Port Vale: Chairman’s contract plan ‘risky’, says Tom Pope

Tom Pope
Tom Pope has scored 64 goals for Port Vale

Port Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite is playing a "risky" game by delaying new contract offers to players, according to striker Tom Pope.

The 29-year-old is one of a number of key players whose current deal with the promotion-chasing League One club expires in June.

"It's difficult when you've got players like Mark Marshall and Michael O'Connor out of contract," said Pope.

"You run the risk of them leaving for nothing at the end of the season."

The promotion race
The race for the fourth play-off place in the tightly-congested League One table covers more than half the teams in the division. Only seven points currently separate sixth-placed Bradford City from 19th-placed Crewe.

Pope, who already knows his own current deal will run its course, has already been offered terms substantially less attractive than in the two-and-a half year contract he signed in February 2013.

He scored 31 goals to help Vale back to League One in 2013 and despite missing three months with a knee injury this term, he has found the net 10 times to help them climb to three points shy of a promotion play-off place ahead of Saturday's trip to Notts County.

"If it doesn't happen this season, then we'll hopefully be pushing next season, and you're not going to get any winger or midfielder better than Mark Marshall or Michael O'Connor," lifelong Vale fan Pope told BBC Radio Stoke.

"He's got an agenda and, as chairman, we have to accept whatever he's got planned.

"It's a good incentive for the players not to take their foot off the gas. They're going to need a club, whether it's at the Vale or elsewhere. And it's going to keep players on their toes.

"But, as a fan, it's disappointing. You don't want to see your best players going out of contract, knowing that you might risk losing them."