Tom Pope's goals land him Port Vale contract bonus
TOM Pope's goal-scoring feats have triggered an automatic 12-month contract extension for the red-hot striker.
Port Vale's playing squad were left in limbo when deals they signed in the summer with would-be owner Keith Ryder became worthless when his takeover fell through.
But those contracts have now been honoured on the completion of the £1.25m purchase of the club by Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite.
And in Pope's case, it's a double bonus.
The 27-year-old striker had penned a one-year deal with Ryder ... including a clause for an extra year if he scored 15 goals this campaign.
And that means one of Europe's most prolific forwards, with 20 goals to his name already this term, is now tied to the Valiants until at least the end of next season.
The news was revealed by Wildes, the club's new chairman.
He said: "There are players whose contracts will run out in the summer, but that is not the case with Tom.
"The one-year deal he signed had an automatic extension if he scored 15 goals and, as everyone knows, he has already triggered that clause.
"His contract now runs until the end of next season and that is good news for this football club."
Pope's latest heroics saw him bag a hat-trick in a 4-0 demolition of Bristol Rovers on Tuesday, just a couple of hours after Wildes and Smurthwaite had completed their takeover.
He said: "Everyone thought the takeover would happen in the summer, it didn't, but now hopefully the club is in the hands of people who can take it forward.
"If the team had been struggling, it probably would've been a big weight off our shoulders, but the way we've been playing shows we have not been too affected.
"But we accepted it would happen eventually and just got on with our own jobs.
"It's the best changing room I've ever been in. Even on dark days John McCombe or Louis Dodds can walk in and have everyone laughing their heads off.
"There are no big egos. When the manager ordered us in on Sunday morning (after the 2-2 draw with York City on Saturday) no-one complained. We are all trying desperately to get promoted."
Pope is now the joint leading scorer in the English professional game with Burnley's Charie Austin, who also started his career in non-league.
His efforts have also broken a record held by Vale's all-time top scorer Wilf Kirkham to become the fastest player to 20 goals in the club's Football League history.
"Nobody saw this coming," Pope said.
"I've made a lot of people eat humble pie – but I should probably have a slice myself, too, never mind the people who come to watch us.
"I've just got to keep going then try to reach 30 then 40, as silly as it sounds. I'll keep doing my best to help the club stay up the table."