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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 13

14 November 2012

This time last year when Tom Pope was finding goals hard to come by, Port Vale might have been wondering if they'd made the right decision to bring him in on a free transfer from Rotherham United.

Twelve months on and he's looking like the best capture they have made in many seasons. To score 16 goals by mid-November is an astonishing achievement.

Can I explain why his goals output has gone from four and five in the previous two campaigns, to his current ratio? I really can't. It's an amazing turnaround for the lad, who must be delighted that everything is finally clicking for him.

Port Vale's squad is a talented bunch this season so Pope will be getting more chances than he previously had, but let's not take anything away from him because you still need to have the ability and presence of mind to take those opportunities.

Micky Adams must be thrilled with the boy, because if you have a striker that cost you nothing banging in this many goals before Christmas it's a dream.

Can Vale stay in the npower League 2 promotion race all season? Yes I think they can.

I had my doubts initially because of the financial uncertainty hanging over the club, but now that's settled down I look at the squad they have and can see no obvious reason why they might fall away. This could be their year to go back up to League 1.

Rotherham United were and still are many people's fancy to storm through the division in 2012/13, but they are not having everything their own way.

The Millers' 5-0 defeat at Dagenham and Redbridge last Saturday shocked me. In fact, I had to check to see if it was a misprint. I know that the Daggers are turning things around but that's a result I never saw coming, I must confess.

Afterwards, manager Steve Evans indicated that he was planning to report the referee Roger East for allegedly using foul language to one of his players. On the back of the Mark Clattenburg affair, that's a big call to make.

My own view is that claims like this should only be made if you're 100 per cent sure an offence took place and that you can back it up with proof. Sometimes as a manager you just need to calm down, take a deep breath and study the facts before making certain quotes public.

Incidents like these can damage the reputation of match officials involved forever, and even if they're found to be false claims, the collateral damage can be long lasting. You have to be very careful.

On another subject, it was fascinating to see James Beattie join Accrington Stanley this week as a player-coach. His status as a top-flight player will hopefully rub off on the team-mates around him.

This is the kind of coup that should give Stanley fans a real lift. They're not a vastly supported club but the arrival of Beattie raises the profile, and hopefully the interest, in their team. At 34, he's got a lot of experience to pass on as a player and a coach, so I can see it working out pretty well.

When he's picked to play I don't envisage Beattie having anything to worry about at this level. He's played in npower League 1, and in Scottish football too, so nothing should faze him. It will be interesting to see what impact he has.

I remember bringing former Everton and Oldham Athletic star Stuart Barlow to Morecambe in 2006, when he was 38, and he was an unbelievably positive influence on and off the pitch.

He'd played in the top flight, and had a fine reputation in English football as a goalscorer but there was no ego on him at all. He wanted to help, and he did that for us very well.

If you're a League 2 outfit and you bring in somebody who has a big name in football, you need them to be there for the right reasons. A reputation alone won't do anything, you need their attitude to be spot on and for them to mix in with everyone else.

If James Beattie has taken on this player-coach role for the right reasons - which I am sure he has - it will only help Accrington Stanley.

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