Port Vale: Potent Tom Pope proves he's lethal in front of goal
PREDATOR Tom Pope is relishing being one of Europe's deadliest marksmen after bagging his 16th league goal of the season from just 24 shots on target.
The 27-year-old has fired Vale to second in League Two with the third best scoring record in European professional football ... and a conversion rate far better than the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have managed this term.
Burnley's 20-goal Charlie Austin, the top scorer in England right now, and Real Madrid's 18-goal Ronaldo may have scored more goals than Pope, who has 17 in all competitions.
But no-one comes close to matching the efficiency of Pope, with 64 per cent of his efforts on target finding the back of the net.
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Ronaldo has needed 70 shots to score his 11 La Liga goals while Austin has needed 54 for his 16 strikes in the Championship.
Even Messi has needed 56 shots to score his 13 La Liga goals.
"It's an incredible proportion and, to be fair, I don't really get that many chances," said Pope, who knocked in his latest two goals in Vale's 2-2 draw with Rochdale on Tuesday.
"I have always believed I have had the ability, I've just needed good balls into the box – and I've had that this year with Jennison Myrie-Williams and Ashley Vincent.
"I am not one of those players like a Messi or a Ronaldo who can score 40-yarders or take three players on and bury one.
"I rely heavily on what other players do, and if they keep putting balls in the right places, I will put them away."
Myrie-Williams tops League Two's assists charts by teeing up six goals, while his opposite flank man Vincent comes in closely behind with four.
If they can keep supplying the crosses, Pope is confident he can fire his boyhood club to automatic promotion.
He added: "Last season was difficult because we didn't really have any out-and-out wingers, just phases when Rob Taylor and Sean Rigg played out there.
"I've already broken my season target, but I'm not going to rest on my laurels. I want this club to be promoted and we'll need every goal I can muster to do that."
The fastest Vale player in history to score 20 goals in a season was Wilf Kirkham back in the 1925/26 campaign, who reached that landmark by November 21.
That gives Pope three matches, starting with a trip to Southend on Saturday, to get himself into the record books. Then he can start chasing the overall 35-goal haul Kirkham notched in that season.
Pope, who only had 30 career goals before August, is the first to laugh at the irony he could soon be breaking records, even if the record 43 strikes Joe Brough managed for the Valiants in 1909/10 still seems a long way away.
He said: "I had gone three games without scoring before I got two against Rochdale, and for me normally that's not too bad.
"But as a forward you want to score as many as you can, and with the form I'm now in I feel like I'm going to score week in, week out."