SHEFFIELD UNITED: Sons of Steel City plot United’s Cup exit

New man in charge: Port Vale chairman and Owls fans Paul Wildes can't wait for tomorrow's FA Cup tie at Bramall Lane''Photo Gerard Austin Port Vale
New man in charge: Port Vale chairman and Owls fans Paul Wildes can't wait for tomorrow's FA Cup tie at Bramall Lane''Photo Gerard Austin Port Vale

PAUL Wildes seems like a sensible bloke. And, having prospered in fields such as property development, hairdressing and hospitality, a pretty astute one too.

So why risk his sanity by entering the crazy world of football? Where, as most of his fellow chairman will testify, the only things you are guaranteed are burning pockets and a whole load of grief.

The answer, Port Vale’s new owner admitted last night, is actually very simple.

Speaking ahead of his latest acquisition’s FA Cup tie with Sheffield United tomorrow, Wildes told The Star: “If you can’t actually become a professional footballer then most people would agree the next best thing is to have a team.

“I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I can do that and, although I don’t know whether this is going to be the toughest challenge of my career, what I do know is that it will be the most exciting.

“Football isn’t like any other business. Elsewhere, if you do A, B and C then you know D is going to follow. In football, you know anything could happen and it could be X,Y or Z instead.

“But that’s part of the attraction. We’ve got some really good ideas, we’re confident about the future and really can’t wait for what lies ahead.”

Bramall Lane is a fitting venue for the highest-profile match of Wildes’ reign so far. Situated only a mile and a half away from his childhood home in Norfolk Park, it is also where Vale manager Micky Adams spent five frustrating months in charge before parting company with United following their relegation from the Championship in May last year.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve got one of the best managers around in League One or League Two,” Wildes said. “That United’s loss is our gain.

“I’m actually a Sheffield Wednesday fan and, as everyone knows, he’s a massive Blade so we’ve had a few lively discussions if you like!

“Seriously, though, Micky has shown his capabilities by keeping the team right up there despite all of the financial challenges he’s had to face. Hopefully now, with the backing and solidity we can give him, we’ll be able to go from strength to strength.”

Vale, now second in League Two, had spent eight months languishing in administration when Alchemy Investment Group, fronted by the 35-year-old entrepreneur and business partner Norman Smurthwaite, completed its £1.25nmillion takeover of the financially-stricken club. Less than a fortnight later and having scored seven goals in their last two games, Vale head to South Yorkshire looking to complete a hat-trick of victories by beating League One’s fourth placed team.

“I’ve maintained all along that Port Vale is a club with so much potential,” Wildes said. “It’s like a house where the foundations are already there and all we’ve got to do is add the bricks.

“One of the things we want to do is really look at our youth development and place that at the heart of everything we do.

“Sheffield United have done exactly the same thing and it’s vitally important, especially in this day and age, because there’s nothing people like to see more than one of their own coming through the ranks and playing for the first team.”