Port Vale Season Preview: Pope returns

Not many football clubs will have had a worse year than Port Vale. 15/16 saw them achieve their highest third tier points tally in over a decade thanks to good organization, tactical consistency and a core of British, experienced leaders. Manager Robert Page then left and all of the things the club got right under his tenure, they threw away. Vale paid with relegation back to the fourth tier and supporter Dan from DW Sports News discusses the re-building job that now lies ahead.

First of all, was the main mistake last season letting go of so many first teamers from the 15/16 campaign?

The main mistake was once manager Rob Page left for Northampton Town the chairman wanted to go down a different route, that ended with the appointment of a rookie Portuguese manager Bruno Ribeiro.

Michael Brown was in charge for over half of last season. Did he deserve to keep his job?

Well some might say he should have gone in the summer after picking up less points than Bruno Riberio did (both managed 23 league games). But he is the only man who knows  who needs to leave the club. Lots of divide in the dressing room it needed addressing.

You’ve released some 13 players this summer. Was it important to have a clear-out?

Massive for us to have another clear out, this club needs stability moving forward.

Just three of your 16 permanent signings from last summer – Anton Forrester, Kjell Knopps and Anthony De Freitas – remain at the club. Is this a stay of execution for that trio?

Unfortunately Kjell is currently in hospital after a horrific knee injury, the lad may never play again which is a great shame as he was possibly the best signing from overseas. A fit Anthony De Freitas and Forrester will be really good players for us in League Two.

You’ve got a number of ex-top flight players in your squad including Andre Bikey, Ryan Taylor, Danny Pugh and Chris Eagles if the latter stays. Can their experience be of benefit?

Only Danny Pugh has signed the contract on offer but his experience alone will be invaluable next season.

Rob Lainton and Sam Hornby join the goalkeeping options. After using six different stoppers last term, are you hoping for more continuity in that department?

Yes certainly. Seeking a replacement for the fantastic Jak Alnwick was tough, tried several goal keepers and non were a patch on Jak. Rob Lainton looks likely to be our number 1. If he stays fit it seems we have a good goalkeeper on our hands.

Joe Davis returns to the club, you’ve kept hold of Nathan Smith while new signing Anthony Kay played in the Championship as recently as 15/16. How do you assess your centre-back options?

The three centre half’s are all very different Nathan Smith was fantastic last season we must keep hold of this lad unless big money offers come flooding in. The return of davies is a positive move he’s a good defender and cool on the ball. Kay is ageing but we need that experience just a shame we couldn’t have kept Bikey as well he was good when he signed last year.

Cristian Montano had a hand in Bristol Rovers’ promotion in 15/16. Are you excited to see what he can offer?

Very much so, on our nice big pitch he should love it! It’s a wingers paradise. He comes with a good reference from the gas!

Target man Tom Pope was once your top scorer for three years on the bounce, including your previous year in League Two. Are you pleased to have him back?

Yes Tom is a winner, he will no doubt be our captain and would run through walls for this club and its fans.

Graham Kelly signs from Sheffield United. Do you expect him to be your first choice left-back?

No I believe he will be back up but if the lad can churn out some good performances pre season maybe he will do enough to start away at Crawley first game.

What are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

Dark horses Coventry, the fans have had a torrid time with the owners (we understand how that goes) but Mark Robins has signed some really good players and I expect them to storm this league!

The bookies have you 6/1 for promotion – where will you finish?

10th and at the minute I would take that. We are still 5/6 players off having a competitive squad. Season ticket sales are slightly better than expected,  so I look forward to the new season and all of the trials and tribulations it will no doubt bring.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

With uncertainty at boardroom level and an inexperienced manager, Port Vale lack leadership off the field. Pope will lead on it while Montano should assist the target man but of the four clubs coming down, the Valiants squad is in greatest need of surgery. 15th

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