Darrell Clarke says he can’t wait to manage the team in front of supporters at Vale Park.
The Port Vale manager is putting his plans together for the new season while looking to finish the current campaign on a high.
The Vale go into Saturday’s home game with Bradford on a run of eight games unbeaten – seven of which have been won – and needing one more clean sheet for a club post-war record of six in a row.
The one drawback is there haven’t been supporters in the ground to see it but, in the week the club revealed season ticket details for 2021/22, the manager said he’s looking forward to a proper season in front of fans.
He has also joined owner Carol Shanahan in thanking supporters who have kept their season ticket money in the club even though the Covid pandemic has meant they have only been able to watch games via live streaming.
The manager said: “The fans haven’t been in but I can feel the support for the club. It is a massive thank you to the fans who have paid for their season tickets this year and not taken their money back.
“That is a tremendous effort by them. They haven’t had a lot to smile about this season but I am hoping this run gives them a bit of hope. It is the hope that kills us isn’t it!
“But I just thank them for their support and thank them if they buy a season ticket for next season. It is their club.
“You look at the top of the pyramid down, and this joke of a European Super League they are talking about.
“Let’s get the football fans back in the lower league football where lads are working hard to earn a living. Let’s get that passion back and make sure we don’t lose that. We have that at Port Vale in abundance.”
Vale have frozen season-ticket prices and are offering a thank you package to the season-ticket holders who have kept their money in the club this year. They form the vast majority of the 4,000 fans who bought tickets.
Owner Carol Shanahan has said that support has been crucial, while she and her family have also backed the club financially, covering the shortfall in revenue of more than £1m because the entire season will have been played behind closed doors.
Clarke says he is proud to be part of a club at the heart of its community which, for example, has delivered more than 300,000 meals to local families during the last year.
Talking of the importance of the local community to the club, Clarke said: “You only have to see how Carol emphasises that with the work she does with the community and the fans. She is massive on that.
“This football club has had a tough few years with potentially, dare I say it, not the right owner in place, and hopefully now we can look to bigger and better things.
“We want to enjoy it. We are going to have some bumps in the road, as always at football clubs. But let’s try to enjoy that journey together.”