wise to our systems, unlike last term.
Ally: Comradery seems very good amongst the players, which is a positive sign. The fans felt there was a lack of appetite last year, but so far, the players have seemed really up for it. In some ways, we can accept a loss more easily if 100% effort is demonstrated on the pitch.
Eddie: I have attended all of the four pre-season games. I never take the results seriously whether good or bad so fourteen goals without reply did not have me thinking promotion was already a mere formality. With Vale using around twenty players in each game patterns of play were never going to be easy to establish but players were given game time and trialists a chance to show what they could do. I have been happy enough with what I have seen with the highlight being watching the Morris Men perform in the centre of Buxton and the low point being a couple of Vale fans choosing Kidsgrove as an appropriate venue for a non-title fight.
Dan: Looking forward to the start of the season now, hopefully the club will bring in another 2 or 3 players to ensure we have cover in all positions and the fans get behind Brown and hope they have a good crack at it this season and we are looking at the top half rather than the bottom half of the league come the second half of the season.