Port Vale: It's a rare sight, but Vale can capitalise on being top dogs
PORT Vale, top of the league in the new year. Sounds good, doesn't it?
Not only that, but it's also a rare occurrence in what is the club's 101st season in the Football League.
But we find ourselves a point clear in League Two, which could be increased if we pick up a positive result at AFC Wimbledon tomorrow night.
In fact, Vale have only been top of the table in the new year for more than a solitary week three times before.
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And each time they went on to win the divisional title.
The Valiants did go top for three days in February 1983 on the way to promotion from the Fourth Division.
But the current spell at the summit is the best in the new year since 1958/59.
That was the first season of the new Fourth Division and the Valiants hit top spot for a week in February, before staying there from the beginning of March until the end of the season.
They scored a club record 110 goals in that campaign and went on to claim their last league title to date.
One similarity to the current campaign is that it was also the last time a locally-born player hit the 20-goal mark.
While Tom Pope has already smashed that figure with 26 so far, back then it was the late Stan Steele (22) and Graham Barnett (20), who still attends home games, who broke the magical barrier.
That season was also the only time five Vale players have ever reached a double-figure goals tally in the same season.
And that statistic could come under threat this time too with Pope being chased by Jennison Myrie-Williams (9), Ben Williamson (7), Louis Dodds (7) and Ashley Vincent (6).
There's plenty of time for Lee Hughes to join them as well.
Prior to that was the all-conquering 1953/54 season, when Vale walked the Third Division (North) title and also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The team hit the top on August 29 and were never troubled after that, conceding only 21 goals – a record for a 46-game season beaten only once since then by Gillingham (20) in 1995/96... who were managed by current Stoke City boss Tony Pulis.
Only three Vale players picked up divisional championship medals in both 1954 and 1959 – Roy Sproson, Albert Leake and Dickie Cunliffe.
Before that, you have to go back to the 1929/30 season to find a post-Christmas appearance for the Vale at the top of the pile.
It was the first season in Division Three (North) following relegation.
Vale hit the summit on September 7 and stayed there until the end of the season, apart from one week in April.
That season, they also achieved the club record of 13 away wins – perhaps another record which can be broken this time around after we've managed nine victories on the road to date.
Looking back, it shows how rare the success, which will hopefully come our way this season, has actually been.
Whatever the reasons any Vale fan has for not going to games at the moment, whoever you may still be angry with, I suggest you put them aside for the next few months at least because we could be about to witness glory seen too little over the years.
We've got owners in Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite who are putting their money where their mouths are, the team are playing excellent football and are top of the league.
What more can we ask for? Let's all enjoy it this campaign and, hopefully, end it with promotion to League One.