Port Vale: We're not a team of divers, says hit-man Pope
SOUTHEND boss Paul Sturrock can think of only one sure way of stopping Vale golden boy Tom Pope's prolific form ... with a baseball bat.
Pope's two in a 2-2 draw against Rochdale in mid-week kept him at the front of European football's scoring stakes and Sturrock admits League Two defenders are quivering at the prospect of meeting the target man.
Fed by wingers Jennison Myrie-Williams and Ashley Vincent, Vale's powerhouse is now odds on favourite to end up as the division's leading goal-getter – down from 80/1 at the start of the season.
Sturrock said: "Tom Pope is scoring goals for fun and we have to come up with a way to try and stop him ... a baseball bat may be the only way to do it.
Visiting the Home & Garden show this Sunday?
We will have some exclusive deals for you so make sure you visit our stand and say hello
Terms: With free entry just visit the show at the Moat House hotel Festival Park between 11am and 4pm and pick up a leaflet
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Sunday, June 23 2013
"We have been too open at home in the past and Vale are a very attack-minded side with height in their team as well.
"Our defence knows what is coming as there will be crosses from both sides."
Pope's 17 goals in 20 appearances has lifted him to fifth-highest scorer in Europe.
The 27-year-old only trails Burnley's Charlie Austin (20), Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (19) and Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Viborg FF's Thomas Dalgaard (both 18 goals).
The 6ft 3in predator is becoming a marked man in the bottom division, and just like Myrie-Williams and Vincent, is likely to have to wear some bruises around his ankles too – even if Sturrock's baseball bat comment was firmly tongue in cheek.
Pope, however, says no one in Micky Adams' team will start looking for free-kicks.
The striker, annoyed by Rochdale's referee-chasing antics, said: "Do we need to start surrounding referees? It's not something that we want to do and we're getting punished for being honest pros.
"It's not in our game. I don't think the fans want to see us rolling around and making a fuss of things, but teams seem to be doing it against us and we're the ones getting punished.
"But everyone knows our gaffer, he's a hot-headed fiery character who wants us playing with passion and determination, not making meals of things."