Football: That was the weekend that was: Why Ferguson is nursing a Rudg e

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The Independent Online
PORT VALE's beleaguered directors are beginning to realise that their decision to sack long-serving manager John Rudge is likely to haunt them for a considerable time.

As Vale slid to an incredible 10th straight away defeat at Portsmouth on Saturday, it was revealed that the decision to axe Rudge after 15 years dismayed not only a huge number of Vale fans but also the most influential member of the deposed's profession, the Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson.

In the foreword to the programme for an end-of-season tribute evening being planned in Rudge's honour, Ferguson described Rudge's time at the club as amounting to "self-sacrifice and service to one football club that borders on disbelief, especially in this day and age."

Ferguson underlined what he perceived as Rudge's extraordinary qualities. "His negotiating skills were almost an art form. I know his knack for begging and borrowing players was one of the modern wonders of the football world.

"I sincerely hope that John's magnificent service to Port Vale will be recognised by the club. Not to do so would be a disservice not only to John, but also to the club."

Given the acrimony surrounding Rudge's sacking, some large quantities of humble pie may have to be consumed in the Vale Park boardroom before that can happen.