Top of the pops Pope hailed by Haldane
GOAL-DEN boy Tom Pope's terrific start to the season comes as no great surprise to a close friend and former team-mate.
The hot-shot striker netted just five times in a forgettable campaign last season, but has led Port Vale's surge towards the top of the table this term with an incredible 17 goals so far.
Lewis Haldane knew all along that Pope would soon be banging them in from all angles and says it had just been a matter of time.
The former Vale winger, below, who started his career with tonight's opponents Bristol Rovers, was forced to retire from football only last month after admitting defeat in his battle with injury at the age of just 27.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
But he's been delighted to see Pope at the top of the scoring charts this season, and says the front man is finally getting his just rewards.
"It's great to see Tom getting so many goals now," he said.
"Last year, he was playing well without getting the limelight. He was setting up a lot of goals for other people, but now he's grabbing the glory himself and I'm delighted for him.
"Tom has always worked really hard at his game and was always the last off the training ground when I was at Vale Park.
"He's a good player who is big, strong and aggressive. And he gets into great positions, so I'm not surprised things have turned around for him so much.
"He's a confidence player, so fans have had a big part to play in it too. When they are right behind him, it makes a difference to him and long may it continue."
Haldane still keeps in touch with the Vale players and says he will always have a soft spot for the club.
"I made some really good friends during my time at Vale Park," he added. "It's a brilliant club and I have a lot of affection for everyone there.
"I've been watching quite a few of the games this season and I've been really impressed – we've been flying.
"The gaffer and the boys have done brilliantly so far, particularly with all that going on behind the scenes.
"We haven't won for a few games and that's been disappointing, especially when we've been pegged back twice at home, but if anyone had offered us our position before the start of the season, we'd have snapped their hand off.
"We've been lucky in one respect that the teams around us have been slipping up lately too, but I think we'll get back to winning ways against Bristol Rovers."
Haldane, who'll be at tonight's game, is predicting a 2-0 win against his former club to mark the start of a new era as Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite are set to complete their £1.25m takeover before kick-off.
"It's great that the club are finally getting new owners," he said.
"The gaffer has been having to work with so many restrictions on him, but now maybe he'll be given the chance to improve the squad and hopefully they'll go from strength to strength."
Haldane admitted he was gutted when he was forced to call time on his career at such a young age.
He never fully recovered from breaking his left leg in two places against Tranmere in August last year and left the club having been restricted to 50 starts for Vale since arriving from Rovers, initially on loan, in September 2009.
"It's not a nice thing, of course, but you move on," he said. "You can't go around feeling sorry for yourself. I loved every minute of my time in the game, but it's now time for something new and hopefully I'll find success in whatever I do next."
Haldane is planning to move back to his native Bristol with his family and has several options for the future. "I have stuff in the pipeline," he said. "I'm taking my coaching badges so I could stay in football, but the family has a building firm and I could do something in that, while my wife is a beautician and we might open a salon or something.
"We haven't decided exactly what the plan is yet."
Something else in that pipeline is a testimonial match for Haldane between Bristol Rovers and Port Vale next summer.
"There is a committee organising that and it would be fantastic," he said. "There are plans in place and hopefully they can get something definite sorted out."