David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Port Vale’

Can the Pope perform another miracle?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

TP

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

Promotion? I would never have predicted that

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

I’ve waited for so long to be able to write this post. Even now, it feels premature as we are not 100% promoted, but I somehow can’t see a 29 goal swing occurring next weekend, so we did it. In front of just over 12,000 fans, we achieved promotion.

It is amazing to think where we were 12 months ago, and then compare it to where we are now. On May 5th, I walked out of Vale Park after beating Oxford not knowing if that was going to be the last time I ever saw my club play. I can’t convey how that feels, and I hope that no fan ever has to go through it, because it is horrible. Fast forward through the Keith Ryder saga, and we are left with a group of players who bonded over the fact that we were still in administration. Sold the dream by Micky Adams, no-one really expected them to do anything. At the beginning of the season, I would have snapped your hand off at mid-table and security as a team. I don’t think anyone saw Tom Pope scoring an incredible 31 league goals (In his entire career before this season, he had only scored 30 league goals) and I don’t think anyone saw us being the top goal scorers in the league.

So how do I explain it? There are so many twists and turns in a league season that I never truly believed we would get promoted. We went top, and then hit a patch of bad form, and started to drop. We built up a 12 point cushion, and then we couldn’t win to save our lives, and it just seemed like we were never going to drag ourselves over the finish line. In a way, it summed up our season that a formed Vale player had to score an own goal that sent us up. We never do things the easy way, and this was just another case in point.

With one game left, it’s all but over. We’re promoted. There are so many people I would want to thank, but in reality, I couldn’t ever thank them all. So I’m going to say these:

1) Thank you Micky Adams. We doubted you, we scorned you when you left, and we questioned your decisions. In the end, the players you trusted and believed in repaid you in full.

2) Thank you Norman and Paul. You picked up a football club in the doldrums, and restored pride and passion. You gave me a reason to believe, and you gave every single fan hope that we could turn around 15 years of decline. You put the money in when we needed players to take us over the line, and you united a fanbase by giving us a reason to be cheerful.

3) Thank you to every single player who pulled on the Port Vale shirt. Every single one of you has done us proud, and every single one of you should never have to buy a drink in Burslem again, as was apparently proven on Saturday night!

Finally, congratulations to Tom Pope. I’ve said it before, but he has had a truly remarkable season. He always said he had 3 goals, to play for Port Vale, to score for Port Vale, and to help us to win promotion. Not a bad way to do all three.

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

Thank you Mr Bell

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

There are many words that could be used to describe Bill Bell. Businessman, chancer, shrewd…but most of all, he was a Port Vale fan.

When I first started watching Port Vale, I was 7, and it was 1995. The high point of Port Vale, and a time where the relationship between Bill and John Rudge was at a high point. Riding high in the league, and an FA cup win at home to holders Everton, they were good days. While the memories were somewhat soured by the time that Bill Bell left Port Vale, no-one can argue that he gave us the best years that Port Vale fans have had. Trips to Wembley, promotions, and good quality players the likes of which the club hasn’t seen in a long time. Steve Guppy, Jon McCarthy, Tony Naylor and Ray Walker all spring to mind. Even if we don’t look at players, he gave us the stadium that we call home. Yes, one stand was bought from Chester City, and yes, the Lorne St Stand still isn’t finished, but it’s ours. We own it, and when finished, we can be very proud of it.

But past the businessman, and past the owner of Port Vale, Bill was a gentleman. Even in the past couple of months, I used to see him every Sunday doing his shopping (I worked at a supermarket at the time) and he was always happy to chat about Port Vale to people as he walked. He was one of the last of a dying breed of fans who made it big and lived the dream of owning the club they supported.

Irrespective of the end of his tenure, thank you for giving me a team that ignited my passion for Port Vale.

R.I.P

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

(Image taken from http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/Port-Vale-Bell-helped-bring-glory-progress-Vale/story-18135113-detail/story.html#axzz2KnI0hac1)

How to break the habit?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Sitting pretty at the top of the league, a win at previous league leaders Gillingham, and new signings coming in, suddenly there is an air of positivity around the previously dark halls of Port Vale.

