Well, what a roller coaster last season was. From administration, power struggles, promotion, one owner leaving and an alarming run of form, it was enough to make anyone question why they ever went to their first football game. There were the highs and lows of a season that was anything but ordinary, and for once, it was nice to have some stability over the summer. There has been a definite change in the atmosphere surrounding the club, and it is fantastic to see.
So, given that it is the beginning of the season, the question is always the same. What do I really expect from this season? If I were being greedy, I would say that I want another promotion. Micky Adams has done a fantastic job in not only keeping top scorer Tom Pope, but adding players to the squad who have experienced promotion from this division, or have played at a higher level. Carl Dickinson and Chris Lines have spent time in the Championship, while Chris Robertson has joined us from Preston. These are signings that instantly strengthen the first team, and give us a solid foundation to build on. Add in Gavin Tomlin (top scorer for Southend last season) and the retention of the majority of the team who finished as the country’s top goalscorers, and there is a real belief that this is a Port Vale team that could do more than just survive this season, especially if Tom Pope can continue the form that saw him lead the country in goalscoring.
Even talking about this though, I can’t help but think I am getting ahead of myself. The pessimist that Port Vale of the past created in me makes me think that actually, Tom Pope had one breakout season, but can he maintain that? And actually, our form in the back end of last season was pretty terrible, so why should we start the new season with a bang? It’s tough to truly allow yourself to believe that a corner has been turned when you are so used to the downward spiral that we had been on.
So what do I truly want from this season? Stability. While we all dream of winning the league, promotion to the championship and glorious football to rival the likes of Barcelona, sometimes maintaining is progress, especially when you consider where we have come from in the past few seasons. This is a fan base that is only just recovering from the V2001 era, and it needs to be treated well, because football fans can be fickle. We need to feel like the club cares for us, and while Norman Smurthwaite has done a good job to start with, the bridges are still being built, and encouraging fans back will take time.
“Glamour” fixtures against Wolves, Sheffield United and Coventry will bring the fans out, and Vale Park will hopefully begin to regain the atmosphere that only a big crowd can bring. We all long for the glory days of Guppy and McCarthy running down the wings, but those days are gone, and this is a new generation of Port Vale fans, in a new era of football. Financial fair play will level the playing field somewhat, and teams will be more aware of what they are spending, and we will be coming up against some bigger teams. For these reasons, I almost want a boring season. A season where we hit 50 points and aren’t really spoken about as we finish mid table, so long as the club continues to build the bridges with the lost fans. That, and to beat Crewe. I love beating Crewe.
Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger
Steve tweets at @the_vogster