Page unveiled as the new man for Cobblers

523390419TM00005_PORT_VALE_The usual time scale for naming a new manager – particularly at the end of a season and before playoffs are complete – is pretty lengthy and drawn out but Kelvin Thomas and the Cobblers have worked fast to get their man as Port Vale’s Rob Page was unveiled this afternoon at a Sixfields news conference. It was clear from the start of the process last week that Thomas had some ideas in mind as to the type of profile he wants for the new boss and Page is likely to have been one of the candidates identified early on.

He’s by no means a high profile appointment but after plenty of recent appointments before Chris Wilder that have flattered to deceive in terms of coming with a load of hype and expectation it’s maybe for the best that we’ve gone for a young manager who has already done a decent job at League One level. Vale was Page’s first managerial position and having led them to safety in his first few months in charge at Vale Park, it’s notable that he helped them to defy last season’s relegation odds (Vale were second favourites for the drop at the start of the campaign) to finish in the top half of the table.

To me, that’s a key point of the whole appointment. He’s worked on limited resources to stabilise Vale and has worked above and beyond the goals that would have been set for him a year ago. Though his experience as a manager isn’t as vast as many on the list, he’s preferable to me to the likes of Gary Bowyer for his knowledge of the division both as a player and during his couple of years as a manager. He’s proved to be a good communicator and man manager and obviously has motivational skills to get players to play above their potential – particularly the likes of JJ Hooper who the Cobblers released in 2014 but reappeared for the Valiants with goals and performances of some maturity this season.

Vale fans were disappointed at the news of Page leaving too, which is a pretty good indicator, though some of their reasons for why he shouldn’t choose Northampton are questionable to say the least!

The appointment is early enough now for the Cobblers to move on and Page will have the entire summer to prepare for life in League One with his new charges. The key tasks will be retaining the likes of Adam Smith, Ricky Holmes and John-Joe O’Toole and dipping into his contact book to bring in the right players that won’t disrupt the team spirit of a club that went through every emotion possible together this season.

With all of this in mind, here are a couple of key points from this afternoon’s press conference where Page was formerly announced as the new Cobblers boss..

Kelvin Thomas welcomes his man…

Thomas welcomed Page to the club and emphasised his delight at bringing in an “outstanding young manager” who is “energetic,  young and ambitious.” He was looking for a manager to come in and continue the work done by Chris Wilder and Alan Knill.

John Harbin joins as Performance Coach…

Joining Page at the club is Performance Coach John Harbin who has a background in Rugby League and football and has previously held similar posts at Oldham, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Coventry, QPR, Swansea, Plymouth and with Page at Port Vale.

Further announcements to come…

More backroom staff appointments will be made “in due course” with the assistant manager position still open at the time of writing. Rumours of Marc Richards agreeing to become a player/assistant are rife but that’s yet to be confirmed.

The first words…

Page was immediately interviewed by Sky Sports News this afternoon and gave a steady, confident interview and emphasised the need to manage expectations. He mentioned that he’s not met the players because they’ve already gone off on their holidays but is already looking forward to pre-season. Page acknowledged Chris Wilder’s work and said that he’s spoken to the former Town boss, who was hugely complimentary about the squad.

He also gave his first Cobblers Player interview and said it was a “no brainer” to join the Cobblers after speaking with Kelvin Thomas, who he seems to credit a lot to in terms of the decision to leave Vale Park for Sixfields. He again praised the efforts of the players last season and expressed it as a “great opportunity” to work with them.

Overall, Page seems in a very calm mood on his first day in the job.

Let the new era officially begin!

Mixed emotions after big win over Vale

Nicholls…serious injury

Northampton Town 2-0 Port Vale

League Two

Saturday, October 27th 2012

After a 2-0 home win over the team that went into the afternoon vying for top spot in League Two you would expect any report of the match to be full of superlatives and joyous statements that the season is back on track. But the lasting damage coming from the incident that occurred after the first goal was scored will be the main talking point despite Town taking home three crucial points in the quest to stay in touch with the top half of the table.

Alex Nicholls, the Cobblers’ leading scorer this season, broke through after a mistake in the Vale defence, nipped in and rounded Chris Neal in the visitors’ goal before tapping the ball into the empty net. Sixfields erupted, buoyed by what was a deserved lead up until that point, until the realisation hit that something else had happened. Vale defender John McCombe had clattered into Nicholls after the ball had been put in and the striker was lying flat out on the Sixfields turf in front of the South Stand.

It was looking grim as more and more time was taken for medics to tend to Nicholls and when an ambulance was called onto the pitch there were no more doubts – he was going to be out for a long, long time. With a goal going in just before that and a lengthy delay most Vale fans were understanding and gave Nicholls a couple of good ovations as he was being treated and on his departure from the pitch but unfortunately the minority did their club no favours at all by berating Nicholls, making diving gestures to him and even shouting at his family members as they ran onto the pitch.

