A big game approaches this weekend, as the Valiants make the trip to face Derby County at Pride Park, the first time Vale have travelled to Derby since 1995.
The Rams’ story of how they were relegated to the third tier is well known across the footballing world, with the East Midlands side missing out on survival as they finished in 23rd place.
Coming into this match, the hosts are in good form in the league after a 2-0 win away at Cambridge last week and a home victory versus Wycombe Wanderers before that.
Vale have had a tough run of fixtures coming into the clash with the Rams, with their latest result a narrow loss to Sheffield Wednesday at Vale Park
Saturday’s match will be a big one, with the sides having not faced off in 26 years, so if you want some interesting pre-match reading on Saturday’s hosts, this is the article for it.
ONE TO WATCH: Conor Hourihane
Irish International midfielder, Conor Hourihane, will be the one to keep an eye on when it comes to Saturday’s clash, with the former Premier League player already making an impact at Pride Park early on in his time at the Rams.
In the summer, Derby majorly revamped their squad in preparation for life in League One, with one of those big transfers being Hourihane coming to the club.
The signing of the 31-year-old was a major coup for the East Midlands side, with the midfielder joining with an impressive CV.
The Irishman started off his career in the Northeast with Sunderland after he spent his late academy days at the Black cats, but unfortunately, he never managed a senior start at the club.
A stint at Ipswich Town then followed, but Hourihane’s career really kicked into motion after he moved to Plymouth Argyle in 2011.
Hourihane played over 140 times for the Pilgrims including 100 as Captain, managing 16 goals during his three seasons at the club.
His impressive displays on the south coast earned him a move up to South Yorkshire where he signed for Barnsley in 2014.
Once again, the Irishman’s leadership qualities saw him made captain in his second season at the club, and in that very season he lifted two trophies at Wembley, the now Papa John’s Trophy, and the coveted Sky Bet League One Play-Off trophy after beating Millwall 3-1.
Six months after life in the Championship with the Tykes, the midfielder made his big move to Aston Villa in January of 2017.
18 months later, Hourihane was in another play-off final, this time the Championship version with the Villains, but this time the Irishman came out on the wrong side of the result as Villa lost 1-0 to Fulham.
Fast forward a year, and once again the 31-year-old was in another play-off final with Villa, and this time he tasted success like his time at Barnsley, as the Villains defeated his current club Derby County 2-1 at Wembley.
Hourihane featured 27 times in his first Premier League season, scoring three goals in that time, meaning he had scored in all four levels of English Football, a huge feat.
Loan spells at Swansea City and Sheffield United then followed before his move to Derbyshire upon the expiration of his contract with top-tier side Villa.
The midfielder has also had the pleasure of playing for his country, getting capped a total of 36 times for the Republic of Ireland, with the first being in 2017 against Iceland at the Aviva Stadium.
Two years after his first cap for his country, Hourihane scored his first, and currently only goal for the Irish, in a 1-0 win over Georgia.
With the International and Premier League experience the Irish international brings to the table, he is one of the top players in the division, and so far, he has enjoyed a good start to life at Pride Park with a total of 4 goal involvements so far this season.
Darrell Clarke will know of Hourihane’s quality and will look to nullify the midfielder when Vale face the Rams this weekend.
THE MAN AT THE HELM: Paul Warne
There is a new man in the dugout at Derby County, and it is a man we have already faced once this season, Paul Warne.
Warne joined the Rams towards the end of September, leaving Rotherham United, who we faced in the Carabao Cup first round earlier this season.
The 49-year-old has not been in the job long but has enjoyed a good start after a win away at Cambridge United in his only league match in charge so far.
County’s new gaffer enjoyed a successful playing career before management, which included nine years at the Millers in two spells, and in the first period, he played a part in back-to-back promotions to the Championship.
Playing as a midfielder in his day, Warne also had spells at Yeovil Town and Oldham Athletic between his time in South Yorkshire.
After his playing days were over, he then became a full-time fitness coach when Steve Evans took up the Rotherham hot seat, a role he continued in when Neil Redfearn came in.
In November 2016 Warne’s time in the hot seat came when he became caretaker boss at the Yorkshire club, and then the permanent gaffer in April 2017.
In his time at Rotherham, Warne oversaw both promotions and relegations, but after the Millers’ most recent promotion success, the season started well under his leadership.
After nearly six years in the dugout at Rotherham, Warne was approached by the Rams and saw it as the right time to move on to his second job in management.
This Saturday will be the new Derby manager’s first home match in charge, and Vale will be looking to turn up and spoil his welcoming party.
STADIUM: Pride Park Stadium
Vale have never faced Derby at Pride Park, so it will be a new stadium for the Valiants fans, with 2,700 of the Vale faithful travelling to the game.
The stadium was opened in 1997, just one year after the last clash between the two sides, replacing their former ground The Baseball Ground.
With a capacity of 33,597, Pride Park is the second biggest stadium in the division to Hillsborough Stadium.
The record attendance of the ground is the current maximum capacity and that occurred when England faced Mexico in 2001 in a packed-out stadium.
HEAD-TO-HEAD LAST FIVE:
Vale wins: 1
Derby wins: 2
You have to go back to 1996 to find the last time these two met, which ended in a 1-1 draw at Vale Park.
The last win for Vale against Saturday’s opposition was in 1995 when the Valiants beat the Rams 1-0 at Vale Park.
Unfortunately, this weekend’s hosts come out on top in the head-to-head from the last five matches, but with the sides not having played each other for over two decades, it will be an interesting watch on Saturday.