The FA Cup proper kicks off this weekend, and Vale face the tough test of fellow League One side Exeter City at Vale Park in the first round.
Vale have had a strong record in the competition in recent years, making the third round in two of the last three campaigns, including last year’s tie with Brentford, and the momentous trip to Manchester City in the 2019/20 season.
However, the Valiants face a stern challenge in the first round of this year’s cup, and we will have to be at our very best if we want to be in the hat for the second round.
Exeter City also managed to get past the first round last year but fell in the second round to Cambridge United, who went on to beat Newcastle United in the third round.
Vale will be coming into the match high in confidence after they twice came from behind to earn a point against Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday night.
The Grecians will travel to Burslem off the back of defeat in the Devon Derby, with their bitter rivals, Plymouth Argyle, coming from 2-1 down to beat them 4-2 at Home Park.
Both teams will be aiming to succeed in this year’s installment of the FA Cup, and Vale will be looking to continue their fine record in the competition, so before the teams collide on Saturday, here is what you need to know about Exeter.
ONE TO WATCH: Jay Stansfield
A player to look out for on Saturday is their number nine Jay Stansfield, who is currently on loan at the Grecians from Premier League side, Fulham.
The striker is the son of Exeter legend Adam Stansfield, who sadly passed away in 2010 at the young age of just 31.
Stansfield was given the number nine shirt, which was previously retired after being worn by his father.
The 19-year-old was previously at the Grecians academy before being signed by Fulham in 2019 when they were in the Championship.
Stansfield made his debut for the Cottagers at just 17 years old, in this very competition, when he came on as an 88th-minute substitute in a third-round clash with Aston Villa in 2020.
The young striker has since made seven more appearances for his home club Fulham, including three this season in the Premier League.
Exeter brought in the attacker on loan at the last minute, signing him on deadline day this summer in an emotional announcement.
Stansfield has adapted to life well in Devon and has scored four goals while assisting three times in his 12 matches for the club so far.
Darrell Clarke will be looking to nullify the youngster's threat as we attempt to progress through the competition on Saturday.
THE MAN AT THE HELM: Gary Caldwell
The Grecians made the appointment of former Scottish international, Gary Caldwell, on the 24th October this year after their previous manager, Matt Taylor, left for Rotherham United earlier in the month.
Caldwell had been out of management for three years before the call came from Exeter, with his last role in coaching coming in 2019, as boss at Partick Thistle.
The Scotsman had an impressive playing career before his move into the dugout, playing over 400 appearances as a Centre-Back.
Standing at 5 foot 11, Caldwell was very good at the back and played at many top clubs including, Newcastle United, Derby County, Celtic, and Wigan Athletic.
His most successful years came at his last two clubs as he won two Scottish league titles at Celtic, before winning an FA Cup during his five years at the Latics.
Caldwell also made 55 appearances for his native Scotland, scoring two goals in his 11-year stint in blue, a brilliant achievement for the proud Scot.
After retiring as a player in 2015, the 40-year-old joined the coaching staff at Wigan before being appointed manager in April of the same year.
Caldwell had a strong first full season in management, guiding the Latics to the League One title and to the Championship after relegation the previous season.
The 40-year-old left the club the season after and was appointed as the main man at Chesterfield in 2017, before spending time as a boss in Scotland with Partick Thistle a year later.
After a little break away from the sport, Caldwell is back, and with a tough first few fixtures at the helm, he will be hoping to get some wins under his belt soon.
STADIUM: St. James Park
We made the trip to Devon earlier this campaign, unfortunately losing to the Grecians 4-0, and if we draw with Exeter this Saturday, the Valiants will make another trip down south for a replay.
Built in 1904, St.James Park has seen lots of improvements in the last few years, including the ‘Stagecoach Adam Stansfield stand’ being added to the ground.
Hopefully, the Valiants will get the victory on Saturday and not have to travel down to Exeter for a replay, but if they do, the away fans will be situated in the Marsh Kia St James Road Stand.
HEAD-TO-HEAD LAST FIVE:
Vale wins: 3
Exeter wins: 1
The loss in August is the only blemish for Vale on their recent record against the Grecians, with three victories going the way of the Valiants in recent years, including the memorable 1-0 win to secure a playoff spot last season.