VALE OF CHEERS FOR KEEPER JAK

Gam­ble pays off with long- term deal

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Joshua Richards

JAK Al­nwick ad­mits he took a gam­ble when se­lect­ing his club for this sea­son, but af­ter be­ing awarded a new two-anda-half year con­tract just two months into his Port Vale ca­reer, he is de­lighted that risk has brought great re­ward.

The 22-year-old played eight times for Pre­mier League New­cas­tle last term, be­ing given a real bap­tism of fire with Chelsea, Arse­nal, Manch­ester United and Tot­ten­ham among the op­po­si­tion.

Chance

And though his phone was ring­ing with of­fers from new clubs over the sum­mer fol­low­ing his re­lease from St James’ Park, Al­nwick re­sisted over­tures un­til he could be guar­an­teed first-team foot­ball.

It was not un­til the eve of the new sea­son that Rob Page at Port Vale of­fered Al­nwick that chance, ini­tially with a deal un­til Jan­uary.

But af­ter keep­ing five clean sheets in 16 games, Al­nwick was tied down for the long term and is de­lighted with his re­ward.

“I had a few of­fers but I felt they weren’t right for me,” said Al­nwick, who played against his big broth- er Ben, the Peter­bor­ough keeper, yes­ter­day. “I didn’t want to be a num­ber two. I spoke to my brother and agent and they both said the same thing: that I needed to play games. I knew it was risky to wait, but Port Vale was the right move.

“Ben said at Tot­ten­ham his big­gest re­gret was not play­ing many games and he said he wished he had moved on at a younger age. I didn’t want to look back and feel like I had made the same mis­take.

“Port Vale are a great club mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion and the length of con­tract they of­fered me shows their am­bi­tion. They have shown a lot of faith in me. It’s rare in the Foot­ball League to get that length of con­tract, but now the hard work starts. “I spoke to the chair­man (Nor­man Smurth­waite) af­ter I had played five games and he said

to me a con­tract would be put on the ta­ble, it was up to me to keep play­ing well.Now that I’ve got my con­tract that does not mean this is the end of any­thing. My next goal is to play for Port Vale in the Cham­pi­onship.”

With Al­nwick hav­ing seem­ingly made his break­through in the topflight last term, he im­me­di­ately talked of his am­bi­tion to ri­val Joe Hart as England’s No.1 goal­keeper.

And de­spite drop­ping down two di­vi­sions since mak­ing that state­ment, his am­bi­tion re­mains.

Am­bi­tious

He says: “Look at Joe Hart, he was play­ing for Shrews­bury, Jack But­land was at Chel­tenham.When Jamie Vardy was at Fleetwood I’m sure he never be­lieved he would go on and play for England.You just have to keep try­ing to step for­ward.

“Goal­keep­ers come into their own when they are 26 or 27, so I have time on my side.

“You learn from your ex­pe­ri­ences, good or bad. I had a steep learn­ing curve at New­cas­tle. I had barely played foot­ball and sud­denly I was up against Chelsea, Man United and Spurs.

“But I think the club have learned too about the im­por­tance of send­ing young play­ers on loan rather than keep­ing them in the re­serves as they did with me.

“You can see with Fred­die Wood­man, he’s gone to Craw­ley and he will come back to New­cas­tle a bet­ter keeper for it.

“I’m a bet­ter player now for hav­ing a run in the Port Vale team.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

FULL STRETCH: Jak Al­nwick saves from Wayne Rooney in his New­cas­tle days

OF­FER: Rob Page

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