Tom Pope is the current day Mr Port Vale. As a boyhood supporter of the club, he is Vale through and through and, had he not been a player for Port Vale, he would have certainly been sat in the South Stand yesterday at the Etihad Stadium.
He is now the club’s all-time record goalscorer in the post-war era after he scored his 109th goal for the Vale, at the home of the Premier League champions, Manchester City, in the Emirates FA Cup third round.
Speaking about the moment, Pope said: “It’s an equaliser.
“I think if you’re 3-0 down, you get up and walk back to the half-way line.
“But to equalise against Manchester City at the Etihad, the emotions you can’t even put it into words how amazing it feels ”
The Sneyd Green sniper overtook his boyhood hero Martin Foyle in the record stakes.
However, Pope wasn’t thinking about the record when his header hit the back of the net.
He said: “It means a lot.
“Foyle was my idol and, when you look at someone like I do at Martin Foyle and the goals he scored and what he’s done for the Vale to surpass that, although it’s at a lower level, it’s quite a proud feeling.”
Pope couldn’t have asked for a better away venue to score the record breaking goal, with the goal coming at a place where so many great moments have played out over the last few years.
He said: “Well it’s nice and, I’m sure there are worse places I could have scored it at.
“You’re just disappointed that it didn’t keep us in the hat or to get something out of it.
“But, to score at the Etihad, it’s a great achievement for me.”
Pope was praised by his teammates after the game for the goal and breaking the record with goalkeeper Scott Brown saying that a statue of him should be built at Vale Park in tribute to Pope.
That header 😍
That roar from the away end 👏🏻
— Port Vale FC (@OfficialPVFC) January 5, 2020
In the grand scheme of things, it meant that Pope and his Vale teammates were holding the FA Cup holders to a 1-1 draw after Oleksandar Zinchenko had given the hosts the lead.
Sadly it wasn’t enough for the Vale as goals from Sergio Aguero, Taylor Harewood-Ballies and Phil Foden scored to knock the Vale out of the famous old competition.
Ahead of the game, all the talk was all about how many could Manchester City score and, those nerves amongst the 8,000 travelling Vale fans went up a notch when the teamsheets came out showing Aguero and David Silva amongst the starters for Pep Guardiola’s team.
However, those in the top two tiers of the South Stand saw their team put in a display that they could be proud of with City finding the net just the four times.
The club captain was also proud of how he and his teammate’s performance on the day as they worked hard as a team to keep the scoreline to just down.
Pope was not the only one to praise the performance of the men from Burslem as John Askey’s opposite number Guardiola had congratulated Askey on his team’s performance.
At the final whistle, Askey and Guardiola shared an embrace on the touchline with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager offering Askey some words of encouragement.
The Vale manager explained what Pep had told him.
Askey stated to Moorlands Radio: “Pep said we had played well and, wished us all the best.
“He then invited us in after the game. It’s just great to come here and, obviously, you’re mixing with the worlds best.
“They couldn’t have been any better, they showed real class as you expect from a club like this. It’s really pleasing the way they’ve treated the players, myself and all the staff.
“It’s a memory isn’t for everyone, it’s a shame we’ve lost but, I don’t think we could have asked for much more.”
As the Vale players left the pitch at fulltime, they were applauded off by not only their supporters but, by many of the Manchester City supporters who had stayed behind. It’s just another example of how far the club has come in the last few months under the ownership of Carol and Kevin Shanahan.
The mood around Vale Park has been optimistic this season with the club doing well in League Two, an FA Cup third round appearance, as well as the visit of Robbie Williams for his concert in June, things are only looking up for the club.
As Askey said in his press conference ahead of the day, the trip to Manchester City will be ‘one of many great days to come for the club.’