PORT Vale captain Carl Dickinson says fans should watch Chris Birchall train and play before making a judgement on the experienced midfielder.
Birchall was given his first league start of the season in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Southend, but his inclusion in place of Byron Moore prompted some criticism on social media.
Dickinson says Birchall deserves better than to be dismissed by fans who haven't seen his efforts behind the scenes.
He said: "People who think that, I would tell them to come and watch training. Chris is as fit as a fiddle and gives 100 per cent day in, day out.
"People that watch the reserve games see how much effort he puts into that, and he has been scoring goals. The manager thought Birchy deserved a chance, and that's it."
Rob Page played Birchall on Saturday because he felt the right-sided midfielder would help nullify Southend's attacking left back, Ben Coker. He also felt Birchall was a better option playing against the home side's midfield diamond formation.
Birchall has been one of Vale's best performers in the reserves this season as they have gone four games unbeaten from the start of the campaign.
That included scoring two goals and setting up another as the reserves began the defence of their league title with a 4-3 win at Walsall last month.
But his only previous start for the first-team was in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy when Vale won 1-0 at home to Carlisle in the first round.
Birchall signed a new one-year contract in the summer, 14 years after making his first team debut for Vale as a 17-year-old at Charlton in the League Cup.
The 31-year-old played for 64 minutes at Southend before he was replaced by Moore as Vale chased the game. Southend scored the only goal of the game moments before the change.
Vale will attempt to bounce back from the disappointment of the Southend defeat when they take on Peterborough on Saturday.
Remie Streete should be available to play having been rested from the Southend game as a precaution after he suffered a bang on the head against Blackpool four days earlier.
The 20-year-old centre-half has been able to resume training and will compete with Ryan McGivern for a place in the team alongside Richard Duffy.