Port Vale: It's same again for six-up Vale
SEPTEMBER 1994 – John Major is Prime Minister, the Channel Tunnel has just opened and Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet is number one for the 14th week in the UK charts.
And Port Vale are about to name the same starting line-up for the sixth game in a row – a feat which seems likely to be finally emulated after 18 long years against Rotherham United tomorrow (3pm).
Whether it is a question of circumstance or form – but more likely a combination of the two – Micky Adams has been happy to keep faith with the same 11 players for Vale's last five games.
Many expected the manager to switch things around when Tranmere Rovers visited Burslem for a first round Johnstone's Paint tie on Tuesday.
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But it was the same familiar faces who turned in another impressive performance to record a 2-0 win on home turf.
Keeper Chris Neal, a summer signing from Shrewsbury, reckons the continuity has been a blessing, backed up with good displays – if not necessarily the total points they deserved.
"First off, it showed how important the manager values the Johnstone's Paint Trophy this season," said the 26-year-old.
"He could have made a few changes against Tranmere, but it's good for us to keep the momentum going with the team, and as a squad we have progressed in the competition.
"When you're playing well with the same players it gives everyone confidence and, touch wood, it can only get better the more we gel as a unit.
"Especially as a back five, the more you play together the more you get to read each other, on and off the ball. You want to know instinctively what your team-mates are doing.
"It is a big test so let's see how we deal with Rotherham."
The stattos do not have to delve too far back in the record books for the last time Vale went five matches unchanged; three wins, a draw and a defeat under Martin Foyle, pictured left, in March 2007.
But any further chances of consistent team selection over the past 18 years have been scuppered by injuries, illnesses, loss of form, bans, transfers or inspired tactical manoeuvres.
It was back on Saturday, September 3, 1994, that Vale last entered a sixth game with the same line-up.
Paul Musselwhite, Bradley Sandeman, Allen Tankard, Andy Porter, Gareth Griffiths, Dean Glover, Kevin Kent, Robin van der Laan, Martin Foyle, Lee Glover and Tony Naylor succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at Luton Town.
However, that same group went on for another four games until Wednesday, September 21, when Manchester United came to town for a League Cup tie.
The visitors featured the then unknowns Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Paul Scholes, but Vale boss John Rudge was obviously unimpressed after a 2-1 defeat.
After 10 games without a change, he made four for the next encounter, a league game at Wolves, but the outcome was the same, another 2-1 reverse.
Back in the present day, Gareth Owen, Adam Yates, Ryan Burge, Rob Taylor and Ben Williamson are all pushing to break into the team for their first league starts of the campaign.
All are expected to remain patient as Adams stays untroubled by any injury worries other than Lewis Haldane's long-term ankle and leg problems.
Outspoken Rotherham manager Steve Evans does not have the same happy dilemma.
The Millers' right-back Mark Bradley limped off with a hamstring injury during 1-0 Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat to York City.
It has become a cursed position for Evans, who also has right-backs Dale Tonge (Achilles tendon) and Nicky Hunt (hamstring) stuck in the treatment room.
Both were given 65-minute run outs in a 1-0 reserve defeat to Gateshead on Wednesday and former Bolton man Hunt, aged 29, is tipped to make his debut tomorrow. In-form midfielder Kári Árnason is definitely missing as he has been called up to the Iceland squad for a World Cup qualifier against Norway.
Wales international defender Craig Morgan has arrived on a short-term deal to ease the burden, however. The 27-year-old has signed until January after being released by Preston.
Evans, who oversaw a 4-0 battering of Bradford City last weekend and brought in 11 players during the summer, is not overly concerned.
He said: "We've got some defensive worries, but we've had to cope with key players missing since the start of the season and hopefully it will balance itself out.
"I would be surprised if one of Morgan, Tonge or Hunt wasn't available for the Vale game and Nicky Hunt has been flying in training over the last two or three days."