Cristiano Ronaldo's role in Tom Pope's Port Vale renaissance
STRIKER Tom Pope is putting his new-found popularity with Port Vale fans down to hard work... and a little help from Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 27-year-old front man says putting in maximum effort has endeared him to supporters as much as the nine goals he's scored so far.
Pope goes gunning for double figures at Exeter City today (3pm) and the promise of another whole-hearted approach.
"Three or four years ago, I went to watch Manchester United when Ronaldo was playing," he said.
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"He'd just been voted the best player in the world, but the fans were booing him.
"He kept losing the ball, didn't chase back once and was waving his arms at his team-mates, so the supporters got on his back.
"If the best players in world can be booed for being lazy, then you can expect it to happen at places like this.
"So no matter how well or poorly I'm playing, I'll work as hard as I possibly can and give 100 per cent.
"And if I do have a bad game, it won't be through lack of trying.
"If you work as hard as you can, the fans will stick by you and that's what I've been doing."
Pope came in for some stick from sections of the Vale Park crowd last season, but seems to have become something of a fans' favourite this time around.
"Our fans have been brilliant this season," he said, "particularly on our travels when they've made it feel like a home game at times.
"I hope it's the same at Exeter. They're a club who don't have a massive following, and even though it's a long way, our fans will be there in numbers.
"It makes the atmosphere feel special, and the players love it.
"We'll fancy our chances at Exeter, even though we're playing a side in form."
THE Roy Sproson statue will be unveiled at Vale Park before the home game against York on Saturday, November 17.
Supporters' club chairman Pete Williams said: "We intend to make it a memorable day for everyone connected to Port Vale and we'll be releasing more details in the coming days."