Attendance at Vale of Lune’s pre-season training sessions has been praised by Director of Rugby, Jack Ferguson, and Head Coach Joel Unsworth as fitness levels have improved on a weekly basis.
However, the players and back room staff will be facing their first test of the season when they host Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday, kick off 3pm.
After two topsy-turvy seasons when Vale hit the heights and then plunged to the depths, they will be under the microscope on their first outing of the season.
Although the usefulness of warm up games can be open to debate, the fixture against Stoke-on-Trent, who finished in fifth place in Midlands One West last season, will carry some significance and will be no cakewalk, as will Vale’s return to Level 6 rugby.
The two clubs have faced each other in recent years and in the 2006/07 season they found themselves in the same league, North Two West, with the Vale completing the double, 13-0 over at Barlaston and a 33-3 victory in the return game.
Pre season games were played in August 2013 and the following August, Stoke-on-Trent winning at home but losing at The Lane a year later, 48-26.
A cadre of experienced Vale players left at the end of last season to ply their trade elsewhere. Their departure is a particular cause for concern but it does provide a golden opportunity for those players with pretentions to secure a regular place in the first team to stake their claim, beginning against Stoke on Trent.
Bonnie Tyler has been ‘Holding out for a Hero’ for a number of years, but who at the Vale will be ‘a white knight on a fiery steed’ holding a lance with a fluttering cherry and white pennant and galloping into the tourney intent on sweeping aside any pretenders? Saturday will prove an indicator for those who are prepared to nail their colours to the mast meet the challenges head on.