Port Vale round-up: Eagles overcomes personal tragedy; Kiko confident of survival; former striker not set to feature
Chris Eagles has revealed that he is happy to back playing football again after overcoming a personal tragedy and is confident that Port Vale have the quality within the current squad to climb out of the relegation zone.
The 31-year-old began his career at Manchester United and has previously played in the Premier League with Burnley and Bolton Wanderers. However, after he and his partner lost his son during childbirth in 2015 the midfielder elected to take some time out of the game. He told the Stoke Sentinel:
“I lost my son and we had stillbirth. It was a difficult time. I wanted time out”.
Last season Eagles joined Bury but failed to cement his place in the starting eleven and proceeded to play for Accrington Stanley earlier this campaign before joining Port Vale in January. Michael Brown handed the experienced wide-man his first start last weekend and Eagles explained to the Stoke Sentinel that he was happy to be back playing again.
“This year I believe I am happy. The fans have been brilliant and the club so far, from what I have seen, has been really good. Having a manager that believes in you … there is nothing better. If you have a boss that has faith and confidence in you then you are going to be happy. That is how I feel.”
Vale secured a point against Bristol Rovers at the weekend but dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this campaign, but Eagles believes that The Valiants have enough quality to secure safety.
“I am very confident that there is no chance we will go down. That is just my opinion. It has not even crossed my mind to be honest. The players that are here, they have played at a higher level – Danny [Pugh] has played higher and JT [Jerome Thomas] has.”
The experienced midfielder admitted that the rough-and-tumble nature of lower league football had taken some time to get used to, but that he was enjoying his football once again.
“The higher up you go, you can get on the ball, turn, run with it and create. But here it is very physical. People are right up your back as soon as you get the ball. It is just something that I have to learn, but I am loving every minute of it here.”
Bradford City manager Stuart McCall has revealed that former Port Vale striker Alex Jones will not feature against his old club when the two sides clash on Saturday.
The 22-year-old scored 10 goals in 21 appearances for The Valiants earlier in the season after joining on loan from Championship strugglers Birmingham City in the summer. However, when his initial loan deal expired in January Jones opted to sign for Bradford City rather than remain in North Staffordshire leaving Vale without a prolific goalscorer in their ranks – the striker is still technically their top scorer this season.
Jones has struggled with injuries since joining The Bantams, making just four appearances, and McCall told the Bradford Telegraph that the 22-year-old will not feature in this weekend’s fixture.
“Saturday will be too soon for Alex. Doing a bit of running with the physio is very different to joining with the rest – but the signs look promising at the moment. Hopefully Alex is on the med and will be available again before too long.”
Vale supporters will breathe a sigh of relief that their former star striker will not have the opportunity to come back and haunt them this weekend.
Portuguese defender Kiko insists that the current Port Vale squad need to “work hard” and play a “passing game” if they are to haul themselves away from the relegation zone.
The left-back was recalled to starting line-up at the weekend and played a pivotal role in The Valiants taking the lead after his cross was turned unwittingly into the back of the Bristol Rovers net by Bob Harris for an own goal. However, the visitors responded through Billy Bodin to secure a point and the result leaves Vale in the bottom four for the first time this campaign.
However, Kiko explained to the Port Vale official website that there were plenty of positives to take away from the contest.
“I think that the team had a good game and every player worked hard, but unfortunately they managed to get an equaliser. But if we keep working as hard as we did today then the victory will come. We need to work hard and play our passing game.”
The 24-year-old has found first team action hard to come by so far this campaign and his selection in the starting eleven last weekend was his first since mid-December. Kiko now has his eye set on keeping his place when The Valiants host Bradford City on Saturday.
“Whether it is me or Kjell or Tanser playing left back, we are all good players, so we will see. I will work for a starting position against Bradford next week.”
Port Vale Chairman Norman Smurthwaite has commented for the first time on crowd disturbances that took place in the away end during Saturday’s fixture against Bristol Rovers.
Clashes between stewards and visiting supporters erupting late in the second half inside the stadium whilst violence continued outside the ground after the final whistle. 30 Bristol Rovers supporters were ejected from Vale Park whilst there were also a number of arrests, including a steward who was detained on suspicion of assault. The weekend’s events have been widely reported across the mainstream media and Rovers chairman Steve Hamer described the treatment of away fans as a “disgrace” and has called for a full investigation.
Smurthwaite has released a short statement via Port Vale’s official website offering reassurances that the club is working behind the scenes to analyse and dissect the crowd disturbances.
“I would like to reassure everyone that myself, CBI (our security partners) and Staffordshire Police are currently investigating the disorder. The safety of all supporters and staff remains of paramount importance to us.”
It remains unclear as to the reason(s) behind Saturday’s events. Rovers supporters have complained of a lack of seating and heavy-handed policing whilst there have also been reports of a steward being racially abused. It is hoped that the on-going investigations will provide a clearer picture in the near future.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved Ben Stanley-Clarke (Ben Stanley- Clarke)