Nathan Smith is set to reach a landmark this weekend, and Port Vale are hoping there are plenty more to come.
The 23 year old centre half will play his 200th game for the club, becoming the ninth youngest Vale player to reach that mark.
That’s a testament to the ability and consistency of Smith, who only made his first team debut at the start of the 2016/17 season, under Bruno Ribeiro.
No wonder the Vale would love to keep the home-grown defender beyond this summer when his current deal ends.
Talks are ongoing between player and club and, addressing the subject on February 29, manager John Askey said: “We’ll just keep speaking to Nathan and his agent. We can’t do any more than we have done, so it is up to Nathan now and what he wants to do.
“At the moment he is happy, he has been playing well and I think he has improved as a player since I have been here. Hopefully he will stay because he is at the right age and, if we want to progress as a football club, we need players like Nathan.”
It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the defender waits until the summer to weigh up his options. He turns 24 in April so could leave on a free transfer, but the Vale are hopeful he will decide to stay.
The club have made progress with contract talks since the turn of the year as David Worrall and Scott Burgess have signed new deals. Their fellow midfielder Luke Joyce has also said he is likely to stay, having triggered a one-year extension to his contract after starting 30 league games. Right-back James Gibbons says he is close to agreeing a new deal, while manager John Askey says talks about extending centre half and captain Leon Legge’s contract beyond this summer have been encouraging.
So, fingers crossed the club can also deliver good news about Smith, but in the meantime, they will be hoping he keeps up his reliable fitness record by playing the remaining nine games of the regular season.
The Vale are just one place and one point outside the play-off spots and are preparing for back to back home games, against Crawley on Saturday, and Bradford City next Tuesday.
By reaching 200 games at the age of just 23, Smith will join impressive company. The list is headed by Clinton Boulton, the right back who came through the youth side at Vale, making 267 first-team appearances between 1964 and 1971. He was also an ever present in the side that won promotion from the old Division Four under Gordon Lee in 1969/70.
The youngest players to have reached 200 games for Port Vale (stats courtesy of Vale’s historian Phil Sherwin)
22 yrs 92 days – Clinton Boulton
23 yrs 59 days – Robbie Earle
23 yrs 129 days – Phil Sproson
23 yrs 132 days – John James
23 yrs 174 days – Bobby Gough
23 yrs 191 days – Russell Bromage
23 yrs 227 days – Darren Beckford
23 yrs 296 days – Tommy McLaren
24 yrs 2 days – Stan Steele
*If he plays on Saturday, Nathan Smith will join that list in ninth, reaching 200 games at the age of 23 years and 346 days.