Last season started so well for Port Vale, two strikers flowing with confidence and scoring goals. The defence showing the improvement that had been made over the summer, but it all went pear shaped so quickly. The sacking of Micky Adams in mid September ended months of speculation over his future, as assistant Rob Page took to job just hours later. A run of three wins in February kept Vale’s heads above water, and may have been the crucial factor to seeing them retain their League One status.
Vale fans will be quaking in their boots at the departures of Ben Williamson and in particular, Tom Pope. “Feed the Pope and he will score”, well, not anymore. If the 29-year-old had signed a new deal, a 50% wage cut would have been in order, and very few footballers are going to take that. He joined Bury after three successive seasons as Port Vale’s top scorer, and the team will certainly miss his physical presence on the frontline. They will also crave the pace that Ben Williamson has left behind, although Uche Ikpeazu does counteract this problem to some extent.
Triple player of the season winner Michael O’Connor, will once again rule the midfield. He provides the huge range of passing to pull the strings in midfield, while also being able to do his job defensively. He should be given the opportunity on the attack more often this season, with former Tottenham man Michael Brown. Despite being criticised throughout his career, you cannot fault Browns passion and enthusiasm for the game. His aggressive tackling and midfield wisdom will make him a pivotal name in a squad that could struggle this season.
Defensively, the signings have not exactly been spectacular, albeit, keeping Carl Dickinson and retaining Ryan McGivern is a major boost. Former Stoke defender Dickinson received stick from fans towards the end of the season, but is still determined to prove that he can captain the team to a creditable finish. Ben Purkiss adds depth to the right-back role, and even may push his way into the starting eleven with Adam Yates quickly becoming out of favour.
The squad will need to keep spirits high when going trough poor runs of form, and it is much harder for a younger player to keep his head up. Responsibility will fall on the senior members of the squad to lift any dampened spirits. Ypu need to keep in mind that this is Page’s first job in management, and following last season, he fill need to stamp his authority into the team. Failure to do this could see an early end to the Welshman’s reign, and the uncertainty that follows.