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Vale Park
Port Vale v Bury
Saturday March 26th, 2011, 1pm
League Two
Myles Munsey

(Neutral supporter)

Reasons for visit:
Having visited pretty much all of the grounds in the South, I was targeting the Midlands and Potteries to add to my list. The 1pm kick-off  due to the Wales v England  World Cup qualifier suited me well as it meant a sociable hour arriving home.  I live in Berkshire! The two participating teams were in or around the play-off positions so this looked like being a good encounter.
 
Getting there:
The ground was easy to find, more so having studied this website and Google maps. It is an easy walk from Longport station and whilst there is a hill this hardly constitutes a slog.
 
Before the game:
There wasn't a great deal of time so I had a snack in a local cafe and then strolled up to Vale Park to take some pictures and have a quick look at the club shop. This I have to say was superb. Well laid out, spacious and well-stocked and equipped with a couple of comfy leatherette armchairs. Not encountered that before!
 
First impressions:
I have to say the ground looks odd, both inside and out. Perhaps I had formed a wrong impression, but others who have been before, implied that was an historic ground with character. Unfortunately it does seem that a lot of that character has been lost. The ticket booths and stairways are indeed from a bygone age but these rather jarr with the modern aspects of the stadium. The arrangements were fine and the seats were comfortable enough with a very good view of the action. The pitch was narrowed by Mickey Adams to be as narrow as regulations allow, so I am told, meaning that you can see the full length of the lines (good). However, I just could not come to terms with Vale Park. Development here has obviously been phased and to that end I am sympathetic, as cash flow is always a problem. But here I feel the blend of old and new simply does not work. For example:-
 
As the ground layout diagram suggests the Big AM end of the ground has angular portions that are at 45 degrees to everything else. 
 
Another oddity I observed is that the seats are coloured to replicate the colours on the club badge -i.e Yellow ochre, black and blue (blue in the corners only) rather than the colours of the playing strip which would be black and white. I'm not sure if this is unique. It is certainly unusual.
 
The game:
The game itself was entertaining with Port Vale dominating yet unable to find the net. It finished 0-0. Recent managerial changes were no doubt a factor and though they huffed and puffed with no little skill, hitting the frame of the goal three times, it was evidently a very frustrating afternoon for them as it was for the crowd who were quite demonstrative at times. Bury were pretty subdued as was Ryan Lowe. Port Vale definitely bossed the game so Bury wouuld have been happy to have come away with a point. I have seen far worse goalless draws shall we say. Interruptions to play were kept lively by the Port Vale mascot 'Boomer the dog who kept us much amused with his daft antics.
 
Getting from the ground:
Getting away was easy. I simply retraced my steps. I left the ground at 14.55 and was back at  Longport Station at 15.15. It is an easy 20 minute walk. Those who take 30 minutes must have visited some establishments en route!
 
Overall:
I  have no wish to denigrate Vale Park ,and a vist is well recommended,  but it steers a halfway house between the traditional ground and the modern stadium. A good day out and easy to get to and from. A well organised ground with good facilities but lacking that certain something. 'Wembley of the North?'  Not really I'm afraid..


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