Port Vale legend Neil Aspin has steered the Valiants’ ship away from relegation worries into calmer waters ahead of this weekend’s visit to Mansfield Town.
Vale’s pre-season aspirations were to compete for promotion, but it’s fair to say that’s not gone to plan.
The side got off to an awful start before manager Michael Brown was sacked and replaced by Aspin at the start of October.
Aspin inherited a side with five points from 11 games so has done well to get them almost safe after last Saturday’s 1-0 win at home to Lincoln.
Vale’s problem was the unbalanced squad assembled for the start of the season, high on quantity but with insufficient quality.
But Aspin has made the best of things and remains popular with the fanbase.
He is a club legend as a player but supporters also recognise the mess he inherited.
Vale had only won one game in 2018 before the Lincoln win but chants of ‘Neil Aspin’s Black and White Army’ were booming out during the first half.
He has got the team organised and working hard and, just about safe, thanks to plenty of draws.
Back in October, Vale would certainly have taken being in this position with three games to go.
Target man Tom Pope has undoubtedly been the star man.
The 32-year-old local lad and Vale fan returned to the club on a free transfer from Bury in the summer and has had a superb season, scoring 18 goals in a struggling team.
Another one-to-watch is Luke Hannant, an attacking midfielder who can play wide left or in the number 10 role behind the striker.
He was signed by Aspin from Aspin’s former club Gateshead for around £10,000 in January and has made a smooth transition to playing in the Football League.
Joe Davis, who started at left back last Saturday, could be a doubt for the Mansfield game because of a groin strain.
James Gibbons could switch from right to left back with Charlie Raglan coming in at right back.
Alternatively, Danny Pugh is available after serving a three-game ban so could return at left back.