By Tony Leighton
Port Vale's new Manager Jim Gannon has a "tasty" first npower League 2 match in store as he prepares for Saturday's local derby at Crewe Alexandra and the chance to lock horns with Dario Gradi, under whom Gannon played at Gresty Road for what was his last English club before ending his playing days in Ireland.
Though he is well behind Gradi in terms of managerial experience, 42-year-old Gannon proved his flair for the job at Stockport County, followed by shorter stints at Motherwell and Peterborough United before his appointment at Vale Park last week in the wake of previous boss Micky Adams' departure to Sheffield United.
Gannon's debut as Manager of the Valiants, last Saturday's FA Cup third round tie away to Championship side Burnley, ended in a 5-2 defeat. But the new boss will take the positives from that game into what could be a vital League encounter as Crewe lie just one place and four points below fourth in the table Vale.
Gannon told football-league.co.uk: "There's a great dynamic to this game, it's a tasty one for my first League match in charge of the club. There are things that we need to correct from the Burnley game, like having to be more disciplined in defence, but we showed we can create chances and score goals and that was very encouraging.
"Crewe have shaped up well recently and put themselves in a position to strive for the top three. They've got one of the management teams and styles of play that I'm most familiar with at this level, but the most important thing is my players' understanding of Crewe and they showed they have that when they beat them here two months ago.
"That should give them the confidence to go into the match with the belief that they can win it. We'll have brilliant backing from the fans and it's got all the ingredients for a great contest. It would be nice to have a positive result from my first League match - and I'm sure the players will do everything they can to make that happen."
As they head into the game Vale are trying to rediscover the form that saw them sitting top of the table at the start of December. With the unsettling affect of speculation surrounding the future of Manager Adams partly to blame, three successive games were lost as was their place in the automatic promotion positions.
They returned to winning ways against Burton Albion just before Gannon's appointment, and now the new boss is determined to keep his team on track for a return to League 1. "For most of the season Vale have been in the top two," noted the Manager, "and there were certainly extenuating circumstances for the dip in form.
"But they stopped the rot with a 2-1 win against Burton, a new Manager's now come in and we have to get back to some very strong principles - and if we can do that then there's no reason why this group of players can't recapture the form that got them into the top two and hopefully get us back up there."
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