Port Vale: Wildes keen to tap into local talent to make Vale a star attraction
PAUL Wildes has warned Crewe they will soon have a serious rival for the young local talent that has helped sustain the South Cheshire club for almost three decades.
The new Vale chairman says he will work with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to find a suitable location for a first-class training base for the club's senior and youth teams.
And while the businessman might not be able to compete with Stoke City's £7m academy or the Potters' global scouting network, he is determined to challenge Crewe in exploiting the local market.
That means encouraging players like 17-year-old Alex forward Ryan Colclough, who grew up in sight of Vale Park, to start their careers in Burslem instead.
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While warning it will not happen overnight, Wildes has promised "significant" investment to help get the best out of the club's junior set-up.
He explained: "There are some things which will be easy to fix quickly, like the Colclough Street clock, but other off-the-pitch activities will take much longer.
"Things like investment in youth, which I am very keen about, are research and development projects that will take a long time. It needs significant investment.
"There is a club not too far from here which has done a very good job over the last few years.
"We will be competing with them to bring the best young local players into this football club, to develop into players who might one day go on to play for Manchester United."
None of the Vale players who made the line-up in a 4-0 win over Bristol Rovers on Tuesday had come through the club's youth system.
In fact, full-back Adam Yates and striker Tom Pope both grew up in Stoke-on-Trent as Vale supporters, but started their professional football careers at Crewe.
Wildes added: "It is unfortunate (that Colclough grew up in Burslem, but signed with Crewe) and we need to build the best facilities to help attract local boys to Port Vale.
"What I will be doing over the next few months and years is working with the council to find a place where we can house our own training base for the youth and first-team squads."
Wildes' idea of an improved academy ties in with his vision of a cross-industry "centre of excellence" based at the club for apprentices in everything from football to cookery.
He wants Vale Park to be a seven-day-a-week venue, but admits commercial success at a football club are intrinsically tied to results on the pitch.
"You can't keep the football and commercial businesses separate," he said.
"If you don't focus on either side then the other will more than likely falter – but the ability to support different assets across a business is not unique to football.
"Where football is unique is that while in most businesses you could do X and Y will happen, in this game if you do X anything could happen from A to Z.
"You might need to change plans, but that's what makes sport exciting.
"Generally, if we can bring in additional revenue that is invested back in to help make a better football team, it will bring in more customers and become a revolving cycle.
"Do we have a five-year plan? Verbally, yes, on paper, no, but we will be working on that over the next few months."
Wildes will hold his first biannual fans' forum next Wednesday to listen to suggestions from supporters as he starts to draw up that blueprint for the future.
He appreciates that the Vale Park faithful have experienced a turbulent few years.
"You ignore customers at your peril," he admitted.
"It is not like a supermarket; football supporters don't go somewhere else if they have been treated as badly as Vale fans have been treated in the not-too-distant past.
"But disenchanted supporters can stay away and we don't want that – we want them back at Vale Park."
PAUL Wildes says his immediate task is working with Vale manager Micky Adams to bring in some new players before this afternoon's 5pm loan deadline.
Adams has had his squad limited to 20 players this season while the club remained in administration.
Now his hands have been freed, he hopes to bring in an extra couple of bodies to bolster a promotion push.
Vale chairman Wildes said: "We have been talking to Micky about players he is interested in bringing in on emergency three-month loan deals.
"Soon we will be talking about the longer term and what he wants to do in January when the transfer window opens."