A THUMPING victory over Brighouse Town, a crazy 4-4 draw against Hyde United, a busy afternoon against Bradford City and a last-gasp defeat to Altrincham, Bradford (Park Avenue) have had quite the set of friendlies for the neutrals.

One former Avenue man who has had a similarly hectic pre-season is Port Vale’s Alex Hurst, who suffered an injury against Kidsgrove Athletic but made his return against Sheffield Wednesday last Tuesday.

Hurst joined the Valiants in 2019 after a season under Mark Bower at Horsfall, and after returning to Avenue for a loan spell, the 21-year-old has now broken into the Port Vale first team and has established himself under manager Darrell Clarke.

Speaking exclusively to the T&A, Hurst reflected on his time with Bradford, and pondered over his relationship with Bower and assistant manager Danny Boshell.

The young winger said: “They massively helped my progress and they’re two of the best coaches I’ve worked under I’d say.

“They brought me in when I had recently come out of an Under-23s set-up.

“I’d been at Matlock Town before for a couple of months, but you don’t really find too many non-league clubs that are keen on developing young talent, because that’s what academies are for.

“But they (Bower and Boshell) really helped me out in training and stuff like that, building my confidence and putting me in games at the right moments, and not asking too much of me too soon.

“I couldn’t thank them enough for that first season and I think it really helped me kick on and get back into the professional game, so I’ve got a lot of time for both of them.”

Hurst’s fondest memory of Avenue comes at Spennymoor, from the time the Avenue defied the odds to reach the National League North play-offs in 2018-19.

He said: “I’m trying to think back, it’s been a long time. There’s a lot of fond memories, but probably making it into the play-offs in my first year, and we’d obviously been flying too up until Christmas.

“We were top of the league at Christmas and obviously stuff went on behind the scenes, we lost a few players and we ended up in a bad run of form, but we still managed to make the play-offs with a bit of a depleted squad.

“It was a shame because I thought that our team spirit could’ve taken us all the way, but we weren’t too gutted and more proud of how much we had managed to achieve that season with the circumstances.

“I think we overachieved that season anyway to be honest. Obviously it would’ve been nice to go all the way and get promoted, which would’ve been amazing for the club, but as a group we were proud of getting that far.”

Bradford (Park Avenue) have become a well-known home for many youngsters looking to further their careers, with Lewis Knight and Hurst perfect examples of this.

Hurst said: “It’s a great place to improve, especially under Bower and Bosh.

“Obviously they’ve got the new set-up too, with the astroturf, because when I was playing there the pitch wasn’t great. It was a proper non-league pitch and with my type of game that didn’t really help.

“But the new astro, I think that will attract a lot of young players and I’d definitely recommend Bradford (Park Avenue) as a way forward.

“You see the success stories of the past of players like myself and Lewis Knight, and there’s a few who are still there who I’m sure are going to kick on and get themselves into full-time football.

“The tools Lewis has got physically, with his pace, his shot power and his burst of acceleration, he’s got everything to succeed.”

Hurst added: “I’m massively grateful to Avenue. They’re probably the biggest component to getting me to where I am now.

“Obviously I was in academies and communities but the amount of stuff they gave me in the first season, and even in the second season when it wasn’t going so well, I ended up going back to Port Vale with added confidence and experience.

“Avenue are a club that I will always hold fondly in my heart, and hopefully I will see them all again and will visit the club again someday, because I’d love to.”

Port Vale kick off their League Two campaign with a trip to Northampton Town tomorrow, having finished 13th last season.