Port Vale assembled a strong squad in the summer, or at least that was the general consensus, but they’re still struggling to make a significant impact in League Two this season.
They’ve won one in their last six league matches and a number of first team players have found themselves out of the side recently. One, summer signing Ricky Miller, is thought to be closing in on an exit after failing to make an impact following his move from Peterborough.
There’s not so much surprise that a player dogged by controversy in recent years has struggled, he’s amassed more bookings in his short spell than he’s scored goals in the last eighteen months, but another omission is baffling us here at The Real EFL.
Ben Whitfield joined them from Bournemouth in the summer having previously been on loan at Vale Park and he seems to have the right attributes to be a success in the fourth tier. He’s quick, good on the ball and can operate down the centre or preferably out wide. he was loved there last season and although his performances dropped off later on, he was still impressive enough to earn the summer move.
Assistant Manager Lee Nogan said of the missing players recently: “They have all had a run in the team and we go off what we see in training as well. The crux of it is, if you are doing really well, you stay in the team. If you are not, you are in and out.”
“It is not personal, we are just trying to pick 11 players. We have 20 odd so it is always difficult when everybody is fit. So, they have chances hopefully over the next two or three weeks to stake a claim for a place in the squad or the starting eleven. But that will be up to them and how we play in the next few weeks.”
Vale have been scoring goals, seven in their last three league matches and eleven in four when taking into account the EFL Trophy, but the omission of Whitfield is something we still find bizarre.
He had been played through the centre, notably as they were thrashed 6-2 at home against Lincoln City earlier in the season, but his constant running and application. He now hasn’t started since the 1-0 reverse against Swindon, nor has he been seen from the bench in the four games since.
Neil Aspin’s side are 15th in the table, clear of the bottom two but only poised for a play off surge if they can sort out their form. With many of the summer’s signings not playing there is a suggestion that despite being the busiest manager in the summer, he still doesn’t have a clue what his best team is or where he is trying to take them.
If he doesn’t sort it soon it could mean a sticky time for him at the end of the season and if Ben Whitfield doesn’t soon get some minutes under his belt, he could well be pushing for a move somewhere he can showcase his talents.