Neal praises goalkeeping trio
Back-to-back promotions and a fine start to life in SkyBet League 1, goalkeeper Chris Neal has arguably been Vale’s standout performer over the last 12 months.
The Vale shot-stopper played all 46 league matches last season and was on the receiving end of the Port Vale Players’ Player of the Year award.
Despite winning promotion to League 1 with Shrewsbury Town in 2012 Neal decided dip back into League 2 with Vale and hasn’t looked back since.
What becomes obvious when you speak to Neal is the evident bond the goalkeeping team have between them.
“Coming to the club you’ve got a new goalkeeping coach and you’ve got to start your relationship with someone again.
“That was last year obviously, I’ve worked for a year with him now and we’ve got a great relationship as well as with Sam Johnson and Ryan Boot.
“We all work well together,” he said.
You only have to look at the triple save made by the Vale number one against Bury in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy see the impact he has had.
The match is heading to penalties but with minutes left Neal is called into action - a point-blank save is followed by two successive blocks.
Moments later Pope seals the win with a neat finish but it was Neal’s earlier flurry of saves that kept Vale in the tie and consequently the competition.
“It’s nice with Grewy that if there’s something I feel I need to work on, say I haven’t kicked well at the weekend or haven’t come and got as many crosses as I thought I should’ve done
“I’ll say to Grewy ‘look can we put on a crossing session or a kicking session on this week week’ and he’ll put it on for us.”
He continued: “That’s how you want to work, it’s a nice atmosphere to work in during the week.
“We all work hard together and that’s how it should be.”
Despite being just 27-years-old Neal sees himself as the experienced pro amongst the goalkeeping trio of Sam Johnson, Ryan Boot and himself.
Happy to lead the way and guide his younger understudies Neal was once an understudy at Preston North End to Andrew Lonergan.
“I’ve always said it’s nice to have competition, I think Sam has improved over the last year and a bit.
“I’ve always said that when I was a young ‘keeper I had good experienced players to work with so I want to be that experienced pro that a younger goalkeeper can work with.
“Hopefully I can give Sam a few pointers and little tips to learn.”
Vale visit the SkyBet League 1 leaders tomorrow (3pm), and Neal knows he will have to be on top form again to deny them their sixth straight win.
“It’s probably going to be one of the toughest games we’ve played all season, if you look how they’ve started, they’ve conceded a couple of goals in their games and they’ve scored a lot of goals.
“It’s going to be a tough game but if we can go and put on a performance like we did at Carlisle then there’s no reason why we can’t bring back some points,” he said.
Watch Neal's full interview on Valiant Player or watch a small clip on our YouTube Channel below.