Tom Pope – My Port Vale player of year has shown why critics were so wrong



It is a sign of how well the team has done that there are a few candidates for player of the year.

You could argue a case for anybody: Leon Legge has had a great season, Luke Joyce and Dave Worrall have been superb and Scott Brown has been as reliable as ever.

But I am going for Nathan Smith.

He deserves it for his performances and the fact he has managed to prove some people wrong.  Even at the end of last season there were fans who didn’t appreciate him. They were saying he had been in the team for three years now and suffered three relegation battles, we were shipping a lot of goals and he was a major part of it.

I know there really were people who thought that – because I used to argue with them.

I would say he is an unbelievable defender, but I felt it was falling on deaf ears, it was like they were seeing something I wasn’t.

But I would hope there is no one thinking that after this season. The whole team has done well, especially the defence with Leggey having that great partnership with Nathan, and James Gibbons and Monty doing well.

But it is no coincidence that there has been interest from the Championship and League One in Nathan Smith. He is superb defensively and I have been saying that since he was 17 and training with the first team when Micky Adams was here.   

He never gives you a second, he is pulling and tugging your shirt, grabbing you or getting you in a headlock. He is just horrible.

Target men we have played against have come up to me as we are going off the pitch and asked, ‘Who is that centre half? He has done my head in.’

I tell them I get that every day.

I don’t think some fans really realised until this year just how good he was.

So, on the basis those fans are starting to appreciate him, I would give it to Smudger, I think he deserves it.

It’s no secret that he is out of contract this summer but I hope he is still with us for next season.

In the current climate I am sure he will have to sit down and really think about things.

I saw the gaffer’s article saying that if players are offered something they are going to have to take it because clubs might not have any money. Other clubs might be interested but not have the funds to be able to back it up.

I agree with him. If there’s something on the table, it’s a good idea to take it.

But in Nathan’s case, I do think he will get a bit of interest from other clubs. I’m hoping he stays but if he did decide to go and try to play at a higher level then I don’t think anyone could begrudge him that.





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