After progressing through the Valiants' youth system, James Gibbons has cemented his place in the first-team picture during his breakthrough season. Still only 20 years of age, the defender has now made 32 appearances in a Vale shirt.
Having joined the youth system at the age of 11, Gibbons has risen through the ranks alongside players such as Nathan Smith, Joe Davis and Charlie Raglan who all featured in Saturday's Sky Bet League Two clash with Crawley Town.
"The young lads want to see the players who have come through the system do well as it gives the younger boys in the academy a boost - it gives them the optimism that they can do it as well," he said.
"A lot of work goes into the academy and there is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that people don't see. For me personally, my time couldn't have gone any better."
On his progression, he added: "I learn every day off different players. It's a massive learning curve, especially at my age with the players around me and the situation we are in.
"You learn more in these circumstances more so than you would if you were flying.
"The last year has been perfect for me because I came in at the start of the season and I was thinking about going out on loan, playing games, and getting myself in the frame for a contract for next year.
"I then made my debut in September and it was a dream come true, but I still have to prove myself. When I wasn't in the side, you have a point to prove to get back in. It's the same when you are on the fringes or even when you are in the first team."
With just four games of the campaign left to play, Gibbons is hoping to feature as regularly as possible as Vale look to steer clear of danger at the bottom of the table, whether that is in his favoured position or not.
Neil Aspin revealed that Cristian Montano's injury will keep him sidelined for the remaining fixtures, meaning the 20-year-old could be required to shift across to the other side of the defensive line.
"If needs be, I'll play wherever for the team. You have seen the job Monty has done at left-back, so they would be big boots to fill, but if the gaffer wants me to play there I will do," he said.
"Monty didn't have a brilliant start to the season and he wasn't a fans' favourite then, but he has done the right thing in brushing it aside and proving everybody wrong.
"It's a similar role, but you have to adjust your body shape and use your left foot more, but I don't think it would be a problem at all."