Port Vale: Valiants' new owners eye community feel
THE new owners of Port Vale are planning to revive the club by taking it back to the heart of the community.
Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite believe that is the best way to recover a 'lost generation' of supporters and build a successful future.
The business partners revealed several new initiatives at last night's fans' forum at Vale Park, which was attended by 400 fans, but chairman Wildes insisted that was just the 'tip of the iceberg'.
"People who have supported us in the past have actually gone to support Stoke these days," he said.
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"You don't have to look very far back to see the two clubs in the same division, but while Port Vale's fortunes have gone one way, Stoke's have gone the other.
"They are a Premier League club with Premier League budgets, but we intend to become the football club of the community in Stoke-on-Trent.
"We'll be launching a Young Supporters' club, we'll re-engage local schools, we're bringing in an academy and we're very keen to inspire a generation of people to want to come and support Port Vale.
"We're not going to be a business that stays within Vale Park and never goes out into the community.
"We'll offer incentives and we're talking to the council, trying to find somewhere to house a proper training centre.
"We're keen to make Port Vale a proper family club, create a family experience down here and we want to place the club back in the heart of the area – that's what the business strategy is all about."
Wildes admitted Vale couldn't sign £5m or £10m footballers, but insisted the club would compete with their neighbours for becoming the city's community focus.
The pair completed their £1.25m takeover only last Tuesday and Wildes said their sure financial footing would offer fresh stability, both on and off the field.
In reply to one question about the possibility of selling players in January, Wildes put fans' minds at rest.
"We don't have to accept offers for any of our players," he said.
"All of the decisions on players are down to Micky Adams, and we won't be telling him he's got to sell, because we don't have to.
"We're not in the position where some clubs have to meet the payroll at the end of the month and sell a player for £200,000.
"Historically, that's what Vale have had to do, but we don't.
"We don't have to sell any players and we have no intention of doing so in January, and that includes Tom Pope.
"This club is not a selling club and never will be."
Wildes instead revealed plans to turn the club into one renowned for developing its own talent.
"We have to be a club synonymous with developing our own footballers and we will do that," he said.
"You can take that as a commitment from us and it's something we're keen to have.
"When you talk about Crewe, you think of its development of youth players and we will have that too in maybe five years.
"While we may never pay £5m for a footballer, we should be a club that can produce those players.
"So we'll invest to create first-class facilities both for the first team and the young players.
"We get far superior gates than Crewe, our facilities are better and we're a bigger club, but we haven't focused on that area of the business in the past.
"That changed from the day we arrived and we are now committed to the development of our youth system.
"If we get things right, you'll see the vast majority of Vale players in that time have come through our youth system. But only if Micky Adams believes they are good enough."
However, Wildes insisted he would be ready to back the manager in the transfer window.
"It's easy to become obsessed with new players and you can sometimes forget the 20 that got us to where we are today," he added. "We're second in the league and the highest scorers in the country.
"Micky won't want to bring in 10 to 15 players, but he'll come to us if he wants to with players he's interested in signing in January and if he does that, we will try to sign them."