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Port Vale’s European experiment went horribly wrong. View



Port Vale’s European experiment went horribly wrong. View



Ribeiro’s varied team selection produced a promising start but eventually resulted in a dismal season.
Smurthwaite, the owner of Port Vale, made a risky step by putting Ribeiro in charge of the European experiment.
Despite great expectations and a promising summer, Ribeiro’s stay at Vale Park was brief and disappointing.
I bought FourFourTwo’s special season preview magazine in 2016, as I normally do, and started looking over the biographies of the various teams ahead of the 2016/17 season.

I worked my way through the Football League, the Premier League, the Championship, and most of League One until something captured my attention.

Port Vale’s manager was identified as ‘Bruno Ribeiro’. That didn’t sound like League One.

Bewildered, I looked again. Bruno Ribeiro is the new Portuguese manager of Port Vale.

Interesting, I thought. And I continued reading. It wasn’t until December, when I settled down to see AFC Wimbledon play Vale, that I remembered the name.

Intrigued, I soon checked the visiting team’s squad roster and was surprised to see that several of the Vale players’ country flags were not the red and white of England.

Instead, I saw Curacao, France, Portugal, Suriname, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. I also recognised.

Ribeiro, who played 67 games in English football for Leeds United and Sheffield United between 1997 and 2001, was fired by Ludogorets, the reigning Bulgarian champions, after only two months, with his team losing their first three games of the season, being knocked out of the Champions League in the qualifying stages, and exiting the Bulgarian Super Cup unexpectedly early.

Ludogorets stated that Ribeiro had received a “disciplinary sacking and unilateral termination of contract” due to “his prolonged absence from the job despite a standing and binding contract,” while Ribeiro claimed that the Bulgarian side had signed players without his prior consent.

“I didn’t sign one player myself,” Ribeiro told the Guardian.

“The owner.

The Football League has never seen anything like Port Vale’s incomings before.

Ribeiro’s first signing was Kjell Knops, who had spent the previous five years at MVV Masstricht in the Dutch second division, followed by Curacao under-20 striker Rigino Cicilia from Roda JC the next day.

Cicilia scored seven goals on loan at second-tier RKC Waalwijk, including a hat-trick against Jong Ajax, before joining Vale on a permanent basis.

French midfielders Quentin Pereira and Anthony de Freitas, both highly rated in the French lower divisions, came shortly after, as did Calvin Mac-Intosh from Cambuur, with Ribeiro appearing to want to form a Dutch centre-back combo with Knops and Mac-Intosh.

Ribeiro then proceeded to plunder his country, bringing in Kiko, a left-back, and Paulo Tavares, a deep-lying midfielder, from Vitoria Setubal, where Ribeiro had previously managed for two short periods, as well as Carlos Saleiro, a far from prolific striker from Oriental.

Chris Mbamba, a former Swedish under-17 winger, joined from the Norwegian second level, while Jerome Thomas was brought in to bring experience to the wide areas.

Sebastien Amoros, a versatile midfielder, was another highly rated prospect signed from Monaco alongside de Freitas, and Miguel Santos was signed from Benfica’s B team, demonstrating Ribeiro’s willingness to implement a possession-based philosophy, which was almost unheard of in the English third division at the time.

Carlos Saleiro, the striker, arrived in July but left in August, mutually ending his contract after struggling to adjust in England.

Martin Paterson left before the end of 2016, while Miguel Santos and Calvin Mac-Intosh departed to the Netherlands in early January, to Fortuna Sittard and Almere City, respectively.

Ryan Taylor left after his contract ended at the end of January, and Rangers signed star goalkeeper Jak Alnwickj for £250,000 on the last day of the transfer window.

Anthony Grant, Vale’s main midfielder, also left for Peterborough United, leaving the Valiants lacking the quality to avoid relegation.

As soon as their downing was completed, the mass evacuation began.

Sebastien Amoros swiftly returned to France with RC Grasse,

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