It’s hard when so many of their supporters were doing the right thing but it can’t be ignored that some idiots still, for reasons only they know of, took it upon themselves to tarnish the reputation of their football club. Perhaps just as shocking was the fact that nothing seemed to be being done about it by the Sixfields stewards. It was a horror show in more ways than one and something that put a massive dent in any celebrations of a goal.

John McCombe was sent off for the challenge and though I would say it was the right decision having watched it back again I don’t think there was any more to it than that. There was no evidence of any sort of stamp or anything malicious and in fairness to the player he apologised to Aidy Boothroyd straight after the game. His suspension, though, will be a whole lot less than the punishment that Nicholls will be going through in the next few months.

Alex Nicholls will fight back, of that I’m sure, and I just hope and pray that we do see him in a Cobblers shirt again. The chant of “win it for Nicholls” was most appropriate and the fact that we went on to do just that made sure that his efforts went towards something.

Louis Moult was Nicholls’ replacement and he came on looking to stake his claim and to take his chance before Aidy Boothroyd could even consider bringing in any replacements for the striker. Moult was lively throughout the rest of the half and got his reward when, after Anthony Charles had a goal ruled out, he raced on to the end of some fantastic hold up play from Bayo Akinfenwa to slot in a well taken goal. Having come through the ranks at Stoke City, Moult would have thoroughly enjoyed that one!

The system had been changed by Boothroyd to a wing back system and it had been working well even up to the goal with Danny East and Joe Widdowson flourishing in their respective new roles and perhaps the youngest ever Cobblers midfield of Emyr Huws, Lewis Wilson and Lewis Hornby belying their inexperience tags by holding things together impressively against high quality opposition.

In the second half we switched to a style that made sure of the points and though it was nowhere near as easy on the eye, it was understandable for Boothroyd to want to make sure of a good lead being held on to. Moult faded when put out wide whilst Bayo did his best to play the loan striker role in a spell of taking what we had from one of the more difficult fixtures of the season.

Vale fought hard to get back into it and had a couple of good chances to do so, notably for Ashley Vincent as he broke clear but couldn’t beat Lee Nicholls at his near post. It was hard to judge the visitors on their overall play with the ten man situation making it tough for them to stamp their authority onto the game but it’s clear that they have a dogged and technically sound squad that will still be up there come the end of the season.

Lee Nicholls, meanwhile, has hinted that this may be the last game in his loan spell at the club and with mounting injuries elsewhere we may indeed need to let him return and build in other area. If it was his final game we thank him for a fantastic few months keeping goal. One way or another we will hear of him again I’m sure.

As the dust settles from what could be seen as one of the Cobblers’ best wins of the season come the final reckoning the thoughts are mainly with Alex Nicholls as he begins what looks like being a long, hard journey back. We will all welcome him back with open arms when that day comes and wish him a speedy recovery.

Up next is a second game against Bradford City in the FA Cup and I’d like to see us use this new system again, though adjustments in terms of a new signing for the middle of the park could dictate whether that does indeed happen. It’s nice to go into that on the back of a win and now we need to kick on and try and build the momentum that’s been lacking so far this season.

Northampton Town v Port Vale: Match Preview

Northampton Town v Port Vale

League Two

Saturday, October 27th 2012

The last team you want to play after two poor defeats in a row is one that is second in the league and that has lost just once on their travels all season. But that’s what faces the Cobblers on Saturday afternoon with Port Vale coming to town in fine form having lost only once in twelve games. Vale also did the double over the Cobblers in the league last season so there’s plenty of cause for concern ahead of a tough, tough match!

Remember, this is a 2pm kick off and not 3pm as the club looks to avoid a direct clash with the Northampton Saints Rugby game that kicks off at 3.


Takeover nears completion…

There were serious concerns for the future of Port Vale Football Club towards the end of last season when a winding up petition meant that they went into administration and suffered from a ten point deduction which would end any realistic hopes for promotion. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, with the Alchemy Investment Group fronted by Paul Wildes, a Wirrall based businessman, confirmed as the preferred new owner recently.

Pope on top after stunning start to the season…

Vale’s Tom Pope has made a storming start to this season, scoring fourteen times to top the League Two scoring charts after fourteen games. Pope joined the club on a full time basis in 2011 after scoring three times in thirteen games on loan from Rotherham. Last season saw injury put pay to any consistency but he’s really hit the ground running this time around with bags of goals including four in the Valiants’ 6-2 win over his former club in September.


Team News…

The Cobblers welcomed back Danny East on Tuesday night with the right back coming in for the newly injured Chris Hackett at right back. John Johnson looks likely to sit out again whilst Ben Harding is still a couple of weeks away after a further set back this week. Luke Guttridge and David Artell are out until the New Year with Nana still a while away from fitness as well after more than a year on the sidelines.

