Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughPort Vale battle on despite the financial mess - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Port Vale battle on despite the financial mess - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Port Vale battle on despite the financial mess

One of the most enduring plotlines in the Football League soap opera is the events at Vale Park and the financial troubles that have encapsulated Port Vale that have frustrated all involved the club for as long as the mind can cast back to, and still shows no sign of letting off despite dominating the headlines at the Staffordshire club for the majority of the summer.

Despite finally seeing off the cancer of the last boardroom make-up of Bill Bratt and his party of suspect business men that ran the club to the brink of financial ruin, the Valiants are still hindered by the mysterious cloud that Bratt, together with Perry Deakin and Peter Miller, cast over the club. Inevitably, their passing was met by the club crashing into administration in March and news of players failing to be paid was just one branch of the murky labyrinth that spread from the heart of the club and threatened to engulf them with near extinction. Vale were slapped with a transfer embargo, the seemingly default course of action when a club fails to meet its tax duties which is what Vale struggled to do following the catastrophic £8 million collapse of the much lauded deal with Blue Sky International Investment that was supposed to be the justifying moment of the club’s past ownership.

It was a heavy reliance on the local council’s appreciation of the importance the club has to the local area and the Staffordshire community that kept it going to a large extent, on top of a loan of £2.25 million granted to the club some time ago, they agreed to underwrite the cost of its administration at the time when resources were stretched considerably by a number of politically driven cuts. Aware that the club could not rely on the public body for much longer, a new owner had to be found with due haste else it would risk liquidation, a fate that would be heart-breaking to all involved with an historic club ruined from inside by a corrupt group of individuals.

Clubs are now met with the firm hand of punishment when it doesn’t comply with HMRC as Rangers have so dramatically discovered up in Scotland, and the transfer embargo hindered manager Micky Adams’ attempts to improve his promotion chasing squad with a move for midfielder Chris Birchall. Adams grew infuriated with goings-on at Vale Park including the ten-point that hammered the nail in the coffin of Vale’s promotion hopes that looked so promising earlier in the season. News that the manager was seeking legal advice amid the club’s failure to pay his players grew into speculation that he would walk away from the Burslem club for the second time which really would have left a damaging mess considering it has been Adams experience and calming assurance that has contributed largely to Vale’s relative consolidation on the pitch during difficult times; despite the deduction, they still managed to finish in the comfortable regions of League Two’s mid-table last season with a high optimism that the last board hang-over was long gone and it would emerge from the summer in a position to make a significant challenge for promotion from the basement division.

Adams indeed stayed and local business man Mo Chaudry was presented with the chance to finally follow through on his desire to buy the club, but once he failed to come good with the money, angry that other bidders were allowed to remain anonymous, it opened the door for little known Keith Ryder to make his interest in the club a little more concrete. Ryder had history of investing in the club, loaning them £100,000 back in January to ease cash flow problems, and early dealings with supporters in the takeover process to which he appeared amicable and communicative, things were beginning to look very positive as Vale approached the new season. Yet, as now synonymous with this whole dark episode in Burslem, Ryder began to experience turbulence during his attempts to buy the club. His money was ploughed into the club to fund a pre-season tour of Ireland, to fund July’s wage bill and to hand Micky Adams a bigger transfer budget from which he managed to stretch the wage bill enough to acquire the likes of Jennison Myrie-Williams, Ashley Vincent, Chris Neal, Richard Duffy, Darren Murphy and Ben Williamson all on free transfers.

It was another free transfer, that of ex-Crewe defender David Artell that began to expose the holes in the Ryder takeover however. When it was clear the potential new owner could not find the £1.3 million to complete his deal for the club, contracts had to be re-negotiated and Artell saw enough to warrant his departure to Northampton Town, unhappy by his reduced terms. Following the collapse of the deal with Ryder, administrator Bob Young is still searching desperately for a new buyer with a growing concern that the club will eventually fall into liquidation within nine months.

With the club still in disarray, Adams guided the club into the new season with a squad unsure of their immediate futures, and managed a 3-0 victory over Barnet at the weekend. Louis Dodds, Tom Pope and a Myrie-Williams penalty ensured the convincing victory to indicate it may be another season of modest achievement against the odds for Adams’ men, but there is an underlying feeling, that still exists after 18 long months, that all the efforts of the fans, the council and the manager who has attracted some deserved respect for his loyal persistence, could all be in vein. A decent opening day win of a season that could well be, as an ever-growing prospect, Vale’s last in the Football League.