While Lee Hughes is a name that polarizes, there can be no argument that the addition of him, Darren Purse, Chris Birchall and Daniel Jones have added experience, quality and cover in positions that we needed them. But not only that, we have been told the signings haven’t stopped! I don’t know how to react to this.

I’ve been supporting Port Vale for the best part of 15 years (more than half of my life!) and it has been bleak for most of them. Under the previous regime, we were treated to relegations, and no real hope. This has been the life of a Port Vale fan, and it’s a tough thought process to break.

Picture the scene. In years gone by, our managers list has read like a who’s who of no-hopers. Names such as Dean Glover, Lee Sinnott, and the ever popular James (Don’t call me Jim, especially not on a bus) Gannon have graced the dugout, and each destroyed the faith that I had in my club a little bit.

I don’t want sympathy; I know that this is the curse of being a lower league football fan. We don’t have the continued highs of a Manchester United, but they don’t get to share the crippling roller coaster of emotions that we consider a normal season. We consider a trip to Wembley a unique experience (I’ve been to two finals while a fan, the LDV Vans and the Anglo Italian Cup) and winning a title is a once in a lifetime thing.

This new turn of events, leading a league, bringing in signings that the footballing world has actually heard of, I didn’t see it coming. I don’t know how to react to it at all! I appreciate that many fans would give their right arm to have some form of success, but I just don’t know what to do!

Seeing us take 2000 fans to Fleetwood, winning at top of the league, beating Rotherham at Rotherham. These are things that just don’t happen to little Port Vale! I got so used to the misery, it became normality. The ups and downs of a single season in the Football League would make most people crack.

But you know what, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m hooked on the emotional ride. I crave the highs and the lows. I spend my time searching for my next fix of terrible stadiums, awful pitches, route one football, and starting a season knowing that promotion or relegation are both distinct possibilities.

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

At last!

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

I can’t tell you how long I have waited to write this. Well, actually, I can. 8 months. 252 days. It’s been a long wait, but I can finally say it.

Port Vale are out of administration.

It feels so good to finally be able to say it, and it caps off what has been a truly fantastic week for the club. While the results on the pitch hit a sticky patch (frittering away two goal leads twice is not what promotion chasing teams should be doing), the unveiling of the Roy Sproson statue on Saturday, and now the finalising of the purchase today has made it a 4-day period to remember. On the subject of Roy, I am so happy that he has finally been recognised for the loyalty he put in at Port Vale. Over his career he made 837 appearances, all for Port Vale. A one club man, and a true legend.

So, where do we go from here? As a fan, it will be nice to be able to concentrate on what is happening on the pitch, instead of the constant worries about off field turmoil. The continued form of Tom Pope is something that no-one saw coming (And indeed, he just broke the record for the quickest Port Vale player to 20 goals in a season) but he will obviously have clubs sniffing around him come the January transfer window.

Micky Adams has worked wonders with a tiny squad, and to continue our form, we really do need to get a couple of squad players in. Having started the season with no recognised left backs in the squad, I would argue that this is the first area that needs looking at, as well as potentially another ball winning midfielder. After that, potentially another striker to complement Pope, as there is always the worry that his goals will dry up.

But who am I to question. I am sure that Micky has a plan, and it will be a lovely change of pace to be able to sit back and watch the football without worrying about who will be balancing the books. We are second in the league, with the best goal difference in the country, and a 4 point cushion to third place, so Micky is obviously doing something right.

As a final thought, I can honestly say that having your team go through the administration process is one of the worst feelings that you will ever have as a football fan. The constant uncertainty, the worries over the very future of your club, it is horrible. I can only hope that, if you are reading this, your club never has to go through it.

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

The Sneyd Green Sniper

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

(Photo taken from The Guardian on 24/10/2012)

Firstly, it would be remiss of me to not mention the potential new owners at Port Vale. I know that there are still the final little hurdles, but it looks promising. I also wanted to thank Paul Wildes for giving me my favourite photo of the weekend (see above).

They say that chairmen are businessmen, and often don’t care about the football. This man doesn’t even own Port Vale yet and seems to be enjoying it! Long may it continue!

Anyway, onto business. I’ve been putting off writing about this topic, too scared that by acknowledging the fact that Tom Pope is having a fantastic season, it would destroy his fantastic season. It’s the nature of football, we all have our little rituals, and if we miss something, all hell will break loose.