Port Vale are without Richard Duffy who was injured at Burton on Tuesday evening with Adam Yates filling in for him at right back. The central defensive positions are causing the big headache for manager Mickey Adams with the experience of Gareth Owen and the more youthful Joe Davis vying to fill the gap left by the suspended Clayton McDonald.


Artell…summer controversy

Club Links…

Injured Cobblers defender David Artell was involved in a controversial summer transfer to the Cobblers after signing for Vale a few weeks earlier but turning down a fresh contract handed to him by the club’s administrators.


Previous Six Meetings…

25/02/12: Cobblers 1-2 Port Vale (League Two)

John McCombe put Vale in front in the last meeting between the sides back in February before Sean Rigg added a second just before the hour mark. Bayo Akinfenwa struck late but it wasn’t enough to avoid a double league defeat to Vale last season.

14/10/11: Port Vale 3-0 Cobblers (League Two)

A horror show of a first half saw the Cobblers three goals down inside twenty five minutes in the first meeting last season thanks to goals from Tom Pope, Anthony Griffith and John McCombe and we had no answer in the second half.


12/02/11: Port Vale 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)

Abdul Osman was sent off for the second time in the season against Vale but the Cobblers held out for a point earned a few minutes prior to the red card thanks to an equaliser from Leon McKenzie. Justin Richards’ penalty had given Vale the lead but McKenzie swooped three minutes later to clinch a draw.

13/11/10: Cobblers 0-0 Port Vale (League Two)

Stale mate at Sixfields with Abdul Osman sent off just after half-time.

06/03/10: Port Vale 1-3 Cobblers (League Two)

As the Cobblers made a late surge towards the playoff places in 2010, this was a crucial win against one of the teams chasing the same goal. Ultimately neither side made it but it was still a memorable away day with Bayo Akinfenwa giving us the lead. Doug Loft equalised but Abdul Osman and Billy McKay won it before the break.

12/12/09: Cobblers 1-1 Port Vale (League Two)

As the 2009/10 season crept towards Christmas, the teams shared the spoils at Sixfields. Marc Richards’ penalty gave him a happy return to his former stomping ground but after John McCombe was sent off just after half-time, Bayo converted the spot kick to grab a point for Town.


The Man in the Middle…

In charge at Sixfields on Saturday will be Richard Clark, who was working in the Blue Square Premier League last season. So far he has shown fifteen yellow cards and two reds in his maiden season in the Football League.



With a couple of defeats on the bounce coming into this one there’s a bit of extra pressure and we need to stop the rot before it gets anything like last seasons’ shambles of an October/November run. Aidy Boothroyd has a tough job on his hands to get his players firing again and I think the best we can get out of a high flying Vale side is a hopeful draw. 2-2.

Vale too good as the dream of three wins in a row ends…

It’s back to losing ways this week for the Cobblers as Port Vale left Sixfields with all three points to further ignite their ever more impressive rise back towards the playoffs. Following up two massively important home wins with a third was always looking like a tough ask before the game for the Cobblers but coming up against an up for it visiting side that weren’t ever going to lie down meant that  the task for Aidy Boothroyd’s Cobblers was a lot steeper.

From all reports we simply weren’t at the races and while Vale are at a higher level than the likes of Wimbledon and Macclesfield Town, recently felled at Sixfields, we still need to be concentrating and working harder if we’re to be convinced that come May we won’t be fighting for our lives once again.

From the moment John McCombe nodded in the opener it always felt like Town would be in trouble and Matt Duke was under high levels of pressure early on either side of the goal. It took until the thirty seventh minute for us to conjure a decent opening with Luke Guttridge volleying wide but that was as good as it got for a subdued Cobblers outfit.

We had a massive task to get back on terms and when Sean Rigg doubled the arrears on the hour mark it looked like game over despite there being a healthy period of time left. It was only then that the Cobblers woke up and with the substitution of Ben Tozer for Toni Silva, suring up the midfield battle, we finally looked like competing.

Bayo Akinfenwa got on the end of a Jake Robinson cross to make it 2-1 and suddenly there was some sense of urgency and hope. That was Bayo’s eleventh of the season and fiftieth for the club –  a milestone that might be forgotten thanks to the lack of an equaliser late on.

With five of the bottom six picking up a point there’s a massive emphasis on Tuesday’s league programme when the Cobblers don’t play but Barnet and Bradford (against each other), Hereford (at Gillingham), Plymouth and Macclesfield (another relegation six pointer) and Dagenham (at Morecambe) all do. We can only watch and hope that things go our way because there’s a massively tough game at Cheltenham to come for Town this Saturday.

I’ve got a feeling that these nerves aren’t going anywhere yet!