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Interviews

Darrell Clarke | “We will continue to grow and develop as a group”

16 September 2022

Interviews

Darrell Clarke | “We will continue to grow and develop as a group”

16 September 2022

Manager pleased with early season progress as the Vale prepare for Saturday’s visit of Shrewsbury Town to Vale Park.

  • Darrell Clarke | “We will continue to grow and develop as a group”
  • Port Vale manager discusses his side’s start on their return to League One, injury updates and Saturday’s visitors, Shrewsbury Town, who arrive at Vale Park on the back of consecutive victories.
  • Clarke: “We have got good players, a squad that I believe in and we can hurt teams – the confidence and morale in the camp is good with where we are heading as a group. There is a real togetherness; we have lads that have come in on loan and they cannot believe how good the environment and culture is at this football club, which is a real positive moving forward.”

Port Vale manager Darrell Clarke says he has been pleased with the way his side have competed in the early stages of their return to League One.

Clarke saw his side claim a point at Barnsley on Tuesday evening in a game that could have gone either way right until the final kick of the game when Funso Ojo forced a fine save from Brad Collins in the hosts’ goal.

Speaking to iFollow The Vale ahead of Saturday’s clash with Shrewsbury Town, Clarke said:

“The pleasing aspect for me – as a developing team who are getting used to League One – is that we have been in every game and we have played some of the top teams in Portsmouth and both Bolton and Barnsley, who I think will be up there.

“We are going to grow and develop as a group, that is for sure, but we are in those games at the minute and fighting and scrapping (doing what we need to do) while players are getting that experience and the levels that we need to compete on a consistent basis.

“Dan Jones made his first-ever League One start on Tuesday night and several players haven’t had too many League One starts, so we are growing as a group – our average age is probably 23 or 24 and we are only going to get stronger.

“We believe in what we are doing; I believe in my coaching staff in terms of what we are trying to do and trying to implement. We will reap the rewards as the season goes by, I don’t have a doubt about that.

“I have a tremendous backroom team; the backroom team put plenty of hours in to make sure that we get the right preparation and the coaching, whether hat be in the classroom, on the training pitch or in video analysis, one-to-one or unit work.  I have a fantastic analysis team – led by Michael Johnson – who do a hell of a lot of work and have that hunger to do well, that means we have every opportunity to keep developing as a football club.”

In contrast to Vale’s return to League One following a five-year absence, Saturday’s visitors are in their eighth consecutive third tier campaign and while Clarke is full of respect for the Shropshire side, he says his side know they can continue to add to their points tally this weekend.

“Shrewsbury are now in their eighth season in League One,” he explained. “They have recruited Championship and top-end League One players and they will have a good go at it, we expect a tough encounter. Steve Cotterill is a very experienced and successful manager so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are there or thereabouts.

“We have got good players, a squad that I believe in and we can hurt teams – the confidence and morale in the camp is good with where we are heading as a group.

“There is a real togetherness in the camp; we have lads that have come in on loan and they cannot believe how good the environment and culture is at this football club, which is a real positive moving forward. That is half the battle to be honest, because if you have players hearts and minds – which we have here – they’ll get better and better with the confidence and platform to perform.”

On his squad availability, Clarke had positive news on a number of first team players, though he did confirm to the press that Jamie Proctor is set for a spell on the sidelines.

“James [Wilson] has been training well,” he added. “He has more match minutes now and he is in the thought process to start on Saturday.

“It is great to have him back, he is a huge talent in my opinion and when he is at it he is one of our better players, without a shadow of a doubt. Similar with Dennis [Politic] and Dan Butterworth, who are getting more training minutes at a higher intensity to get them fit.

“Gavin Massey is now coming to the boil and he looked really good when he came on the other day.

“When we are talking about James Wilson and Gavin Massey, we are talking about experienced players who you need in your team, when they’re fit.

“Brad Walker and Tom Conlon are both available too, though Jamie Proctor is now a long-term absentee which is unfortunate. He has had to have an operation on a hip injury which will rule him out for the foreseeable. It is disappointing because Jamie is a very efficient player for us but hasn’t been able to get himself going this season because of the problem that he got earlier on in the season.

“We have tremendous medical team here who are working very hard to get the players fit on a regular basis and the club should be very proud of that team because it is going to be really good for the club moving forward.”


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