Tom Pope on Port Vale – Super Gibbo, Cheltenham and are Liverpool among greats


It’s good news the Vale have offered James Gibbons a new contract – although I don’t think anyone is surprised.

After all, he’s been been excellent for us since breaking into the team three years ago.

He’s done it with ability of course, but also attitude. That’s why players like him and Nathan Smith have been able to come through the youth system and more than hold their own in the professional game.

You want young players to be disappointed if they have made a mistake, and basically care about how they play in games and in training. When you see lads like that, you know they’ve got a chance.

Ability on its own can only take you so far.  If you are an exceptional young player you may get a start in the Premier League, and make a bit of money, but you are not going to be at that level long unless you have the attitude to match.

When I talk about the right attitude, that can be shown in different ways on the pitch. It doesn’t always mean flying into tackles, that just depends what position you are in. In Gibbo’s case he is a combative player and that is part of his strength.

But other players show that commitment in different ways.  For example, Scott Burgess isn’t going to crunch into loads of tackles but he will run all day for the team.

For a winger, it’s getting on the ball and taking on your man, for a striker it’s striving to get on to the end of balls in the box, for someone like Anthony Griffith it’s winning the ball.

Port Vale defender James Gibbons

Gibbo knows he’s not the finished article, he can still improve his end quality, but he’s only 21.

Sometimes when he is driving up the pitch at full pace it’s then very hard to control your cross.

You look at the very best like David Beckham and he would slow himself down to set himself for a cross.  Mind you, it’s hard when you are a full back sprinting up the pitch running on an overlap.

There are some things you can’t do anything about. For example, if you’re not the biggest full back then you can get done on the back stick if you are up against a big winger. People used to say that about Adam Yates, but like Gibbo, he more than made up for it.

Anyway, I’ll let Gibbo off for saying he was still in the academy when he was watching our 2012/13 promotion season. It’s not that long ago – so I don’t feel that old.

It’s not like when I’m 50 and a 16 year old might come up to me in the pub and say his dad remembers me playing!

Actually at the end of the game at Man City, a young lad who was a ball boy, and I think in their academy, came up to me and said he grew up watching me.

I put my arm around him and said thanks very much. There was so much going on that I just wished I’d asked his name, but I know we have had one or two of our young lads go to Man City’s academy in the last few years.  I’ll certainly look out for him and wish him well.

WE’RE not kidding ourselves. We can’t expect anything other than a tough game at Cheltenham.

I know we won there in the FA Cup, but every game is different and we have to be ready again to face a side who are very difficult to beat .

Ben Tozer’s long throws can be lethal, especially on that tight, narrow pitch, but they’re not just about that.

They will get balls in the box, but we have to stand up to that, much like we did at Northampton. I believe we are strong in that department with Nathan Smith and Leon Legge, so let’s see.

It’s great to be involved in a game at the right end of the table. They go into the game two places and seven points ahead of us, so we can’t let them stretch that gap to 10.

Jake Taylor in action for Port Vale against Cheltenham

THE current Liverpool side aren’t up there with Manchester United’s 1999 treble winners, but they are getting there.

It’s very hard to compare teams from different eras but it’s interesting to compare Jurgen Klopp’s side to Fergie’s United or Wenger’s Invincibles.

I don’t think they can be considered in that company yet, even though they are settings points records on their way to winning the Premier League. The great teams do it over a number of years. So, if Liverpool win another couple of titles, and maybe another Champions League, over the next few years, then they will be among the best we’ve seen in the modern era.

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