By Harley ThorneOver the next few weeks we will be taking a look at some of the sides that we will be taking on next season in SkyBet League One, today it's the turn of Port Vale.
Name: Port Vale FC
Nickname(s): The Valiants, The Vale, The Valeites
Founded: 1907 (reformed)
Stadium: Vale Park
Distance: 131 miles from Bristol.
Last season: 12th in League One.
Vale have been no strangers to the media lately, having appointed their first ever foreign boss a matter of weeks ago - as well as currently being up for sale.
Following their previous manager Rob Page’s move to Northampton Town, to replace the outgoing Chris Wilder, they swooped for the much-travelled Portuguese coach Bruno Ribeiro. Ribeiro is no stranger to the English game, having first moved here in 1997 as a player – when he joined Leeds United, before a 2-year spell at Sheffield United.
His managerial history, however, boasts only foreign clubs. In fact, he has managed four different teams since the start of 2015 – Pinhalnovense, Vitoria Setubal, Ludogorets Razgrad, and Academico de Viseu. He therefore looks to most supporters to be something of a wildcard from the club’s chairman.
Chairman Norman Smuthwaite appears convinced, though. Announcing the appointment, he said “It has been a long, extensive process, but I’m absolutely certain we have the right man for the job”.
The club has seen a fair few departures from the playing squad amidst this uncertainty. Reports suggest that contract offers were not up to the level of previous years, and this has seen many players turn their back on The Valiants in search of pastures new.
Key players Louis Dodds, Richard Duffy and Michael O’Connor, and top scorer AJ Leitch-Smith have all left the club, whilst Darrell Clarke’s first summer signing for The Gas, Byron Moore, also opted to leave after two years.
It’s not just their surprising managerial appointment that’s had Vale in the media. The club spent the second half of last season up for sale, and even had a potential deal fall through in March 2016.
It has been reported that Smuthwaite has held talks with three parties, and the chairman is keen to get a deal over the line sooner rather than later – as he has publically warned that he will stop putting his own money in to the club and will expect it to run on its own income.
He has even suggested that this move would lead to the playing budget being cut by £800,000 next season – believed to be more than a third of last season’s budget.
So a dramatic time at Vale Park, but what will they be aiming for next season? Well, incoming manager Bruno Ribeiro suggests that he has joined a “championship club” – and supporters have been unimpressed with last season’s 12th placed finish. It is a little too soon to make predictions of them, as they have a big job on their hands to replace so many players.
Their first signing, and possibly a sign of the way they’ll be approaching their business, is Dutch defender Kjell Knops. Knops joins from Ereste Divisie side MVV Maastricht, where he was club captain. Whilst his CV looks impressive, his lack of experience in English football makes him, like the manager, a risk.
It is with great excitement that I move on to the last time we met Port Vale. I’ve become accustomed to discussing our previous defeats to sides in this section, but this time, I can discuss a win! March 2013, in League Two, we earned an impressive 2-0 win at The Memorial Stadium against The Valiants.
Two first half goals from Ryan Brunt won the game for a John Ward side that contained last season’s promotion heroes Steve Mildenhall, Lee Brown, Tom Parkes, and Ellis Harrison. The result left Rovers 15th in League Two, and was especially impressive as Port Vale sat in 3rd at the time.
We did however lose the three matches against Port Vale before that, but let’s move on. Fast.
Our visit to Vale Park on 18th February 2017 will see Bristol Rovers midfielder Chris Lines return to his old club. Lines joined The Valiants in the summer of 2013 following the cancellation of his contract at Sheffield Wednesday, and went on to make 61 appearances for the club.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Port Vale for allowing us to take Chris on loan in March 2015 – his experience and passion for the club during his loan spell proved vital in Rovers securing promotion back to the Football League. He will no doubt return to Vale Park looking to show them they were wrong to let him leave.
So many question marks remain over Port Vale this season. A foreign manager, an exodus of players, and the small matter of the sale of the club, make it extremely difficult to predict.
Their fanbase, however, demand better than last season’s 12th placed finish – a big challenge for a manager in his first season in the English leagues. Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting to watch - from a distance.
Want to be part of the action? Then purchasing your 2016/17 Season Ticket couldn’t be easier
Personal callers are welcome at Pirate Leisure at The Memorial Stadium or at The Supporters Club Shop 199 Two Mile Hill Road Kingswood, BS15 1AZ.
Alternatively Season Tickets can also be purchased over the phone by calling Pirate Leisure on 0117 909 6648 - option 1 (during office hours) or ‘199’ on 0117 961 1772 (during office hours) or online at www.brfctickets.com
Ambulant Disabled, wheelchair users and carers should contact Clare McDonagh directly, either in person or over the phone, on 0117 952 4001.