Port Vale on the brink of extinction

THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS
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The Independent Online
If the Port Vale fans leaving Molineux on Saturday seemed more perplexed than ecstatic, it was not without reason. Although the final whistle was the cue for celebration after a 1-0 victory over Wolves, it may have seemed chillingly to be playing The Last Post.

Bill Bell, the Port Vale chairman, says he will close down the First Division club within a week unless a buyer is found. If he goes through with the threat, Saturday's match may have been the last for the 120-year old club.

The Port Vale manager, John Rudge, born and raised, by coincidence, in Wolverhampton, insisted that he had barely given the closure threat a thought.

"It hasn't crossed my mind that I won't have a club to manage this time next week," he said. "The chairman certainly hasn't talked to me about what is going on. I just have to get on with my job. It has been a week of turmoil, but my players showed plenty of professional pride. We have to keep pulling a rabbit out of the hat to survive."

Should Port Vale close it would deny the long-serving Rudge - 52 today - the chance to complete what is surely a record no other manager can claim.

In his 13 years, Port Vale have competed in three of the four divisions and had several extended Cup runs. Rudge has put out teams against a remarkable 87 of the 92 current League clubs. He needs only Arsenal, Coventry, Chelsea, Nottingham Forest and Wycombe Wanderers to complete the set.

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US not backing Britain

John Harkes, one of two former Premiership players on opposing sides as Major League Soccer reached its denouement over the weekend, is as upbeat as one would expect about the prospects for the game on his side of the Atlantic.

"Everyone talks about it being a tough choice to come here in terms of what I left behind," he said. "It was incredible to play in England. But what we've done in the past six months is incredible as well. I don't have any doubt this league is going to do very well."

Harkes, playing for DC United in the MLS championship game against a Los Angeles Galaxy side including Cobi Jones, insists that his countrymen are warming to the game. But some of the pre-match discussion betrayed lingering doubts and shattered the notion that our brand of football - the one we convince ourselves is at least exciting - might be some kind of inspiration.

"For the US non-fan," one commentator wrote, "soccer has always been perceived as a low-scoring, defensive sport with foreign players, an archaic time-keeping system and a scoreless tie just about every other match.

"When the MLS was being formed, one of its goals was more goals and one solution was to stay away from the British long-ball game and look more toward the aggressive styles of Latin America and Africa."

There's gratitude for you...

MISTAKEN IDENTITY...

Graham Taylor paid Bradford City pounds 1.8m to take Richards, an England Under-21 player, to Wolves, who have been warning off Premiership predators ever since. For a centre-back Richards is nifty on his feet, but that may be down to clever ring-craft picked up in his other life as a world boxing champion.

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