With new signings on song, Port Vale can flourish, says Doug Loft
PORT Vale’s new boys have been hitting the high notes to help them settle into life at Vale Park in double-quick time.
Or at least two of the three have.
Skipper Doug Loft reported that Chris Birchall and Darren Purse had performed a song to the rest of the squad – the compulsory initiation for every new arrival at the club.
But he said Lee Hughes still had the pleasure to come.
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“We’ll probably make him do it when we go to Wimbledon,” said Loft.
“The pressure will be on because if he refuses to do it, we’ll make him pay £100 into the players’ pool.
“By the look of him, I’m expecting something from Right Said Fred.”
Loft said Birchall and Purse had risen to the occasion in the hotel restaurant before last week’s game at Gillingham.
“They were both very good,” he said.
“Darren sang ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns n Roses. He stood on a chair and blurted it out and it was really good, to be fair.
“Chris did ‘Boom Boom Boom’ by the Outhere Brothers, but Hughesy avoided it somehow.
“I’ll get him when we’re at Wimbledon next week.”
Loft said the trio had otherwise settled in quickly.
“All three have come in and done really well,” he said.
“They’ve got vast experience and they’re all good characters in the dressing room.
“Darren is one of those players who is great to have in your team and is someone who has been there and done most things.
“Lee is a brilliant goalscorer and you see in training every day how good he is at finishing.
“He’s a great addition to the team and it means we have some brilliant strikers who can not only score goals, but they’re fighting for their places.
“We needed a few new faces to freshen it up and I think our squad is now good to get promoted.”
Competition for shirts is, of course, one of the reasons for Vale’s success so far, but Loft is joining in the club’s chorus about taking nothing for granted.
“No one is thinking about promotion yet,” he said.
“We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing.
“We’ve been playing well lately, looking good defensively and going forward and the future looks bright.
“But there are still lots of games before the end of the season and anything can happen.
“The win at Gillingham helped us to create a gap, but it was just another three points at the end of the day.”
While the Valiants have won plenty of plaudits for the attacking play which has seen them hit a League Two best 56 goals in 27 games, Loft reckons it could be the team’s battling qualities which will be important towards the end of the season.
“There have been times when we haven’t been at top of our game when we’ve ground out results,” he said, “but that’s how you get out of this league.
“In previous seasons, we perhaps haven’t had the resilience we should have had.
“This season we’re showing it better and hopefully we can continue it.”
Loft, aged 26, has moved back into central midfield for the last two games, having spent the first half of the season at left-back.
He’s enjoying the more familiar surroundings of the middle of the park and his partnership with Ryan Burge.
“Burgey is a great player and it was good to be in there with him at Gillingham,” said Loft.
“The gaffer wanted us both to sit in there at the Priestfield, and not bomb forward.
“I think he thought we had been open to the counter-attack in previous games and was keen to shut that door.
“It’s very much a partnership in midfield and I’m enjoying being back in there, particularly alongside Ryan.
“He didn’t get much of a chance last year, because he was injured a lot, but when he first came I thought he looked like a really good player and he’s showed that this season.
“He has done well, he’s been consistent and he’s showing his worth.”