Tom Pope on Port Vale – Tom Conlon, praise for a ref, the big fight and more


It’s been great to see Tom Conlon take his chance in the first team over the last few weeks, showing what strength in depth we really do have in midfield.

I’ve always felt Tom has a lot of quality. But it was good to see him score against Colchester because I think one of the areas he is improving on is getting higher up the pitch.

He loves getting on the ball, understandably so because he can switch play really well. But he can go looking for it, which means sometimes he drops a bit deep.  As a striker you want him buzzing around you looking for the second balls.

His effort and work rate is great and, with the way we play, you want him in that inside left channel, just like when he scored our first goal against Colchester.

But you like to see lads like him do well because he’s a very good pro, words hard does all his work in the gym. Believe it or not, when he’s on the pitch, he moans more than me!

To be fair, like me, he also praises people as well.  He’s either telling you you’re brilliant or you’ve done something wrong. Either way, he never shuts up.

Sky Bet EFL League Two: Port Vale v Walsall – Tom Conlon

While Tom has been doing well, I feel sorry for Shaun Brisley who was doing a great job in the team before he injured his knee at Walsall last week.  

It is a real blow for Shaun, when you have been playing as well as he has, you just want to keep going.

The manner of the injury was frustrating as well, going up for a header and then someone landing on him.

I did mine the same way, but with mine the hamstring came off the bone. When you go up for a header you don’t expect to come away with a knee injury.

He’s a great lad, great to have around the dressing room and has a good sense of humour.

From the team’s point of view, as one door closes, another opens.  At the start of the season, when we had five or six in the treatment room, then another injury might have been a real problem, but we have Nathan Smith who can go back to centre half.

He’s arguably been our player of the season so far, so it shows just how well Shaun was playing that he was keeping him out.

Port Vale’s Shaun Brisley in action against Vadaine Oliver of Northampton Town. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

But we have James Gibbons who can come back in at right back, with Nathan moving across to the middle. Gibbo’s having a great season, so we are still looking strong.

I SHOULD have had a penalty at the end of the Walsall game, but I don’t want to be too critical of referee Anthony Backhouse.

He’s a decent ref who, like all the better officials, is prepared to let the game flow.

That suits me fine. When I play, I am bound to get into tussles with defenders where there are nudges here and there.

If we get a fussy referee then, because I don’t throw myself on the floor, I get the decisions go against me all the time. But this ref tends to let us get on with the game.

As for the penalty shout at Walsall, Dave Worrall had stood the ball up to the back post, and I had gone to spin round the back of the defender, but he wrapped his arms around me.

So, a definite penalty as far as I’m concerned but the ref said we were both at it. I was frustrated but I would sooner have a ref like him any day even though he missed that one!

I’M sure I don’t have to tell Ladsandads or Sunday league teams what an effect the wet weather has had on pitches this season.

Even at this level, it’s had an effect. Steve Speed does a great job, but our training pitch has been really heavy so we switched to St George’s Park for a few days this week.

It’s a bit of a longer journey for the lads who travel in from Manchester, but our training pitch needed a break. It had got so heavy that it was difficult to get any quality on it with players sliding and falling over because it’s so wet. It’s also draining on your legs playing on pitches that heavy.   

At least we are able to play of a weekend, unlike teams all over the city who I bet are having fixtures pile up.

It’s been difficult for everyone but hopefully our stint at St George’s has been a bit of a relief for Speedy.

TYSON Fury was superb in beating Deontay Wilder last week, I think he took everyone by surprise. It was one thing him telling people he would go after Wilder, and put him on the back foot, but I didn’t think he would actually do it!

He’s such a great defensive fighter, I thought that would be how he would win. But he had a go at the biggest puncher on the planet and dominated him. It just shows what a great fighter he is.

So, what happens now? I don’t see a lot of appetite for a Fury v Wilder third version, although Wilder always has a puncher’s chance. I would rather see Wilder v Anthony Joshua.

Fury against Dillian Whyte would be interesting. Whyte is relentless, and will have a go at anyone, so that would be a good fight, although I would still expect Fury to win.

As for Joshua v Fury, if that does happen then Fury has to be favourite.

In my opinion, Joshua was a more exciting boxer in earlier fights when he was throwing combinations and knocking people out.

More recently he has been more robotic and just sat behind his jab. He couldn’t do that against Fury because Fury’s boxing skills are so good.

It’s an interesting time for the heavyweight division although it’s still not as strong as it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

Fury is the only boxer of the current group who could hold a world title in most generations.

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