Port Vale’s Tom Pope – ‘I miss getting slated by fans’



I would much rather be getting a load of stick from opposition supporters than be playing in front of no fans at all.

So, while I’m gutted we won’t be having fans back at Vale after the city was put into tier 3, I’m pleased that at least some clubs are able to have limited numbers in the ground.

As I see it, the fans spur you on whether they are for or against you.

Other players might feel differently, but if I’m at an away ground and can hear their supporters slating me then I enjoy it.

If I can either shut opposition fans up or get them on my back then I know we are doing the right thing.

Just seeing fans back in a ground again is what I want, whether home or away.

It cost us not having fans in the ground at home to Tranmere when I think they would have helped our ten men over the line. But sometimes having no opposition supporters has also worked against us.

When we played Morecambe away from home, they put 11 men behind the ball and sat on the edge of their own box. Had they had 2,000 home supporters there they would have been booing them for that.

Having fans in the ground, whichever side they are supporting, helps the tempo of a game and gets that extra ten per cent out of players.

Football is all about the fans and as players we are there to entertain supporters. In front of empty grounds some teams are setting up knowing there is nobody to entertain or have a go at them.

When fans are back in, it will make it seem more real, like there is more on the game.

If we do eventually go into tier 2 then that will be difficult for the club because the crowd limit will be 2,000 and we have 4,000 season ticket holders.

But I am sure Carol will do her best for everybody. After everything she has done, the last thing she deserves is people kicking off about this. None of us have gone through this before, it’s a difficult time for everybody.

So, no matter how frustrated fans are, I am sure she will be doing her best to make sure everybody is a part of it.

I AM available again for this game after isolating – and just happy to be part of things again.

It’s all very well having time off at the end of the season but with the team struggling on the pitch, I just want to stand up and be counted like the rest of the players.

I get paid to play football. The experience of matchdays with three points on the line and the pressures that come with that are what players strive for. Instead of that, I have felt helpless.

Also, after being stuck in the house with two kids, I couldn’t wait to get back to training.

Leyton Orient won’t be an easy game, not with the poor run we have been on.

But I said at the start of the season when we were on a good run that it would be just as easy for us to go on a bad one.

Tuesday’s game at Stevenage was the first time I have thought we were really poor, although I know some fans might disagree with that.

But even as poor as we were, we lost the game 2-1. There is nothing between the teams in this division.

But when we have been winning games we have been solid defensively and been creating chances. The disappointing thing in some of the recent games is we haven’t kept the ball out of the net and we haven’t really created much either.

Football can change quickly. Hopefully we can get a win this weekend, confidence will be high again and we can start playing with a bit more freedom.

DIEGO Maradona was a genius and describing him as a cheat misses the point completely.

It’s annoyed me listening to some of opinions about him following his death this week. People talk about his handball against England but labelling him ‘a cheat’ because of that is ridiculous.

He didn’t cheat any more than any player you see diving to win a penalty in pretty much every game.

His off the field problems are something else, but on the pitch he was a natural winner – a player who could make everybody in the stadium stand up when he was on the ball.

If you think he was a cheat then you watch the old clips of him playing and all the challenges he had to put up with. People were trying to take him out at the waist.

He could have won about 15 penalties in that 1986 World Cup but created chance after chance by staying on his feet. He pretty much single-handedly won that tournament.

Players are there to entertain – and no one entertained more than him.





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