Port Vale’s players and staff are ringing around supporters, although Tom Pope says he’s not everyone’s cup of tea so he honestly wouldn’t be offended if they didn’t want a chat.
He was being far too modest.
A call from the club’s post-war record goalscorer was certainly welcomed in the Hilditch house in Lightwood. Dad Mark has been worshipping the Vale through thick and thin since the early 1980s while 14-year-old son Ethan also loves the Vale.
In fact, Ethan had met Tom when he walked out with him as a mascot for a home game with Southend seven years ago.
So, Tom’s call was more than welcome.
Mark says it’s great to have a Vale fan leading the line for his home town club.
He explained: “He is proud of the club, I can imagine what he is like in the dressing room – maybe going in and losing his rag because it is his team. I think he feels as though he has an extra responsibility. He is the proper Roy of the Rovers.”
Ethan also plays for Blurton Arrows Ladsandads team where Mark is part of the management.
But with the grassroots football season finished because of the coronavirus crisis, the chance to at least talk football and the Vale with a first team player was more than welcome.
Mark had met Tom before, having gone to watch him give a talk at Bagnall Norton Cricket Club when the striker stayed behind for a chat.
Mark’s has been following the club since he lived in Bucknall as a nipper and got the bus to games.
He said: “My first game was against Stockport in the cup in 1982 when we won 4-1.
“We used to go in the Lorne Street. I’ll always remember my first night match, Vale played Darlington and David Speedie played for them – but no one had really heard of him back then.”
The Vale, like all clubs, are waiting to see when football can resume. But in the meantime the club has been busy in the community, sending out food and care packages.
Everyone from the owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan, the manager and the chief executive, players and staff have also been ringing fans. That’s to see if there is anything they need or just to chat about football.
That’s been very well received, although Cristian Montano revealed some fans though it was a wind up when he called on April 1.
Mark added: “You can’t fault what Carol and Kevin have done since they took over the club. I know it is a business but they are involving the whole community and there is a feel-good factor.
“For example, I’ve not heard one person complain about what’s going to happen with season tickets now there are no games.
“What’s happening is not the club’s fault. They are doing a brilliant job.”