Martin Tideswell: Cuddles, not criticism, key to Port Vale resurgence says Smurthwaite
NORMAN Smurthwaite says he knows exactly what the Port Vale players and manager need right now – and it's not criticism.
The club's chief executive and co-owner has witnessed at first-hand just what Micky Adams and some of his under-fire players have been going through.
And he has called on fans, both at home and away games, to get right behind whoever wears the shirt.
Smurthwaite said: "What the players and the manager need at this moment in time is a cuddle. They need us – the owners, the staff at the club and – crucially – the fans, to put our arms around them and make them feel warm and loved.
"We can all see what is going on. We know that results haven't been going for us, but criticising the players and the manager who have put us in the automatic promotion places won't help.
"Every other team and set of fans is out to get us. Our team and our manager are there to be shot at, and we can help take some of the heat off them by encouraging and supporting them at this difficult time.
"The younger players aren't daft. They know that this is their time and they know that unless they do the business they could end up painting and decorating Vale Park rather than playing here, which is a real privilege.
"Of course, fans are entitled to their opinions and I understand their frustrations, but the truth is that everyone at the club is just as disappointed as them at the way things have gone recently.
"I can assure the supporters that no-one hurts more than the players and the manager when we get beat. Micky Adams is a proud man and he doesn't accept failure."
On the subject of the manager, Smurthwaite was unequivocal in his support.
He said: "Micky Adams is going nowhere. He will be at York on Saturday, he will be with us until the end of the season and I fully expect him to be with us next season when we will hopefully be in League One.
"There is no doubt that Micky Adams was one of the key reasons for me buying this football club.
"As much as I saw potential in the stadium, I could see that we were lucky at this level to have a manager of his calibre and experience.
"I was also struck with what he and the group of players he had assembled had achieved in the early part of the season before we came in and spent money to strengthen the squad.
"If ever I'm feeling low I think back to that terrific day in the FA Cup at Sheffield United. I was so incredibly proud – even though we lost the game.
"On that day I saw our potential. I saw how we could stand toe-to-toe with teams from a higher level, play good football and have fantastic supporters.
"It is about re-discovering the spirit of earlier on in the season when the club was fighting for its life."
Vale's dressing room spirit was questioned this week when midfielder Ryan Burge took to Twitter to claim he was just five minutes away from Bristol Rovers ground on Tuesday when he received a text saying he was not in Adams's squad.
Asked what he thought about players voicing their disappointment at being left out of the squad on social media, Smurthwaite said he was disappointed.
He added: "In a perfect world this kind of thing wouldn't happen and issues between the manager and the players would remain behind closed doors.
"However, I trust the manager and the players to get their heads together and sort these kind of things out.
"They are grown-ups and they're paid to do a job. This isn't the time for fallings out.
"At the end of the day we need the best possible team out on the pitch on Saturday – irrespective of personal grievances."
Despite Vale's recent poor run, Smurthwaite said he was still "loving" the challenge.
He added: "It was unfortunate, but I had to be away for a few days and I returned to a real storm.
"But nothing will divert myself or Paul (Wildes) from our goals. We are here for the long-haul.
"I hope that the fans can see that we're doing our bit and are happy with what we are doing.
"It is a massive learning curve because we are still relative newcomers to the business of football, but I'd like to think the fans can see that we've done everything that's been asked of us.
"As an example, the wage bill for players and player support has gone up by 40 per cent in the time we've been here. That's a significant investment to try to help the manager.
"Paul and I, and our staff, are working hard – perhaps doing the not-so-glamorous things which make the business sustainable because we want to build Port Vale up and go higher.
"There are lots of positives, lots of things we are working on which the supporters aren't aware of just yet, but which will help the club down the line and improve the experience for fans.
"However, we understand fully that all that matters in the end to our customers is what happens out on the pitch on a Saturday or a Tuesday evening.
"I don't believe that our early season form was a fluke. The fans know what our lads are capable of. We've seen the best of them and we'll see it again soon – I've no doubt about that."