Micky Adams may be set to walk away from his post as the Port Vale manager after warning he was "taking legal advice" about his position following yesterday's home defeat by League Two stragglers Barnet and claiming the administrator had given the stricken club's players "a kick in the teeth" by not paying their wages as promised.
Adams, in his second spell at the Potteries club, described their first loss in nine matches as a "disappointing end to a poor week". His team, having led through a 25-yard shot by leading scorer Marc Richards, were pegged back by Ben May's debut equaliser before Andy Yiadom dived to head his first League goal in the 89th minute with his first touch as a substitute.
Adams said he was proud of his team's effort. "I had been given the message that as soon as he came in, the administrator [Bob Young of insolvency practitioners Begbies Traynor] would pay the boys the money they are owed, and he doesn't," he said. "That's a real kick in the teeth." Adams stated grimly he "would have to be careful" what he said, adding: "I've had a chat with Mr Young. I'll be taking legal advice and we'll see where we go next week."
Richards, who is club captain, confirmed that cash-rich Crawley Town were keen to sign him but suggested "the only way I'll be leaving is if it's in the best interests of the club".
It all added up to a bleak denouement to an afternoon that had felt like a fresh start rather than a bitter end. If Burslem were Glasgow, and Vale were Rangers, we would have been scouring the stands for oligarchs or sheikhs as the 136-year-old club played their first fixture after losing 10 points for entering administration with debts of £4m on Friday.
The Siberians and Saudis were conspicuous by their absence. No so Vale's supporters, who have seen their club placed in administration for the second time in 11 years. Far from being despondent at seeing them slip from the promotion race into mid-table because of finance rather than football, their relief at the demise of what many viewed as a pariah board of directors created a revivalist mood, at least until Yiadom's intervention.
The crowd figure alone testified to the transformation: at 5,522, it was 620 up on Vale's average, and Barnet's contribution to that figure just scraped into three figures. When Richards broke the deadlock, the loudspeakers blared out "Glad All Over" to raucous accompaniment.
"Stand Up If You Love the Vale" was next, followed by a paean to Adams and "The Wonder of You", the Elvis Presley song that became their anthem during the heady days of the 1980s and 90s under John Rudge (now director of football at wealthy neighbours Stoke City). Even after May struck from close range in the 66th minute, after poor handling by the goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson, the sense of supporters having reclaimed their club was palpable.
One player had reportedly cancelled his wedding this summer after Vale were unable to pay the wages, while a local restaurant donated free pizzas for the players' lunch because the club had to stand down their caterers. Outside the ground, fans thrust £20 notes into collecting buckets full of cash. Opposite the main entrance, where fans have often gathered to demonstrate against the hierarchy, everyone who donated £5 to the Supporters Club's fighting fund received a china mug made in the Potteries' mother town. On each was the slogan "Keep Calm and Support the Vale".
That has sometimes been easier said than done. When Vale last faced administration, 11 years ago, a supporters consortium, Valiant 2001, won control. However, significant numbers of fans became disaffected with a regime ostensibly comprised of fellow devotees, believing they were more concerned with self-preservation. The rift widened last season when the directors spurned the advances of local businessman Mo Chaudry, who offered £1.21m to take over the club. One group of fans, reputed to number more than 1,000, attended only away matches in the hope that plummeting revenue would force the board's hand.
As if the acrimony was not bitter enough, it transpired that the chairman and chief executive brought in last year by V2001, Peter Miller and Perry Deakin, were economical with the truth when each claimed to have put in £350,000 for shares in Vale. They later conceded they had not paid in anything.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, who recently made £24m of budget cuts, have stumped up £600,000 to enable Vale to reach the end of the season. They are the major creditors, being owed £1.85m, with the taxman also waiting for £140,000. In his parting shot, Adams praised fans though supporters may be struck by his choice of words when he expressed confidence that "their club will survive".
Port Vale (4-3-1-2): Tomlinson; Loft, McCombe, Collins , R Taylor (Pope, 81); Griffith, Shuker, Marshall; Dodds (Williamson, 76); Richards, Rigg (McDonald, 76).
Barnet (4-4-2): O'Brien; Kamdjo, Downing, Hector, Mustoe; Holmes (Yiadom, 88), Hughes, Byrne, Deering; McGleish (C Taylor, h-t), May.
Referee Geoff Eltringham.
Man of the match Richards (Port Vale).
Match rating 5/10.