Luke Joyce has committed his future to Port Vale and says he loves being part of a transformed football club.
The 32-year-old midfielder has agreed a new deal having earned the offer with an appearance clause in his previous contract.
Joyce started 36 of the Vale’s 37 games this past season. The only game he missed was through suspension at home to Walsall, the team’s solitary league defeat at Vale Park.
After signing on a free from Carlisle, he was in and out of a Vale side that struggled to stay in the Football League in 2018/19. But Vale finished just outside the play-off places this season – a transformation he says began with the club’s new owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan, and manager John Askey and his staff.
The Shanahans took over the club in May 2019, and quickly agreed a new long-term contract with Askey after he had kept Vale in the Football League in his first three months in the job.
Joyce said: “I was really happy and really enjoyed it last season under the gaffer, Dave Kevan, Danny Pugh and all the staff.
“We have a really good group of players, a good changing room and I think, for everyone connected with the club, it was really positive.
“I know Carol and Kevin have ambitions to be successful, as have the coaching staff.
“It is a club you want to be part of…and I feel a bigger part of it than I did in my first season.”
Joyce, who has made more than 500 senior appearances in a career that has also taken in spells at Accrington and Carlisle, says the squad responded to changes behind the scenes.
He added: “I think it starts with the gaffer and Dave coming in with their different ideas. The training went up a notch straight away and that makes everyone better, it gets more competition in the squad.
“Then with Carol and Kevin taking over and being a breath of fresh air, it just gives the whole club a lift.
“Everything they were doing was for the benefit of the club and us players. I think everyone bought into that. You saw how much effort they were putting in to make our daily working lives so much better. So you think the least we can do is go out there and ensure we give the maximum on a Saturday.”
Vale were one point outside the play-off places when the season was suspended, and subsequently cancelled with places decided on average points.
Now they are waiting to see when the new campaign can begin and when crowds will be allowed back. The club is having to survive a financial crisis in League Two, whose clubs rely heavily on gate receipts.
So, predictions are difficult, but Joyce says Vale feels like a club heading in the right direction.
He added: “We want to build on this season, build on the positive 37 games we have had.
“When you reflect on the season, there hasn’t been an awful lot between the teams. We have beaten everyone in the top seven, so we can take that confidence from that.
“We want to keep the nucleus of the squad, and I am sure the gaffer and Dave and Carol will be wanting to add more quality, depth and competition.
“Hopefully if we can manage to bring in the right players then it could be a positive season.
“But we can’t just expect it because we have done all right this season. We have to go out there and earn it like we have this time.”