The wheels on the Port Vale wagon are in danger of well and truly falling off and it is caretaker manager Michael Brown who is now having to shoulder the responsibility of securing the club’s survival in League One.
And let’s make no mistake, the 40-year-old now has one hell of a job on his hands if he is to steer the club to safety in his first managerial role.
A difficult current state of affairs
Brown stepped into the breach following the resignation of Portuguese coach Bruno Ribiero on Boxing Day, inheriting a team that was entrenched in a winless run and was sliding the wrong way down the table. To make matters worse he has been forced to endure a tortuous January transfer window that has seen Port Vale stripped of some of their prized assets by rival clubs and being replaced by inexperienced youngsters on short-term loan deals.
Top goal scorer Alex Jones elected to join Bradford City when his loan deal expired whilst Jak Alnwick and Anthony Grant, arguably two of the club’s most influential players, departed on deadline day to Glasgow Rangers and Peterborough respectively. In essence the club sold the spine of the team with the only minor positive being that central defenders Remie Streete and Nathan Smith were not tempted away by any rival teams.
However, despite the considerable financial income generated by the player sales Brown has struggled to fill the obvious gaps that were left in his playing squad.
When the transfer window slammed shut at 11:00pm on deadline day Vale had secured the signings of Scott Tanser, Danny Pugh and Chris Eagles on free transfers plus five promising youngsters from Championship and Scottish Premier League clubs. Callum Guy (from Derby County), Tyler Walker (Nottingham Forest), Leo Fasan (Glasgow Celtic), Olamide Shodipo and Alex Prohouly (both from Queens Park Rangers) all arrived on loan until the end of the season.
The end result is that Vale are now left with a first-time manager leading a struggling squad of inexperienced young players.
Brown almost certainly would have wanted to have brought in players who have proven themselves in the Football League during the January window but has been left having to place much of his faith promising youngsters.
The challenge ahead and what is required
The Valiants now sit in 19th place in League One, just four points above the relegation zone, and have won just two of their last sixteen league fixtures. A season that started so promisingly could now realistically end in a drop into the fourth tier of English football and supporters now have to hope that Brown can turn the tide at Vale Park.
Quite where the blame should lie for the current state of events at Vale Park is irrelevant – there will be plenty of time for reviews and finger pointing when the summer arrives. Instead, Port Vale requires the support of their fan-base now more than ever before if the club is to avoid slipping into League Two. Supporters now have to unite behind Brown and give the new cohort of young players the backing that they need so that they can take to the pitch with confidence.
Things may not be perfect, but all is not lost.
If Brown can steer Vale to safety then the team will have the opportunity to undergo an extensive rebuilding project during the summer. From there, The Valiants will require stability, consistency and patience if the club is to grow into a genuine contender for promotion before the turn of the decade. A long term plan will be required in order to create a bright future, but first the club must overcome the immediate threat of relegation that it faces.
And that will require the caretaker manager and his new-look squad of youngsters being backed to the hilt by the Port Vale faithful.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved Leam David (Leam David)