Danny Pugh is still registered as a player although, as he points out: “With all these lads coming back from injury and suspension it is looking more and more unlikely!
“I still train and like to get involved but that is more to make up the numbers than anything.”
Pugh is enjoying being the Vale’s first-team coach and looking forward to this afternoon’s game at Walsall when the Vale will try to edge a little closer to promotion.
That concept still takes some getting used to but John Askey has transformed Vale from relegation strugglers to play-off contenders, officially so after they moved up to sixth with last week’s 3-0 win at home to Colchester.
How, have they done it? Pugh gives us his assessment of Askey and assistant manager Dave Kevan
He said: “It is their professionalism first and foremost, how thorough they are in setting the team up.
“The consistency and the levels they demand from the players and everyone around them has been a big thing, and the level of work within the training sessions. Every player who comes into the team knows what is demanded of them.
“They know exactly how we want to play, how we are going to set up. That is all from the gaffer and Dave’s preparation and what they instil in the players.”
Their efforts have helped ensure the Vale have suffered just eight league defeats all season and taken 13 points from the last 15 to catapult themselves into the play-off places.
The team are exceeding most expectations in Askey’s first full season but aim to stay up there.
“That’s the plan,” adds Pugh. We are looking up now as opposed to looking down, which we probably have been over the last couple of seasons.
“We are just looking to improve week in, week out, keep working how we have been doing since the start of the season and see where it takes us.
“It is very tight. I think in this league more than any, anyone can beat anybody. But it is about that consistency. Can we keep doing it week in week out? That is what we are striving to do.”
So, next stop Walsall, who are down in 13th but are unbeaten in their last three, including victory at home to Northampton last weekend when they came from two down to win 3-2.
Darrell Clarke’s side also have the distinction of being the only team to win in the league at Vale Park this season, courtesy of their 1-0 victory in December.
Pugh added: “It is another really difficult game for us. They are a decent team and this is another tough away game. I know it’s easy to say, but there is just no easy game in this division.
“It is going to be a battle and a scrap but we’re hoping to get the good result again.
“It should be a great atmosphere. We are taking quite a few down as well, so that should improve it even more, so it is a game we will all be looking forward to.”
It’s just the sort of contest the 37 year old would love to be playing in, but he’s grateful to be given the opportunity on the coaching staff, learning with Askey and Kevan.
He said: “The manager and Dave had been brilliant with me. They let me get involved and be thoroughly hands on. I can’t thank them enough.
“I have genuinely enjoyed it and I feel like I am learning every week. When the results are going as well then that helps and it just creates a good vibe around the place.
“It’s harder sometimes sat on the bench, you feel you want to get involved more. But I warm the lads up before the game and just try to get them as ready as we can for the match.
“Then you just leave them to it when they are on the pitch, that is probably the hardest thing.”
We’ll see which XI gets the chance to start at Walsall but Askey could find it hard to drop any of the team that swept aside Colchester with arguably Vale’s best performance of the season.
Pugh added: “When you look on the bench and who you can bring on, the strength is there. But they are going to have to fight for their places with how well the lads in the team have performed.”