So that’s it.
Port Vale’s season is officially over – confirmed in a statement from the EFL this afternoon after a vote.
League Two clubs simply couldn’t afford to finish the last nine games of the season, not when the cost was £125,000 to £140,000 to test players plus an estimated £100,000 a month to take players and staff off furlough.
The Vale came so close, within a point and a place of the play-offs. But Cheltenham, Exeter, Colchester and Northampton will instead contest them behind closed doors while Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth are automatically promoted.
So, disappointment for the Vale but that of course has to be put into context of a worldwide health crisis not to mention a financial crisis in the lower divisions of English football.
The Vale are in a relatively strong position thanks to owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan who are supporting the club financially.
They and their team had done so much to turn the club around. They bought a club that had been bumping along near the bottom of League One and League Two for three years and had faced the threat of administration.
A year on and the Vale is unrecognisable, celebrated locally and nationally, a club that has responded to the coronavirus crisis by becoming the centre of a community hub with more than 50,000 meals delivered.
They also had the Vale running at a profit within nine months of taking charge, helped by John Askey who has transformed results with the majority of the team that had struggled last season.
Add to that some astute low-cost signings – Scott Burgess on a free or Jake Taylor on loan – plus putting his faith in experienced pros Luke Joyce, Leon Legge and David Worrall who have been superb having been in and out of the side the previous season.
In fact, Askey’s record since taking charge of a side in peril of relegation in February 2019 is remarkable. That doesn’t mean the Vale will easily and automatically pick up where they left off whenever next season does begin, but they certainly have a chance under this manager, with this squad and with owners who have helped make the club an attractive proposition for players, and supporters, once more.
It wasn’t to be for the Vale this year, but how we are judging success?
A place in the play-offs would have been one measure. But after at least three years of decline, Port Vale now have owners and a team of which fans can be proud.
The story of this season is so much more than a near miss with the play-offs.