Port Vale: Tom Pope says club needs bigger crowds

Vale Park
Average home gates at Vale Park fell from 6,249 in the 2013-14 season to 5,044 in the 2014-15 campaign

Departing Port Vale striker Tom Pope says the club need to start attracting bigger crowds to "stay afloat".

Lifelong Vale fan Pope, who signed for fellow League One club Bury on Tuesday after being made a substantially better contract offer, says chairman Norman Smurthwaite is in an awkward position.

"People are choosing not to go," Pope, 29, told BBC Radio Stoke.

"And Norman isn't going to carry on putting his money in forever if people aren't backing him or supporting him."

Average home attendances at Vale Park
Port Vale averaged home gates of 5,727 when they won promotion from League Two under Micky Adams in 2012-13.
That climbed to an average of 6,249 in the 2013-14 season, when Vale finished ninth, only to drop 20% to 5,044 in the 2014-15 campaign. They were in contention for a play-off spot, only to slide to 18th - yet they finished with just seven points fewer than they had the year before.

Smurthwaite has already warned that the reason for the club having to make offers of reduced wages to a number of players this summer was the club's dwindling finances.

Falling attendances have had an impact on Vale, their average home gate having fallen by 1,200 per game last season, causing a deficit of £600,000 in gate receipts.

"He will carry on running the club as well as he can to ensure they stay afloat," added Pope. "That's football for you. I've no qualms about that.

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Too much money to turn down - Pope

"To have got promoted to League One, I really thought we were going to see attendances booming again, especially when we were in and around the play-offs, but even then we were only getting 5,000 fans."

Meanwhile, Vale have signed up two more academy players on new deals.

Midfielder Ryan Lloyd, 21, has signed a one-year contract, while goalkeeper Ryan Boot follows the lead of teenage defender Nathan Smith, 19, who signed a two-year contract on Wednesday.

Fellow goalkeeper Sam Johnson, 22, signed a new one-year contract on Tuesday.

Boot, 20, spent the final three months of last season on loan at Conference North side Worcester City.