Port Vale: New chairman Paul Wildes given standing ovation after takeover completion
PAUL Wildes was given a standing ovation as he was introduced to Port Vale fans as the club's new chairman with a pledge to help secure promotion.
Wildes and his business partner Norman Smurthwaite completed a £1.25m takeover of the club less than two hours before a thumping 4-0 win over Bristol Rovers last night, in which Tom Pope scored a hat-trick to make him the quickest Vale player to reach the 20-goal mark.
• GALLERY: Match Action: Port Vale 4 Bristol Rovers 0
The win keeps the Valiants second in League Two.
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It marks the end of a turbulent chapter for the club, which had a debt of £2.69m when it was put into administration by Stoke-on-Trent City Council in March shortly after HM Revenue and Customs had issued a winding-up order.
The Sentinel has already revealed that the city council is set to recover about £740,000 from the £2.3 million it is owed from a 2006 loan and cash it has provided to help keep the club afloat.
A transfer embargo has now been lifted and manager Micky Adams is expected to bolster his promotion-chasing squad by bringing in new blood before the loan transfer window shuts tomorrow.
Wildes, aged 38, said: "I would like to say we gave the team talk before the game, but we can't take credit for that.
"Myself and Norman are looking forward to 10, 15, 20 years taking Port Vale back to where it should be, that's making it part of the community and something quite special both on and off the field.
"We will hold a fans' forum next week when we will look to answer any questions anyone might have and we are looking forward to the next six months, getting the club into League One and going on from there." Smurthwaite, aged 52, who will continue in the role of chief executive he actually assumed at the start of this month, urged supporters to help pack Vale Park.
"The performances of the team this season have made our decision to invest a lot easier," said Smurthwaite, who will be joined at the club by new operations director Mike Aspinall and finance director Robin Anderson.
"I expect there will be challenges ahead, but I want everyone to grab hold of those fans who have not been here this season to come and show their support. We will dedicate ourselves to the club and we hope the fans will help us in return."
Bob Young, of administrators Begbies Traynor, who confirmed the takeover to Adams and his first-team squad an hour-and-a-quarter before last night's victory, said: "There were big smiles all round that it had all gone through, and Micky had the biggest smile that I had ever seen.
"It was frustrating when we had done all our due diligence and for some reason Keith Ryder did not complete, but the silver lining is that it has brought this new party to the club.
"There was more interest when the club went back on the market, ironically probably due to the publicity that had been generated from the deal collapsing. There were three parties who could have come in and done the job and Paul and Norman were the best option."
The deal was ratified yesterday when the Football League gave its approval and transferred its all-important "golden share".
Football League chairman Greg Clarke said: "I would like to thank Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite for their efforts in rescuing Port Vale. We will continue to monitor the situation at the club over the coming years to help ensure it remains on an even financial footing."
Supporters' club chairman Pete Williams said: "An enormous thank you goes to all of the fans who protested, collected in buckets and made their voices heard during the months and years when Port Vale was being run into the ground.
"Their passion for their club was evident for all to see and no-one will forget their sacrifices and dedication."