Smurthwaite steps down as Vale chairman

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Norman Smurthwaite has this week stepped down as chairman of Port Vale, following the club’s relegation to League Two.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Smurthwaite declared he has ‘seriously damaged the club’ during his reign, and now passes the reigns over to club president Tony Fradley, who has since stepped up to the role.

Having first become involved at Vale Park in November 2012 as part of the consortium which saw the Burslem-club pulled out of administration, his relationship with the fans has become seriously strained in the past twelve to eighteen months.

His decision to sanction the leaving of many key players at the club last Summer and replace them with a host of foreign players saw fans aghast, and for some became the final straw in their wish for the 56-year-old to exit the club.
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Having seen then-boss Rob Page depart for pastures new at Northampton Town last May, Smurthwaite then appointed ex-Sheffield United and Leeds midfielder Bruno Ribiero in the hot seat prior to the 2016/17 season.

However, Ribiero brought in many players alien to not just League One, but English football altogether – and those signings have ultimately led to the situation they find themselves in today.

In the statement released on the club’s website, Smurthwaite apologised for leading them into the situation they are now in, and declared it was never his wish.

“I have clearly seriously damaged our club, resulting in Sunday’s relegation which was never my intention,” he said.

He also held his hands up for the part he played in last year’s ultimately failed recruitment drive and the ramifications of those a season on.

“I deeply regret the actions and appointments I made during the [2016] closed season and would like to apologise sincerely to all supporters, Port Vale staff and the wider Burslem community for the impact of my decisions last summer.”

As for the new man in charge, despite circumstances, he was delighted to be given the chance to run his boyhood club.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be appointed as chairman,”, Fradley announced upon his confirmation in the role.

“I’ve been a supporter since the 1950s, so I’m totally committed to the long-term success of the club to get it to where we want to be.”

Alongside chief executive Colin Garlick, the 67-year-old will now be tasked with running the club on a day-to-day basis.

And the pair have already made their first big decision in charge – appointing Michael Brown as permanent manager.

The 40-year-old had been caretaker manager since Boxing Day, however has now been given a chance to show what he can do on a long-term basis.

Speaking of his appointment, the former Sheffield United and Manchester City midfielder acknowledged the difficulties that face him in the immediate future – yet was optimistic about what he could achieve given a fair crack of the whip.

“It’s going to be difficult to build a new squad, and we have to be very clever in the window, getting in very early to set the tone”, Brown admitted.

“We need more quality, and more stand-alone players who are going to perform week in week out.

“We have a budget that we are confident we can build a team with to take us to the top end of League Two”.