Port Vale pair Gareth Owen and Adam Yates talk administration, coaching and studying.
Last Updated: 23/04/12 4:17pm
While the Portsmouths and Rangers of this world have been hogging the headlines when it comes to financial crisis in football, it is important to remember that they are not the only ones to have suffered administration heartache this season.
Port Vale, unfortunately for them, have endured similar troubles, and at League Two level there is no guarantee that they will be able to get back on to an even keel.
It would appear as though the club will find the backing they need to avoid going to the wall, but an uncertain future awaits for all of those connected with the club - from players to coaches, directors to supporters.
As if not knowing where your next pay cheque is coming from is not testing enough, a number of those at Vale Park having been juggling their duties on the park with commitments off it.
Among those to be spinning multiple plates this season are Adam Yates and Gareth Owen, two men who have been on Port Vale's books since 2009 and have experienced the club's high and lows side by side.
The similarities between the pair's career paths stretches past their three-year association with Vale, though, with both having tried their hand at coaching this season and continued to press ahead with their efforts to further themselves academically.
In an effort to gain a greater insight into how they find the time to fit so much into their hectic lives, and to find out what it has been like to be on the books of a club suffering monetary troubles, Sky Sports' Chris Burton caught up with Yates and Owen to cover a whole host of subjects.
Asked how he will look back on what has been a testing 2011/12 campaign for all concerned, Owen said: "Overall it's probably a case of what if. It's been frustrating with all the things that have gone on off the field and it's been quite tough to keep going physically and mentally. We haven't been paid and having 10 points knocked off has been a real kick in the teeth because we are team that without that would probably have been challenging for the play-offs. There are some good players at the football club so it's a case of what might have been."
Yates said: "We have not done too badly on the pitch, but the most important thing is the solidarity off the pitch and that the club survives. It looks like that's the way it's going. A few months ago there were rumours that maybe no-one would come in and invest and we would have a situation where the club was going to be in administration for a long time. Thankfully there were a few people who wanted to invest and it looks as though we have got the right person."
Some may have crumbled when faced with the challenge posed by administration, but Vale have stuck together admirably.
Owen said: "It has drawn everyone together. The players have knuckled down and just tried to do what they can do. The fans have been brilliant, rallying around everybody and giving generous donations and bringing in supplies that we need. All the staff as well, everyone has muddled together and got on with it. That can only be a good thing for the future."
Yates said: "The manager has got a lot of the players playing for him and it's a tight knit group with good team spirit. There are no big-time Charlies or big characters that are solely in it for themselves in the dressing room, if there were then they would soon be brought back down to earth by the lads in there. The solidarity of the club is the main thing because we want the club to drive on and perhaps look to next year now. If we can look back on this season and see that we would have been in and around the play-offs without the 10-point deduction, that will be a successful season for us."
While it is difficult to know what the future holds for Vale, there is the promise of better times to come if the issues off the field can be addressed.
Owen said: "I think so, definitely. They have got Keith Ryder who has promised to put some money into the club, so that can only be a good thing. It's looking a bit brighter than it was halfway through the season, with the administration and there was no money available whatsoever. But now we are moving on to bigger and better things, hopefully."
Yates said: "There are 20 players out of contract this summer and when we were in administration there were offers coming in for a few players, but they decided to stay even with events off the pitch. That speaks volumes for the squad and for the management of this football club. If we can keep those players together and bring in a few additions to the squad, there is no reason why we can't push on next year. The chairman has come in and seems to be a very honest man and a man who has got high expectations and a lot of drive."
A 10-point deduction has hit Vale hard this season, with the club having been in and around the top-seven all season - suggesting there is not too much wrong with them on the playing side.
Owen said: "No, we have got some good players. Without those 10 points off, I am sure that we would have been in the play-offs. It's difficult to say what would have happened, but it's now a unique situation where just about everybody is out of contract in the summer. All of the players are waiting to see whether a takeover of the clubs happens so they can sort their futures out and the manager can decide what players he wants to bring in."
Yates said: "We want to improve every year and Micky (Adams) has said to us that we want to improve our points total on last year and on the year before. If we can do that this year, then it's been a successful season on the pitch. It's been a difficult time for the fans and for the staff at the club, and a difficult time for the players, but we've stuck together. We feel that we are a stronger unit and stronger outfit for having come through it."
For Owen, the 2011/12 campaign has been a frustrating one on a personal and collective level, with a succession of injuries having held him back.On his own season, he said: "It's been massively frustrating on that front. I haven't played as many games as I would like to have done due to bad luck with the injuries I have picked up. But I have had the great opportunity to take charge of the reserve team, so I now know how the coaching side of things worked and that's an opportunity I wouldn't have got. It's chalk and cheese really - playing-wise not so good, but everything away from that has been great."
Yates has also spent time on the treatment table, but he is relatively pleased with how his season has panned out.
He said: "I have had a knee injury which, touch wood, I've never picked up any serious injuries before. I seem to have picked up one this year, but I am happy that I have played quite a lot of games and I'm happy that the club has stayed afloat. Regardless of where the club finishes, if we had gone out of business that would have been the most disastrous thing for this football club and for the city. But it hasn't and we are looking onwards and upwards. I am a firm believer that what doesn't destroy you can only make you stronger."
While giving their all to Vale's efforts in League Two this season, Owen and Yates have also cut their coaching teeth in 2011/12.
Owen has been offered the opportunity by Micky Adams to work with the club's second string, while Yates has joined forces with team-mate Tom Pope to take charge of amateur Sunday League side Sneyd.
Owen said: "I have got one eye on coaching and management. I have had a great opportunity from the gaffer and I am thankful to him for giving me that. I can learn on the job while I'm still playing, have a foothold in management and hopefully that can continue next year and into the future."
Yates said: "It's been a difficult one. It's difficult to get the lads, they aren't getting paid for coming down on a Sunday, and I've had my eyes opened to the other side of the game. It's been difficult, but credit to the lads they have turned up every week and me and Tom Pope have tried to get the lads playing the right way. It's been a learning curve for us but that's football, there is no two games the same and you have got to learn by your mistakes."
Both men have also been working towards Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting degrees at Staffordshire University, with important for them to ensure that they have a trade to turn to once their playing days are over.
A very busy Owen said: "It's been a case of trying to manage my time. My uni degree will finish this summer, the coaching and joining the PFA Management committee, I have been a busy boy. I think when the season comes to a close I will be in need of a well-earned holiday."
Yates signed off by saying: "The university course is one that has been designed around a footballer's schedule, so it's a course which a lot of footballers are undertaking. We have got Clarke Carlisle on there, we have got Justin Richards and two or three players from up and down the leagues. It's good that the PFA and the university have come together and put something together for footballers."