Ok first and foremost I am a Wolves fan, I have always been a Wolves fanlike my father before me. I have been a Wolves fan during the bad times, a season ticket holder down in the depths of league 1 and I am aWolves fan I. These now far far better times.
However this is not about Wolves it is about Port Vale.
Up until last year I didn’t know too much about Port Vale despite the ground being literally within earshot of Gough Towers. In fact I had only ventured to PortVale once as a community guest. It was a mid week match against Bury about 5 or 6 years ago, it finished nil nil. Now they say some nil nil games can be exciting and action packed filled with spectacle and incident, this was not that game. The fact I had to pick a man of the match was as difficult a decision I have ever faced. However I do remember the hospitality was great and the welcome warm.
My only other real involvement has been in a professional capacity after the Stoke / Port vale cup game and a league encounter at the Molineux where the Burslem faithful were , um , very feisty, the less said about both those encounters the better.
Now , I mentioned earlier how I used to be a season ticket holder at Wolves. All that unfortunately came to an end when my wife became ill and disabled. I was no longer able to enjoy my fortnightly jaunts down the M6 to watch the mighty men in old gold, usually with one of my daughters as company. The thing is I really missed those days.
Roll on a year or so and it was just before Christmas when Norm, on of the guys in the church that I pastor mentioned they were looking for stewards for the corporate area. Now I don’t think in a million years he expected me to chirp up.
I guess I miss the match day , the banter , the air of expectation. I thought what have I got to lose and that’s how I became a steward at Port Vale.
It’s funny I have had some double takes from minister and Magistrate friends who have seen me masterfully I may add man the doors to the valiants lounge. But you know what I love being part of what is going on in the mother town at the moment.
The friendship with the other guys has been a real tonic to me. Yes you need a thick skin sometimes as the banter takes no prisoners. Yes the talk can get a little fruity at times (although the backtracking one fella did when he found out I was a church minister was priceless) but these guys are genuinely salt of the earth who would do anything for you. Really it’s a privilege to work with them.
In fact all the staff at the club have been great. Which brings me to the current owners Kevin and Carol Shanahan. The story of Port vale in the last couple of years has been astounding. The Shanahan’s had made their mark in the up and coming finance and security market by founding and steering Synectics Solutions to being at the forefront of digital security systems, something Carol herself admired in an interview with the Sentinal held her in good stead for running a football club. Indeed the business lies next door to vale park.
The shanahans took over from a very unpopular regime which brought the once proud club to the edge of administration. Paying what was almost certainly an overinflated price they rescued the club.
It is safe to say there was a tremendous amount of goodwill towards them but in the fickle world of football good will will soon goes south if you don’t deliver. They have however more than delivered both on the field and off with a mix of good business sense , great appointments and a love and passion for both the beautiful game and the mothertown.
It is the love for the town that is most striking , they oversee both the port vale foundation and the hubb project two charities striving to give better opportunities to the good folk of Burslum and the potteries. The hubb foundation in particular operating to give free meals to schoolchildren in the area.
Indeed the Lockdown and effects of the virus have been a huge challenge to most lower league teams and in Vales case robbed them of the opportunity to press for a playoff place. However the focus at Port Vale quickly turned to mobilising and supporting the community providing free meals to thousands, checking on vulnerable people.
Of course the football has been missed, I know I have, I hope and Pray that we can see Carol with her long woollen scarf up on the stage cheering on another Vale victory, I hope I really do hope that they get there wish to see their beloved club promoted. I certainly wouldn’t bet on it not happening.
For me my involvement with Port Vale has been a lifeline, an escape from the rigours of life and circumstances. I have cherished the new relationships and opportunities to laugh and enjoy an inside look into the workings of a community club. The Shanahans have helped a lot of people recently, they have brought hope and cheer. I count myself in that number.
Still a Wolves fan though!