Port Vale: Purse out to make different type of impact on Vale fans
DARREN Purse has returned to Burslem with an apology for flattening a Port Vale hero.
Purse introduced himself to Vale fans 15 years ago as the Valiants were pushing for a play-off place – and promotion to the Premier League – by flooring Lee Mills with an elbow and getting sent off for Oxford.
"I broke his nose," recalled Purse, who became a Vale player yesterday until the end of the season after leaving Plymouth Argyle by mutual consent.
"I did my B licence coaching badge with Millsy and the first thing I did was apologise to him.
"I was a young lad, only 19, and I was very naive. I was rightly sent off. It was terrible what I did. I've apologised a few times now for it and he's been brilliant with me. He's a top man.
"It was stupidity from a young professional and a long time ago. I'm surprised anyone can still remember."
From those early days at Denis Smith's Oxford, the 35-year-old, who had joined from Leyton Orient, has gone on to clock up more than 500 league appearances.
He has played in the Premier League and a League Cup final with Birmingham and, at the other end of the spectrum, been involved in a dogfight to stay in the Football League with Plymouth.
"I went to Plymouth late in 2011 and they were really in the mire," he said.
"Peter Ridsdale, who I knew from my Cardiff days, took me there and what happened over the next few months were probably the best in my career.
"We were nine points from safety with about 24 games to go, but we managed to do it."
It meant Purse was in an unusual position on Saturday as he sat in the stands at Vale Park watching the club he had just left get ripped apart by his new employers.
"It was weird, especially because I was sitting next to John Sheridan, who was about to be appointed as the new Plymouth manager," he said.
"It was a surreal afternoon. I wouldn't say I had split loyalties because I wanted Vale to win, but I would have liked a tight 1-0 rather than see Plymouth get battered."
Purse had been on the wrong end of the Vale juggernaut back in September when he featured as Argyle lost 3-1.
At least he managed to keep Tom Pope quiet, no mean feat this season.
He addeed: "For 70 minutes we dominated the game, but in the last 20 minutes they ran away with it.
"That's the main difference. Vale have a lot of goals in their side. You look at the front four from the weekend, and with Louis Dodds to come in as well, you feel like they are going to score on every attack.
"As a defender that helps you out massively because you think if you do concede, you have the ability to score two, and if you keep a clean sheet then you have a massive chance to win the game."
Purse has played 22 games for Plymouth this season and does not feel like he is winding down his old legs just yet.
He missed the last two matches while sealing his move north, but is fit and ready to be unleashed when Vale travel to League Two leaders Gillingham this weekend.
"I'm an old git, but you can't buy experience, at least that's what I keep telling everyone," he joked.
"I'm a no-nonsense defender, and that's what I've always been portrayed as. I can play a bit of football if I need to, but I like to organise and motivate people.
"I am what it says on the tin, and hopefully Vale fans will see that over the next few months.
"People will probably say I'm at the back end of my career, but I feel good. I love training every day and haven't missed too many games through injury, touch wood.
"Hopefully I can help the club to promotion this season and then we'll see where we stand in the summer. I've got aspirations to go into coaching at some point."