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August: The Valiant View

Dave Thorley is a lifelong supporter and has followed his beloved Port Vale for over 50 years.

30 August 2019

Remember when I said that we should look for positive steps but be prepared for setbacks. It seems like I may have had a point but I didn’t expect to witness such extreme examples of each of those things barely four days apart.

After surrendering winning positions in each of our three opening League games and having to settle for just 3 points when it should have been at least 7, the win against FGR was not only overdue but an excellent all round performance.  Then we came crashing back to earth with a huge thump at Grimsby and some supporters immediately start questioning the quality and depth of our squad.

To try and add an element of perspective, the Grimsby debacle was our first, although admittedly heavy, league defeat of the season and hopefully just a rare bad day at the office.  I also previously suggested that whilst setbacks are inevitable, it’s the way that they are overcome that is important.  The next couple of weeks will tell us if we have learned lessons from the humberside humiliation or not. If the team demonstrates that they have done that, it would be good indication of progress.

Whilst the transfer window might still be open, I don’t think we should be panicking to add to the wage bill unnecessarily.  It is surely more difficult to add affordable quality as the transfer deadline approaches.  I stress the word quality because we saw too many speculative signings and loan arrivals last season who didn’t work out.

As far as I’m concerned there’s no use in adding players now unless, as the gaffer has already suggested, they can push for a place in the match day squad.  I’m thinking quality players like Notts Forest’s Tyler Walker who notched over 20 goals on loan at Mansfield last season.  Maybe we can bring in someone like that.  We could certainly use an extra 20 goals.

We managed a healthy 16 clean sheet last season but the paltry 39 League goals that we scored was the lowest in our division.  The current inability to convert chances to close out games from winning positions suggests that additional firepower is still needed.  Yes, we need to keep key players like Manny and Monty fit, but we lost nine games 1-0 in the last campaign, so a mere nine more goals could have been worth 9 points moving us up to 16th. 

Using the same logic, 18 more goals could have been worth 27 points and a play off place and this shows what could realistically be achieved this time round. Goals change and also win games.  That’s what we need more than anything else. More goals.

Whilst it might be tempting to try to sign a Tyler Walker, the chances of us getting someone who will make the contribution he did at Mansfield are probably quite small.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to bring in another striker but I would also like to see more goals throughout the team.

I expect Tom Pope to reach double figures, Amoo and Bennett both look like they will get quite a few and I’m also expecting a decent contribution from Mark Cullen.  However, every one of the midfield has to score more than their modest return last time round. The centre backs need to chip in with 4 or 5 each as well.  It was nice to see Nathan Smith get on the score sheet at Grimsby. That must be his first goal for some time.  He certainly didn’t score at all last season and Legge only managed one – the winner at Crewe. 

Without doubt, a few more players on the scoresheet will make the 20 or so extra goals that we need that much easier to achieve. It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as the ball hits the back of the net but it’s generally the case that successful teams do have a main striker making a major contribution to the goals for column.

Take the 10 EFL teams that were promoted last season, all of them bar Lincoln and Barnsley had a leading scorer with 20 goals or more and Barnsley had 2 with 19 each, making Lincoln pretty much an exception.  And what did Lincoln have if they didn’t have a striker with 20 plus goals as they dominated League 2 – goals throughout the team.  Proving that whilst it is generally better to have a headline goal scorer, with the right set up you can also be successful without one.

Macclesfield are another exception to the rule. When they topped the National League two seasons back, with Mr Askey at the helm, their leading scorer only had 14 to his name.  Yet they did manage to win 27 games, far more than any other team in the division, even though they only scored 67 goals.  The result was promotion to the EFL and one of their most successful seasons ever.  All achieved on one of the lowest budgets in the National League that season.

But what’s all this talk of play-offs and promotion? Positive steps on the field of play “no matter how small” are what I previously suggested we should be happy with.  However, there’s surely no harm in having someone at the helm who has already demonstrated he can produce success on a modest budget and without a 20 goals plus striker in the team.  Right now, that seems almost a perfect fit for us.

Look at it another way. Suppose last season we did have a striker who provided those extra goals which had propelled us to the play offs. Do you think that we would now be welcoming this exciting New Era brought about by Carol and Kevin’s purchase of the Club? Me neither.

And that’s probably the only time we might be able to say that a lack of goals has worked to our advantage.

UTV


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