I’m sitting writing these notes and pinching myself just to check I’m not dreaming. As if winning 5 out of 6 games in November wasn’t enough, our talisman Tom finished of the month by plonking a great big cherry on top with one of Vale’s fastest ever hat-tricks to launch us into the third round of the FA Cup.
And then we go and top all that by getting a plum, money spinning tie at the Etihad and the ultimate Super Vale Away day beckons. Fantastic stuff.
Since the beginning of the season I’ve suggested that improvements this term would rely on things like better home form, fewer drawn games, more goals throughout the team and more consistency of winning performances. Then we put all those things together in one single month and we sit nudging the play-off places with a big Cup awayday looming.
Yes, there was a blip at recently resurgent Scunny, but that aside it’s been quite a while since we’ve witnessed a more positive 30 days. I’m sure that the Gaffer is in the frame for Manager of the Month, an award that’s eluded us since Micky Adams won it back in September 2012. I appreciate that many of you consider MOTM to be something of a poisoned chalice but regardless who the panel choose this time, let’s show respect to the Gaffer for the recent performances.
Whilst the City tie will generate substantial income don’t overlook the added importance of the prize money that we have already garnished from the Leasing Trophy and FA Cup games. I know that I’m not alone in my dislike of the current League Trophy format, but progress in the competition can generate tangible funds and a real crack at a Wembley appearance. Winning through to the Trophy knockout stages has been worth £50K and when you add to this the £90K for getting to round 3 of the FA Cup it’s a decent sum so far.
Add in the revenue from the Man City tie and we are probably now talking about a serious six figure sum all told. No doubt the amounts we are likely to earn will be bandied about in the near future.
The one thing that we can be certain of though, is that however much we do gain from our Cup exploits, the money will go back into the Club to improve things in one shape or form. Strengthening the squad in January is an obvious thought, with an experienced left back a likely target, but my top priority would be to do whatever it takes to retain Jake Taylor for as long as possible. He has clearly been instrumental in our recent good form, getting better and better every week and popping up with regular, and often important, goals.
The Gaffer has been full of praise for Jake who has himself gone on record to say how much he’s enjoying his football with us, so it looks like he would be happy to stay beyond January. Let’s hope we can come to an agreement with Forest to keep him until the end of the season at least. He’s fitted into a midfield that has been performing strongly and providing goals despite numerous enforced changes. The loss of an in-form, goalscoring David Worrall for the next 3 games is a further blow to that department but if the Cheltenham game is anything to go by and with Tom Conlon back to fitness, we should be OK.
Whilst mentioning goal scorers it’s easy to see why Mr Pope is getting loads of plaudits for the importance of his lightning FA Cup hat-trick. However, those 3 goals have the additional kudos of putting Tom level with Martin Foyle as Vale’s leading post-war goal scorer on 108 goals. A goal or two next Saturday and 3 points against bogey team Walsall at Vale Park would be a fitting way for Tom to claim the crown outright.
Important as progress in the Cup competitions may be in raising the Club’s profile and generating revenue, it’s the bread and butter of the League where success is critical. There’s no doubt that we currently sit higher in the table than most supporters would have expected back in August, but I believe we are capable of pushing higher still. The players seem full of confidence and we do have reasonable strength in the squad to provide both competition for places and good options off the bench when required, so I remain optimistic.
December will be a crucial month which will test our credentials to the full. A decent haul of points over the next few weeks would not only mean a Happy Christmas at Vale Park but could pave the way for a very interesting second half of the season.
The Cup game at City at the beginning of January will be a great experience for the Club and its supporters but it’s almost certain to be a one off and once it’s over we have to concentrate on climbing the League table. That is still the number one priority.