Tom Pope column – Championship, League Two and Port Vale’s ‘natural home’


Which division should Port Vale be in? What’s our natural home?

For me, we are a bigger club than League Two and one that can dream about one day making it into the Championship like we were when I was growing up supporting the club in the 1990s.

But saying the Vale are bigger than League Two but then actually getting out of it are two different things.

There are plenty of clubs who will feel they should be higher than the level they are playing. What are Notts County and Chesterfield doing in non-league, or Sheffield Wednesday in League One?

Clubs are there for a reason. Yes, you can have a bit of luck with having a rich owner – if only the Coates family had been Vale fans!

Man City’s owners could have bought any club in the world, and look at that club now.

Mind you, we have an owner now, Carol Shanahan, that knows the club, loves the club and will do her very best to make sure it succeeds.

Crowds and season-ticket sales are up, and you have to say one of the reasons for that has been all the work that’s gone on behind the scenes at the Vale. The work on the ground, finishing the seats in the Lorne Street Stand, as well as work that earned Vale the EFL’s community club of the year award.

So, we’ve got very good owners and stability, which gives us a chance to progress.

You can see that feel-good factor in the 4,500 season-ticket sales and the fact two of the first three league home games have pulled in crowds of more than 6,000.

The hard part is then keeping those fans as regulars, which is why the club will be keen to get that first home win when they play Harrogate this weekend.

Vale are the same as any club, you get bigger gates at the start of the season, but 6,000 will become 5,000 and less if you’re not winning at home.

But the support is still out there for the Vale if they can really take off over the next couple of years.

Stoke managed to get ten years of Premier League football, and that’s added a generation of fans that might now be season ticket holders for life.

Looking back at our own opportunities to kick on, I think of the season after promotion under Micky Adams when we then finished close to the play-offs in League One. But the club couldn’t kick on from that, and the chance was gone.

But I believe Vale are capable of getting back into the Championship. The club has to try to get out of League Two over the two or three years, then stabilise and try to go again.

So, we are talking about a five or six-year project. Rotherham, Luton and Burton have all made it to the Championship in recent years, so why can’t the Vale do it?

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not underestimating how difficult it will be. And nor do I think we have a divine right to win games in League Two just because we’ve got a big fanbase.

That brings me nicely to this weekend’s home game with Harrogate. Play something like how we can, and I fancy the Vale to win this one.

But what I’m not going to do is say Vale should be winning it because they are a bigger club than Harrogate.

It just doesn’t work like that. Harrogate have had a great start and are unbeaten to get up to second in the table.

They might not have one of the bigger budgets in the division, but sometimes that gives the squad a togetherness and determination to work for each other.

Closer to home, I think back to our promotion season, which we started in administration. When you have a small budget but a group of players that want to work for each other, it gets you a lot of points.



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There are endless debates about whether he or Lionel Messi are the best. For those of you that say, Messi, I get it. His footballing intelligence is on a different planet to anything we’ve ever seen.

But in terms of the complete package as a player, then Ronaldo is the best that’s ever lived.

Every player has a weakness. Some can’t head it, some have one weak foot, but you would really have to search a long time to find a weakness in Ronaldo.

What’s more, he’s been playing for the best part of 20 years and is scoring 20, 30 or 40 goals a season.

He has to be the most complete footballer that’s ever lived, so having him back in the Premier League is massive.





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