Seaside Essex Xile has his latest look at our next opponents, this Saturday being Port Vale.
There`s a football trivia question that asks people to name 3 football teams that aren`t named after an actual place. I always remember Arsenal + Saturdays opponents -Port Vale, but forget the other one. Port Vale always sounds better than Burslem FC or for the more wicked amongst us A Small Town in Stoke FC.
Now having lived in leafy Cheshire Vale was one of my closest away games, and one that I always look for in the fixture list. Whether that`s because of the 6-1 win there many moons ago or because of the nearness to the marital home I can`t remember but Vale Park holds some happy and some not so happy memories.
We hold a lot in common. A ground that never appears to have been finished (although VP is a lot nearer completion than BR), we both play ‘Glad all over` when we score a goal, and we both had a defender last season who headed the ball like he had a 50p shaped head -step forward MMcG.
Vale always seem to start better than us, then fade away as the season progresses. Could be a cue for a song by their most famous fan, a certain Mr Williams.
How to get there?
Caught between 2 motorway junctions 16 for those travelling from the North
15 for us Southerners, for the Manchester / Cheshire lads it`s the good old A34. J16 – Head for Stoke on the A500 Tunstall / Burslem signposts. J15 – Give a friendly wave towards the Britannia Stadium and hanker left at the roundabout.
Car parking – there is plenty of street parking and a large car park around the ground but I`ve always used the Leisure Centre at the bottom of the hill.
By train? – Longport station is the closest to the ground, but is a good 30 minute walk away and doesn`t have a regular service. Stoke station, is over four miles away and you will have to take a taxi.
Where to drink?
I have always used the Bleeding Wolf on the A34, and know that`s where the Cheshire / Manchester lads are meeting next week. However Burslem town centre isn`t a million miles away and there`s a range of pubs to pick from. Nearest to the ground – ‘The Vine` is the favoured pub for away fans.
Sat behind the goal in a shallow sloping stand we always seem to make plenty of noise when we play at VP. This stand can hold over 4000+ away fans. Apparently there is an electronic scoreboard above our head, although we`ll never see it. Beer and food are available in this end. There is usually a large burger bar parked by the away end. Who says money buys you comfort? We had the pleasure of Gary Neville sat amongst us a few years ago when we had the talented Ben Thornley playing for us.
Plod + Stewards –
Stewards are the normal ‘remain sat in your seat` crowd and generally keep a low profile, but there has always been a visible police presence when we have played. I can only ever recall 1 instance of trouble and that was by the park opposite the away end about 5yrs ago. Generally VP is a safe ground to visit for us.
Vale have had a decent start to their season, and generally their home form is good, however draws between the 2 clubs are far and few between. Like I mentioned at the start Pool v Vale has some happy memories. Wellens from the halfway line, 6 goals away from home, even Colin Hendry was sent off whilst playing for us there a couple of years ago. Let`s hope that if we hear ‘Glad all over` on Saturday it`s when we are singing it and not when it`s being blasted in our ears over the tannoy.
Fear Factor rating – 4