But I have to talk about Tom. While the rest of the team have chipped in this season, it is the form of the Pope that gives us something to talk about. Take the following statistics:

• 4 – Number of League goals Tom Pope scored for Rotherham in 53 appearances.
• 4 – Number of League goals Tom Pope scored against Rotherham this season.
• 29 – Number of Football League goals Tom Pope had scored before this season (In 163 apperances)
• 14 – Number of Football League goals Tom Pope has this season.
• 0.2 – Goals to games ratio before this season, all competitions.
• 0.88 – Current goals to games ratio this season.

No-one saw this coming. Over the summer, when news of Richards and Rigg (Our two top scorers the previous season) broke, there was despair. How would we replace the 20 goals a season that Richards had been providing? Especially when the only recognised striker we had left had scored 8 league goals in his previous 54 appearances for the club.

Step forward, the Sneyd Green Sniper.

I know that a football fans have a tendency to go over the top when we describe players. Every player to pull on the shirt is a potential legend, and every player to leave is a villain, but Hollywood scriptwriters must be close to cashing in on the Port Vale story. Two seasons ago, we were top of the league before our manager left for his boyhood club. Jim Gannon, Busgate…need I go on. Last season, we were on the edge of the play-off places until administration hit. The players who were widely regarded as our best had all left, and the future looked bleak. Step forward Tom Pope. Having cut his teeth at such footballing giants as Biddulph Victoria, Stafford Rangers and Lancaster Town, who would have thought that the lifelong Port Vale fan would find the form of his life, at exactly the moment his club needed him.

Do I expect this form to continue? No. I hate to be brutally honest, but on current form his is on to score around 50 goals this season. That probably won’t happen. I just want to thank him for giving all Vale fans something to cheer after the awful years we previously had. I can only hope that at the end of the season, I get to write a blog congratulating him on being the League Two top scorer and leading Port Vale to promotion.

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

How to enjoy the good times?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

As a Port Vale fan, I am used to highs and lows. Last season, we were flying high in the league, and then Administration hit. 10 points lost, a season over. This has become normality to me, almost like Karma. We won the LDV trophy, then we went into administration at the end of the next season. We are top at Christmas, Micky Adams leaves and we appoint Jim Gannon. So you can appreciate my trepidation at writing this blog. Things seem to be going well at Vale Park, second in the league, top scorers, and playing good football. Things even seem to be progressing on the buyer front, with talk from the administrator that a deal could be completed by the end of October.

So why do I not trust this? I appreciate that form is temporary. Tom Pope, for example, currently sits on nine goals this season. In his 53 appearances for previous club Rotherham, he scored four. No-one expected this start, and I know that as fans, we should appreciate the remarkable job that Micky Adams is doing. He has got the squad of 18 senior players (Including no recognised left back) and has morphed them into a unit capable of winning games. Ashley Vincent and Jennison Myrie-Williams have torn teams apart with their pace, and Louis Dodds seems to have finally found a position that suits him, playing just behind Pope. For the first time in what feels like years, we seem to be playing football that is easy on the eye, is rewarding us with goals and finds us challenging for top spot. I should be cheering from the rooftops, but instead there is that lingering doubt. That word. Administration.

My last blog painted a very sombre picture, worried for the very future of my club. Since then, the administrators have come out and said that the Keith Ryder deal is dead. This is no surprise as many fans assumed that it had died a long time ago, and had stopped holding out hope for it to be resurrected. Since then, the news has been somewhat positive. The supporters club have constantly been in contact with the admin team, and have put fortnightly statements out. While there may not always be the words we want to hear in the statements, the fact that we have them at all is a refreshing change from the shrouded nature of the previous board. Rumours continue to fly around about who the prospective new owners would be, and that is to be expected. Names such as Oliver Ashley (Son of Newcastle United Chairman Mike), Sir Anthony Bamford (Owner of JCB) and the Cauldwell Group (Most notable for Phones4U) While it would be hard to complain at any of those buying Port Vale, I can’t help but think that the rumours will end up being just that.

