Martin Tideswell: It's time to ensure our star players stick around
THE fact that Micky Adams was able to throw Lee Hughes straight into the team against Gillingham was priceless.
It was the transfer window equivalent of sticking two fingers up to that nice Martin Allen and saying: "See him? He's ours."
Game in hand or no game in hand, it represented a stealing of the initiative in the title race by a club who, just six months ago, didn't have two ha'pennies to rub together.
As it transpired, Hughes's debut was a decent one and we got what we expected – plenty of attitude and, crucially, the nous of a 36-year-old who's played and scored at every level.
Visiting the Home & Garden show this Sunday?
We will have some exclusive deals for you so make sure you visit our stand and say hello
Terms: With free entry just visit the show at the Moat House hotel Festival Park between 11am and 4pm and pick up a leaflet
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Sunday, June 23 2013
I felt for Ben Williamson and Louis Dodds, who missed out, but Hughes's inclusion in the starting XI made absolute sense.
For me, the likes of Dodds and Williamson have a great future ahead of them and will doubtless play a role between now and the end of the season.
As Mark Grew pointed out earlier this week, "it's horses for courses" from now on and the addition of experienced players has given Adams the options to adopt that frame of mind.
We may bring in one or two more players by the end of the month, but I think the squad is now strong enough to win automatic promotion.
The acquisition of Darren Purse brings vital steel and leadership to the centre of a defence which is missing John McCombe.
No-one is daft enough to start counting chickens, but the Gillingham win was massive in that it gave us a vital cushion over the teams in third place and below.
There are 19 games remaining and if Vale can win nine of them and draw a few we should go up automatically.
It's five in five now for the Pontiff, who looks a good bet to reach Andy Jones's total of 37 goals in a season if he stays fit and suspension free.
Finally, a word for someone who is a bit of an unsung hero.
For me, Micky's most important summer signing was Chris Neal, the best goalkeeper I've seen at Vale Park for many years.
It is my fervent hope that, in close liaison with the gaffer, the new owners are offering longer deals to the likes of Neal, Pope, Vincent, Myrie-Williams, Dodds and Williamson.
Without getting carried away, we are now finally building for the future and it's a great position to be in.