Port Vale’s Tom Pope – Holding on to Tom Conlon would be huge boost



Tom Conlon is having a great season and is hopefully a player we can build our team around.

I’m not surprised Danny Pugh gave the armband to Tom when Leon Legge was suspended – it’s recognition of the improvement he has made over the last 18 months and the influence he has on the rest of the group.

Tom wasn’t a bad player 18 months ago but his development has been obvious. In training he is always 100 per cent, not just with his own game but also getting on to other people to work. He is one of those players who will pick his team mates up and carry them on his back.

There aren’t many players like that around. Sam Morsy was one and he has gone on to play Championship football.

So, I do think Tom has a really bright future. It’s good news he’s got 18 months left on his contract because I am sure there is going to be interest in him.

James Gibbons is another with that sort of mentality but he is a full back and I think when you are in the middle of the pitch you stand out a lot more.

Tom’s no longer just being noticed for his free kicks or his quality on the ball, he’s looking to boss games and is being a real influence. For proof of that just think what a big hole there was in the team when he was missing because of his positive Covid test for a couple of weeks.

I’ve always called him ‘growler’ because every day he would have a good moan – and that’s coming from me!

Tom’s only 24 but I can see how he’s matured because he recognises which players you can have a go at, which need encouragement and the times different players need to be approached in different ways.

He’s developed those leadership qualities as well as being a good player. We’ve got a real asset on our hands.

JOHN JEFFERS got people off their seats. I was one of the fans who used to watch him beat players and think ‘Wow, I love Johnny Jeffers!’

I’ll be honest, as a striker I think I would have been tearing my hair out wondering when the ball would come into the box. He wasn’t the sort of winger who would just want to beat his man and whip the ball over. They didn’t call him ‘Jinking Johnny Jeffers’ for nothing – he would beat the defender 58 times and leave him buying a hot dog before getting that cross in.

He was brilliant to watch, and don’t forget he was doing all this in a very good Vale side, either at the top end of what is now League One or in the Championship during his seven years with us.

Every winger has to find a way to beat their man. Some are about pace, some, like Dave Worrall, are pure energy and then Jonny Jeffers was about skill and unpredictability.

He could go on either foot, had plenty of tricks and would have been a nightmare to try to defend against.

It’s been nice seeing footage of him in action, including in those games against Stoke when the teams were meeting regularly in the early 1990s. In fact, a lot of Stoke fans have commented about how good he was.

His death, at just 52, is heartbreaking and I feel so sorry for his close friends and family.

WE’VE also had the very sad news this week about Charlie Holland’s death after a long illness.

I met Charlie a new times, my dad was close to him and I know so many people who have been on his buses to away games over the years.

Charlie was a true Vale fan, hardly missed a game and raised money for the club as well as for the community through running buses to our away matches.

He was an all-round great bloke.

A lot of my mates would ring me and say, ‘we’re coming to the game, we’re on Charlie’s bus.’

That included friends who didn’t go that often. Charlie would still look after them and save them places on one of his buses. The more fans he could get to an away game to support the Vale, the better.

He is going to be missed massively, not just for what he did for the club, but everything he did for good causes in Burslem. The tributes from so many supporters this week show just how well regarded he was.





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