So, where do we go from here? On the one hand, I am enjoying turning up every week to watch the match. At times last season, that wasn’t happening. Due to a combination of administration, players who looked like they didn’t care, protests and lies from the previous board, I found myself amongst a lot of Vale fans who seemed drained. It is tough to be a football fan at the best of times, let alone when you find yourself staying after matches to protest against the people who, rightly or wrongly, continue to provide you with a football club. Attendances are slowly creeping back up, and we are challenging at the top, but there will always be that nagging doubt. January is fast approaching, and if we are still in administration, what is to stop another club from taking our best players. I am sure the administrator will sell players to balance the books if he has to, as that is his job. Maybe I should just watch the football and forget about the boardroom? Or maybe the life of a lower league fan is a poisoned chalice. Forever cursed with knowing that, no matter the highs, a low is probably just around the corner.

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

How to solve a problem like Port Vale…

Monday, August 13th, 2012

For most teams, the off-season brings about some uncertainty, whether that be the comings and goings of players, managers making requests that chairmen won’t allow, or even uncertainty over who the backroom staff will be. As a Vale fan, I wish that I had been able to worry about these things.

Instead, a summer of turbulence has provided more false dawns than I care to remember. When we went into administration, fans were hit with a mixture of trepidation and relief. We had managed to rid ourselves of the people running our club into the ground, but we were in administration. 10 points lost, and a play-off challenge scuppered. What was to come was far worse though.

When the administrator invited bids, we all presumed we knew what was coming. Mo Chaudry, ever vocal about his want to run Port Vale, turned down by the previous board. He would place a bid, be accepted and finally gain control of the club. As ever, the best laid plans didn’t happen. Mo’s bid was not even considered to be within the top two, with the preferred bidder status being placed upon Keith Ryder. What happened then appeared to be a whirlwind of activity. First, Mr Ryder held a meeting with Vale supporters. The intrigue was so high that the clubs suite was full, and fans were left locked outside, wanting to catch a glimpse of our new hero. He spoke all the right words, and many fans walked away happy at the man who was going to take us forward. Playing budgets were discussed, contracts were offered, the CVA was agreed (An essential part of administration, stopping us having further points deductions) and everything was going smoothly. Journalists were getting ready for their awful puns for the headlines (Knight Ryder being my personal favourite).

And then, silence.

We were told that Mr Ryder had to go through the fit and proper persons test. We waited. And waited. And the more we waited, the more nervous we got. Two months after the CVA, we were told that all that needs to happen is that Mr Ryder needs to put the money into his solicitor’s hands. We are still waiting. Personal problems at Mr Ryder’s end are blamed, but for all intents and purposes, the deal looks dead. The administrators have had to pledge to keep the club running for the year. The players had to sign new contracts, often with changed lengths (All players were only offered a one year deal) and there was a moment where we worried if players who we had signed were going to walk away. Thankfully, only one did (David Artell, Northamptons new centre half) and the rest have signed up, but where do we go from here? There are bidders back in the frame, but the silence is deafening. Up until Monday, we don’t even have a kit for the new season, although that is expected to be debuted against Burnley (And rumour has it that it is pink. How fun that will be to wear around darkest Stoke) Times are turbulent, but I guess as a Vale fan, this is what we are used to.

Whatever the next season brings off the pitch, it is on the pitch where points are won. While top scorer Marc Richards and influential midfielder Anthony Griffith have left, Micky Adams seems to have assembled a team who can at least challenge for the play-offs. Richard Duffy joined from Exeter, Jennison Myrie-Williams and Darren Murphy joined from Stevenage, while Ashley Vincent, also joined. Adding in previous non-contract player Chris Shuker means that we have, potentially, a team that can do well. We look like we may be short on goals, but Micky Adams seems to be the master of getting results from very few resources.

My only hope for this season is that off-field issues don’t scupper any potential promotion challenge, and that a deal for ownership of Port Vale goes through. If not, this could be the last season that we get to see Port Vale gracing the league.

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

To move forward, sometimes you must step back

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

So it’s official. Port Vale have a High Court hearing to go into administration on Friday. I sit here now, not in shock, but relieved. This may seem an odd feeling to have when an event like this happens, but to call this situation odd would be to do a disservice to just how badly Port Vale fans have been treated. While I could spend pages upon pages describing what has happened, the basic facts speak for themselves, and make horrible reading:

- £140,000 unpaid tax bill
- £3,500,000 debt.
- A fan poll showed 97% of fans wanted the board to leave.
- Combined salary of CEO and Chairman topping £200k + perks.

