Port Vale Season Preview: smoother recruitment

With the 2018-19 League Two season not far away, The Football Lab spoke to Port Vale fan Dan Woodcock (@DWSportsNews)…

You endured 11 and 14 game winless runs last season. Would it be fair to say that the avoidance of a second consecutive relegation was the only positive to take from 2017-18?

That’s absolutely bang on the money. Staying up was our only success.

In the last two seasons, you’ve had massive turnovers of players and been close to the start of the season with incomplete squad. Does the fact you’d made 10 new additions by 1st July this time suggest better organization in the recruitment area?

Yes very much so, Neil Aspin has shown tremendous organisation through the summer he wanted his business done early so he can mould his players through the summer.

You used five different goalkeepers last season – Rob Lainton, Sam Hornby, loanees Kelle Roos and Dimitar Evtimov plus the now released Ryan Boot – who only had a combined 159 EFL appearances between them. Are you glad the club has brought in a more experienced stopper in Scott Brown?

Yes a goalkeeper was top of our shopping list. We never brought in a replacement for Jack Alnwick when he was sold to Rangers. Scott’s played a lot of games at this level and won promotion last season. He’ll provide great competition for Sam Hornby who did well after his loan to Chester City.

Connell Rawlinson arrives with complimentary reviews from The New Saints, although Leon Legge couldn’t quite keep his place at Cambridge last year. After shipping 67 league goals, what impact do you think these new centre-backs will have on the defence?

The central defenders Aspin has recruited seem shrewd signings. Both come with good reviews. Legge has bags of experience and on paper is the ideal partner for young Nathan Smith, Rawlinson is a player Aspin and John Rudge have watched since they arrived so I’m hopeful with that lad. Also young Theo Vassell from Gateshead (Aspin’s former club) looks a good signing who can cover the defence.

Left-back looked like a cursed position for you last season for various reasons. Who do you see taking on the role this year?

Cristian Montano will be our first choice left back, he slotted in to cover and was superb Aspin gave him a 2 year contract and the lad seems happy to play in that position after not getting off to the best of starts on the wing. We have cover in a young lad Ryan Campbell-Gordon (one for the future), Danny Pugh and Rory McKeown on trial.

James Gibbons was named Young Player of the Year for 2017-18. Are fans proud to see a local lad make that right-back slot his own?

Yes Gibbo was fantastic in his first season and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. Theo Vassell can cover at right back as can Joe Davis who is on the transfer list at the minute.

There were suggestions that a double-pivot of veterans Anthony Kay and Michael Tonge slowed down the approach play a fraction. Do you think a duo of new signings Luke Joyce and Manny Oyeleke will give you more variation?

Most certainly Tongue, Pugh and Kay have fast experience but sadly they are to slow. The new lads will offer the box to box midfielder we haven’t had since Sam Foley left.

David Worrall appeared to show flashes of quality last season. Do you think he’s best out wide or in the 10 role?

I’d say out wide. He has great energy and is happy to run at players. Ex club legend Steve Guppy has been working with the wingers so hopefully he will appreciate that.

Your other wide options include Cristian Montano, the versatile Luke Hannant and Brendon Daniels, who joins from Alfreton. Thoughts on what they’ll offer?

Montano will adapt to left back after a good spell on that position. Hannant can play in several positions and Daniels will be back up and we can see if he’s good enough to make the step up.

Tom Pope doesn’t appear to be the most mobile of forwards while Ricky Miller always strikes me as a tad individualistic. Can they play together, or do you need somebody up there who can stretch play by running in behind?

Hopefully Popes hold up play and positional sense is fantastic his mobility isn’t a issue as he showed last season with his goals. Miller is our big signing and we paid a fee so it will be interesting to see how Aspin uses the pair, Aspin tried to sign Miller as Jamie Vardy’s replacement at Halifax so he is a player he’s seen a lot.

Vale aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

Looking forward to another season no doubts be a lot of ups and downs it’s anybody’s league to be fair, Notts County and Lincoln have recruited well and a lot of sides are much of a muchness so it will be interesting. Tranmere came up strong and have had some steady recruitment – be interesting to see how they get on.

Where will you finish?

I’m going for an improvement this season and a top 10 finish with some stability and hopefully a cup run.

Thanks to Dan for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Vale can be found on We Love Betting from late July.