For most teams, the off-season brings about some uncertainty, whether that be the comings and goings of players, managers making requests that chairmen won’t allow, or even uncertainty over who the backroom staff will be. As a Vale fan, I wish that I had been able to worry about these things.
Instead, a summer of turbulence has provided more false dawns than I care to remember. When we went into administration, fans were hit with a mixture of trepidation and relief. We had managed to rid ourselves of the people running our club into the ground, but we were in administration. 10 points lost, and a play-off challenge scuppered. What was to come was far worse though.
When the administrator invited bids, we all presumed we knew what was coming. Mo Chaudry, ever vocal about his want to run Port Vale, turned down by the previous board. He would place a bid, be accepted and finally gain control of the club. As ever, the best laid plans didn’t happen. Mo’s bid was not even considered to be within the top two, with the preferred bidder status being placed upon Keith Ryder. What happened then appeared to be a whirlwind of activity. First, Mr Ryder held a meeting with Vale supporters. The intrigue was so high that the clubs suite was full, and fans were left locked outside, wanting to catch a glimpse of our new hero. He spoke all the right words, and many fans walked away happy at the man who was going to take us forward. Playing budgets were discussed, contracts were offered, the CVA was agreed (An essential part of administration, stopping us having further points deductions) and everything was going smoothly. Journalists were getting ready for their awful puns for the headlines (Knight Ryder being my personal favourite).
And then, silence.
We were told that Mr Ryder had to go through the fit and proper persons test. We waited. And waited. And the more we waited, the more nervous we got. Two months after the CVA, we were told that all that needs to happen is that Mr Ryder needs to put the money into his solicitor’s hands. We are still waiting. Personal problems at Mr Ryder’s end are blamed, but for all intents and purposes, the deal looks dead. The administrators have had to pledge to keep the club running for the year. The players had to sign new contracts, often with changed lengths (All players were only offered a one year deal) and there was a moment where we worried if players who we had signed were going to walk away. Thankfully, only one did (David Artell, Northamptons new centre half) and the rest have signed up, but where do we go from here? There are bidders back in the frame, but the silence is deafening. Up until Monday, we don’t even have a kit for the new season, although that is expected to be debuted against Burnley (And rumour has it that it is pink. How fun that will be to wear around darkest Stoke) Times are turbulent, but I guess as a Vale fan, this is what we are used to.
Whatever the next season brings off the pitch, it is on the pitch where points are won. While top scorer Marc Richards and influential midfielder Anthony Griffith have left, Micky Adams seems to have assembled a team who can at least challenge for the play-offs. Richard Duffy joined from Exeter, Jennison Myrie-Williams and Darren Murphy joined from Stevenage, while Ashley Vincent, also joined. Adding in previous non-contract player Chris Shuker means that we have, potentially, a team that can do well. We look like we may be short on goals, but Micky Adams seems to be the master of getting results from very few resources.
My only hope for this season is that off-field issues don’t scupper any potential promotion challenge, and that a deal for ownership of Port Vale goes through. If not, this could be the last season that we get to see Port Vale gracing the league.
Written by Steve Donaldson, We Are Going Up’s Port Vale Blogger
Steve tweets at @the_vogster