These figures wouldn’t seem so bad were we in the Championship, and we all know of clubs higher up the pecking order who operate with much larger debt, but to a team such as Port Vale, this was crippling. This lack of professionalism came to a head on Tuesday of last week, when the players, assured of payment at the normal time of midnight, were told at 10pm that they weren’t going to be paid. The board didn’t have the decency to tell them this, instead they had to be told by Micky Adams. In fact, only one member of staff was paid throughout the club on Wednesday, that person being the CEO himself, one Perry Deakin.

But now, thankfully, we have the chance of a fresh start. These are turbulent times ahead, and while there will be a glass raised at the departing of the board (Whose surnames form the catchy, and all too fitting, acronym MOLD), the real problems now begin. The cash flow is in such a poor state, the local council are having to give the club a cash injection of around £600k to allow us to continue to trade. It is going to be rough times ahead, no-one can doubt that, but now that the failed experiment that was Valiant 2001 is finally being removed from the club that I love, we have a chance to move forward.

On a personal note, it has been a turbulent few years for fans of Port Vale, and special praise must go to the Port Vale Supporters Club for taking the fight to the board. Without them, I may not have been able to blog about Port Vale, as I may not have had a club to support…..

“The night is always darkest, just before the dawn”

VTID!

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster

It’s an American Invasion at Emmer-Vale

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

People often ask me why I support a lower league team. Why did I not choose a Premier League team when I started watching football? At first, I would answer that it was who my father supported, and his father before him. Now, I point to the sheer unpredictability of the lower leagues. At the start of the season, the Premier League is all but decided. It will be one of three or four teams who will win it, three from six or seven will be relegated and the rest will battle for mid-table mediocrity. With more twists and turns than a soap opera, it is impossible to ever get bored in the Football League. Whether that is a good thing or not is yet to be determined!

How I would love to claim to be able to have a boring season, just once at Port Vale. Thus far, in league games, we have seen 58 goals in 17 games. That’s an average of over three per game! And that’s before we get into the off-field power struggle.

But where to begin when we begin to look at the start of the season? While the season started on an auspicious note, rescuing a point at home against newly promoted Crawley Town Vale seemed to be able to score for fun with twelve goals scored in their first five league games. However that seems to have dried up recently, while the gaping holes in defence have not been fixed. This has lead to a couple of poor results recently but more than that, there have been performances where players have looked like they don’t care.

To lose is forgivable, but to not try is never acceptable. And what of Gary Roberts? Like the prodigal son, Vale supporters welcomed him back with open arms at the start of the season, then he once again breaches club rules and finds himself suspended. As a fan, it is so infuriating to see a player with undoubted talent wasting it. You only need to look into any football stand in the country on a Saturday and you will see hundreds, if not thousands, of people who would give their right arm to be in the position that he is in. Wasted talent is always such a shame to witness.

But alas, the on field antics of the club have paled into insignificance when compared with the boardroom struggle at Vale Park. The club seemed to be in the enviable position of having not one, but two American companies wanting to invest in them. Not bad for a small club in Burslem, but when two companies who specialise in artificial turf come knocking within a few months of each other, questions will always be asked.

We have been told that the investment will be worth £8million. That’s is a sizeable chunk of money for a League Two club, make no doubt about it, but the fans’ concerns are as to just where this money is going. It is joked amongst the terraces that, now the Firth Bridge will finally be finished, Vale’s Lorne Street Stand is the new measure of a project destined to never be finished, but a part of the £8million is going towards that. It’s all very well in theory, but fans don’t care about a few seats – why bother with an extra 2000 when you can’t fill the 18000 that you already have?

All supporters want is a successful team. If the new chairman can begin to provide that, then maybe the fans will begin to forgive the remaining board members. Whatever happens, it appears they have a year to convince fans that they are right for the club. A temporary truce it is, but let us hope that is becomes permanent as the club moves forward, or I, along with others, fear for the future of Port Vale.

Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger

Steve tweets at @the_vogster