Vale fans have their say ahead of the Crawley fixture
We recently asked a selection of die-hard Vale supporters their opinions on things Vale-related.
Nicki Jones, from Baddeley Green, is a life-long fan who has worked in the media department and other departments at the club on a voluntary basis.
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 Oakhill, 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.
Vale have already been hit by injuries. How important is it that the squad has strength in depth?
Nicki: The injuries that we have already suffered in pre-season have shown the importance of strength in depth required for the squad. I don’t think that we’ve got that yet but appreciate that the budget can only stretch so far.
Ally: It’s extremely important for us to be able to field a strong team, especially as the season hasn’t even begun yet and we have injuries to start with. Michael Brown really needs options when picking his team and needs to be able to build on it. Fingers crossed Cristian Montano’s injury is not too bad.
Eddie: No success is likely if every time players are injured we have to play players out of position. Ideally, we need to have at least two players for every position.
Dan: It is extremely important not just for cover but to ensure there is no complacency thinking they have a nailed-on position in the team. I don’t think the current Vale squad has enough strength in depth which hopefully can be rectified before the transfer window shuts.
If you were in charge of team affairs, would you field your strongest side against Leeds in midweek or would you ‘rest’ a few players?
Nicki: I would field my strongest 11 at Leeds. It’s the second game of the season and there’s no substitute for match time for the team to gel.
Ally: It’s always a difficult choice when cup games come up so early in the season. If we are struggling with injuries, I would be tempted to rest a few players for league games. However, a good cup run could buy us a few extra players, so fielding a strong team might be the obvious choice.
Eddie: Cup success is important for clubs at Vale’s level as Lincoln showed in the National League last season. It can be the catalyst for progress in the League. For me there should be no question of playing anything but our strongest available team at Leeds
Dan: All depends on injuries, it would be nice to progress but it may also be an opportunity to have a look at players that are on the fringes of the first team.
How do you see Vale’s opening fixture against Crawley going?
Nicki: I predict a Vale win at Crawley 2-1, with goals from Pope and Smith.
Ally: I anticipate we will start well, as we have in pre-season. The players a really ‘up for it’ mentality and we will be going to Crawley looking for points. I think we will draw one each, which will be an excellent start.
Eddie: Vale ought to be able to get something from this one though new team boss Harry Kewell will be keen to make a winning start for the home side. The team will not lack fitness and fight under Brown so I expect the team to keep going for ninety minutes and gain at least a draw.
Dan: Tough opening fixture, Vale haven’t traveled well over the last few years so I would be happy with a draw.
What would be your starting eleven on the opening day of the season?
Nicki: My starting 11 would be: Lainton, Wilson, Kay, Smith, Gunning, Harness, Tonge, Pugh, De Freitas, Pope, Pyke.
Ally: It is very difficult to decide at this point, especially as we have injuries to review. I would definitely like to see Pope, Smith and Pyke involved in the action though. I have been quite impressed with Gunning, Pugh and Kay in pre-season too, so I would feature them in my side.
Eddie: I assume Montano will be unfit. I will go in 4-4-2 formation with Lainton, Wilson, Kay, Smith, Gunning, Harness, Tonge, Pugh, De Freitas, Pyke, Pope. This is not ideal as it means the central midfield lacks energy and De Freitas is not in what I think is his best position, central midfield, but I would always want him in somewhere.
Dan: Again it depends on injury’s but it would be Lainton, Wilson, Smith, Kay, Yates, Montano, de Freitas, Tonge (if signed), Harness, Pope and Pyke
The season hasn’t yet kicked in, but which clubs do you feel will be the main contenders for a top seven finish?
Nicki: Looking at the opposition, my predictions for the teams who will be around the top 7 are Luton, Mansfield, Lincoln, Swindon, Coventry, Wycombe and us (not in that order hopefully!)
Ally: Mansfield Town are clearly bookies favourites for a reason. Manager Steve Evans has had a successful career, despite being severely disliked by Vale fans. I also think Lincoln City will be a team to watch. They were impressive in the FA Cup run last season and will be hungry for promotion.
Eddie: Mansfield have brought in a lot of decent players and in Steve Evans have a Manager who knows how to achieve success. Luton and Exeter came close last time and will do so again. Promoted Lincoln have become used to winning, have cash and a successful management team so are likely to be amongst the front-runners while Coventry must surely turn things around sooner or later.
Dan: Hard to choose, Mansfield will be up there with our old friend Steve Evans but I think it is a very open. I would hope that Vale are up there challenging.