Port Vale striker Tom Pope says his four goals against Rotherham and gaining promotion with the club he supports are among his career highlights, after he reached 500 league appearances against Mansfield Town yesterday.
Popey returned to the side and was named as captain in a 2-2 draw against The Stags on a boiling Saturday afternoon in Burslem, where a late Nathan Smith equaliser rescued a point for the Valiants.
The past 12 months have been full of record-breaking moments and millstones for the captain. From becoming Vale Park’s all-time leading goal scorer to joining the 100 club with his 100th goal for Vale back in March, reaching 500 league appearances is another achievement to add to the list for Pope.
In his two spells at the club, the striker has certainly seen his fair share of highs and lows, played with numerous players and played under several managers. Looking back on his career after the Mansfield draw, Popey reflected on his favourite moments during the 500 games.
“The Rotherham game, obviously scoring four goals is one game I’ll never forget and just getting promotion. I know people always think strikers are selfish and it’s all about them, but I don’t judge my game on goals and I never have. If I’m winning my headers, getting hold of the ball and bringing players into the game then I’m doing my job, I’m there to be a target man.
“But promotion, just to end a great season that we had, a consistent season where we stuck together, that will always be my highlight. [Best player to share a dressing room with] Doddsy by a mile, for banter, for the crack, he’ll do anything for you. Just a proper nice lad.
“To be fair you don’t meet many bad people in football, your all part of the same trade and you all get on. The lads all get on and have good crack, I try my best to get along with as many as I can really.”
The Rotherham game Pope mentions was one that will be fondly remembered by many Vale fans in what was a memorable season for the club. A 6-2 victory on the day was helped by Popey scoring four against his former side with Vale’s opening four goals coming before half an hour.
Whilst Pope mentions former teammate Louis Dodds as the best player he’s shared a dressing room with, the captain says there’s one player in this Vale side who’s got the potential to all the way because of their quality.
Defender James Gibbons has been up there as one of the Vale’s top performers since the start of the new season and has received consistent praise from the likes of Popey and manager John Askey. At the young age of 21, Popey insists Gibbons has everything.
“He’s nasty, angry, dedicated, works his socks off and doesn’t know how good he is. I think that’s a massive sign, he doesn’t let anything get to his head.
“You see some young lads come into a team, play a few games and start swanning around the pitch like they’ve played a thousand games or scored a million goals.
“Gibbo every week puts in a proper shift and works his socks off. I love Nathan Smith as well but Smudger just can’t pass a ball that’s his trouble! I think Gibbo’s going to be the one that goes onto bigger and better things.”