‘You can imagine how my group chat with Stoke fans went’ – Port Vale’s Tom Pope



I didn’t dare check my phone after we lost to King’s Lynn.

There’s no escape when we lose anyway.  My dad and my brother give me their opinions and then I’m in a group chat which is full of Stoke fans. So, you can just imagine how that went on Saturday night.

Also, my next-door neighbour watches the matches and will tell me when he thinks we’ve been rubbish.

I’m not after sympathy here, we’re out of the cup and should have been better. But what I will say with this one is look at the actual game and not just the result.

It was one of those games, like Morecambe away, where they got 11 men behind the ball.

When a team doesn’t want to come out then it’s very difficult to get your midfielders on the ball.

I would imagine in the league they play more attacking football, get bodies forward and leave themselves more open at the back.

I know we can pass the ball better and move it quicker, but it was difficult against a back four and then a five in front of them. Then they just had the lad up front who was very lively and quick. When they got the ball they put it in the channel to him to try to get behind Nathan Smith and Leon Legge.

But Scott Brown hasn’t had a save to make.

Yes it was very frustrating but just dismissing a performance as garbage doesn’t tell the whole story.

We should have been better but, had we taken one of our chances and gone 1-0 up, they would have had to bring bodies out and try to get a goal. But because we didn’t get that goal, it gave them more belief and they sucker punched us, a bit like Morecambe and Carlisle did to us.

Yes I know it is ifs and buts. But I’m just trying to give a more detailed look at the game rather than just the result.

It’s games like that where our pitch works against us a bit.

The first thing to say here is that Steve Speed our groundsman does a brilliant job. But it’s always going to be so much harder for him on our old pitch than at a club with a new surface or sprinkler systems.

The problem at Vale Park is it’s just so dry. You can have a week of rain but as soon as the sun comes out the pitch just dries up, so you can’t zip the ball about and get it moving quickly. You have to have two and three touches.

It is bobbly so when you are playing against poorer teams, and you want to move the ball quickly and drag them out of positions, then you find it more difficult.

I am not using that as an excuse, but it has always been the case at Vale.

It does make a difference, for example in training when it is wet then Leon Legge can zing it straight out to the full back. But when it is so dry it doesn’t get there so we have to do the shorter passes because it might just hold up on the pitch. It does make it more difficult.

But having said all that, when we play against better teams than us then it works in our favour because they can’t zip it about.

SO, on to this weekend’s game – and what I expect to be a really tough test against Tranmere.

They have had a slow start to the season but I wouldn’t take too much notice about that, they are a good side with some quality players.

James Vaughan, who I was with at Bury, will always score goals, Jay Spearing has played in the Premier League and I know Vale fans remember Peter Clarke fondly from his time on loan here.

He’s 38 now but was only just 21 when he came to the Vale and did really well.  It’s not easy for a young centre half, especially against the big Football League strikers about then, but he was excellent. George Pilkington, who came on loan from Everton with him at the same time, was a class act as well.

I played with Clarkey at Bury so I know he’s a great lad as well as a strong, aggressive player. James Vaughan is also a good guy. He’s played in the top flight and was the youngest ever scorer in the Premier League. Despite the career he’s had, he’s a very down to earth bloke.      

So, it won’t be easy but we want to build on what’s been a very good start to the season. We’d have taken 19 points from our opening ten games, especially as we have beaten Exeter and Salford who I would expect to be up there at the end of the season.

Having said all that, ten games is too early to say all the teams at the top will stay up there and the same with the sides at the bottom. Even in our 2012/13 promotion season we went on a run of just one win in eight, so there’s plenty of times for teams to get better or fall away.

We’ll have a much better idea by the New Year when we will have played everyone once. So far we’ve made a good start but there’s plenty more to do. 





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