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Pope Previews Crawley Town

4 August 2017

Saturday sees competitive football return and Vale kick off their 2017/18 campaign with a trip to Crawley Town.

Michael Brown has pushed the squad to their limits over pre-season and performances in friendly fixtures provided some encouraging signs.

Last time out, the Valiants drew 1-1 with Premier League opposition as Tom Pope netted late on versus West Bromwich Albion. Now back in a Vale shirt, the striker is raring to go and he is feeling good.

He said: "I feel great! It's always difficult in pre-season when you're feeling tired, certainly at the start when you've just come back in.

"At the minute I'm feeling as fit as I could be really. There's no excuses really from any of the players regarding fitness as they should all be up there."

The experienced forward was a key player when Vale last got promoted from the fourth tier and he is hopeful of replicating that feat this season. Speaking about the squad, he said:

"I'm optimistic. We may be a couple of players light at the moment and there are a few injuries, but the competition when everyone is fit and ready is good.

"If we stay on top of injuries and remain pretty clean with them then there's no reason why we can't be up there in the end."

Pope and his team mates will make the longest journey of the season on the opening day as they visit the Stadium. As for what to expect from Harry Kewell's Crawley team, the striker said:

"Crawley is always a horrible place to go because of the distance. It's a small stadium where it seems like the fans are on the pitch with you, but I think it can be a great start for us.

"We know what we are going to face - it's going to be physical and difficult, but it's one we should be looking forward to and we should be targeting three points.

"I think like any club in League Two, you've got to be aiming for promotion. Anybody can fancy being up there if you're organised with set pieces etcetera, so all the teams have a chance."

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