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The Curious Case of James Vaughan

By Stewart Littler :  18/06/2009 :  Comments (24) :
With summer comes the inevitable, and in my case, enjoyable, discussion about the proposed transfer activity ? will he sign, won?t he sign, should he sign and the like. We all play our part in this discussion, even if it is to simply say ?I don?t want him?, but ultimately, as we have learned especially with our beloved Blues, the end results are often those that have slipped under the net ? Arteta, Pienaar, Fellaini ? whilst those courted by ourselves and the media ? Moutinho, M?Bia ? turn out to be pipedreams. With that in mind, I wanted to discuss a player who already plays for Everton, and whose career is in desperate need of a refuel.

For those that require a recap, James Vaughan broke onto the first team scene in April 2005 in a triple record-breaking substitute appearance, becoming the youngest player and youngest goalscorer in Everton?s history, and also becoming the youngest Premier League scorer in history, a record which still stands.

However, during that summer, and whilst on international duty, he sustained the first of 3 knee injuries, which would eventually rule him out until December 2006. He would go on to make 15 appearances over the course of the remainder of that season, scoring 4 goals and earning a call-up to the England Under-21s. More injury would follow though, this time in the form of a dislocated shoulder and an end-of-season second knee injury restricted him to just 13 appearances over the course of the 07-08 season, with just 2 goals to his name.

More recently, the third of those knee injuries have restricted him to just 16 appearances over the last season, with no goals scored, although he did score one of the penalties against Utd in the FA Cup semi-final.

Without being an expert in football or knee injuries, it is clear to see that James has had terrible luck with injuries... Although I, along with many others I would guess, have my suspicions that James?s terrible injury record might also be connected with the size of our squad ? in other words, he has been rushed back too soon, leading to further injuries. Having said that, his career stats, whilst not great, don?t read too badly: 47 appearances and 7 goals is the not great part, but when you consider that of those 47, only 10 have been from the start, it does make better reading.

James now has the chance of a full pre-season to get himself back to full fitness. Having experienced a serious knee ligament injury myself, I have some extended knowledge on the pros and cons of the operation(s) that James will have had.

On the positive side, his knee will be technically stronger than it was before being injured, and the parts that have been replaced SHOULD be more resistant to further injury.

On the negative side, other areas of the knee may have been weakened by the initial injury and subsequent extra strain as a result of compensating for the injury.

A particular consequence of cruciate ligament surgery, as I found out for myself, is that the victim has to ?learn to walk? again. By this, I mean that the knee feels different, and because there is an ?artificial? ligament in place (normally a tendon taken from the kneecap or hamstring), it works in a slightly different way. This is why we normally see a deterioration in the burst of speed of some players who?ve suffered this injury (e.g. Owen), although there is no scientific reason why this cannot be regained.

James needs to work very hard in the gym, strengthening the muscles in and around the knee, and he should be able to overcome these issues. (I have and I?m not afraid to admit that I?m no pro!)

Another big positive for Vaughan is his age. He turns 21 in just under a month, and whilst that makes him something of a veteran amongst our ?young? players, there are two big plusses to take from this: one, he has plenty of time to reignite his career; and secondly, his body will have had a better capacity to naturally heal the injured areas.

With a good pre-season, and a run of games, there is no reason why he cannot go on to become the player, and goalscorer, that we all thought he would become 4 years ago. Or is there?

There is certainly no doubting the hunger and desire of a player who I believe was born to wear the Royal Blue of Everton. However, as with any young player, a young striker?s formative years are key to developing the parts of his game that only come with experience ? positioning, knowing when to chase the ball, timing, etc. That ?goalscoring? ability, pace and touch are the natural parts of his game ? the rest, the skills that truly make a promising youngster a great player, are achieved through coaching and playing time.

My big concern is that James Vaughan has missed out on all of this, and whether it is too late to catch up ? we have already seen evidence of this in a couple of appearances this season just gone, where he has resembled a headless chicken. Whilst I love his enthusiasm, this is exactly the type of behaviour which would have been ironed out with experience.

His big concern is that he needs to be good enough to stake a claim for a place in a team with top 4 ambitions, and the only way for him to catch up on everything he has missed is to get a regular run of games. David Moyes?s big concern will be that, if he gives Vaughan the games, he needs a return in the form of big performances and goals, and if he doesn?t get that, it will seriously hamper any ambitions we have of gate-crashing that particular party.

So what do we think? Will we really see the ?true James Vaughan? once he is at peak fitness? (as quoted by Andy ?Taff? Holden). Or has he had so many injuries in such a short space of time that no-one really knows what the true James Vaughan will look or play like? Should we keep him to give him the games? Or let him go out on loan where he has a greater chance of getting those games? Or even sell him?

I suppose only time will tell, but it does give us something else to talk about during the ?silly summer? period! Thanks for reading.

Reader Comments

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Gavin Ramejkis
1   Posted 18/06/2009 at 13:11:36

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I still think of the two; Anichebe and Vaughan, that Vaughan is the better out and out striker or has the chance to be. I feel his headless chicken fleeting appearances last season were more down to a lad desperate to make his mark with very little time on the pitch to do so, his inexperience showing over his ability and him simply trying too hard. As with all strikers, though, when they hit a run of form they simply can’t do wrong. If, and I really hope he does, James gets a good preseason under his belt and finds his striking boots, then we will have a decent striker on our hands.
Tom Campbell
2   Posted 18/06/2009 at 13:24:22

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He?s our fastest player no doubt. He was the first when to catch Jags when he scored the winning FA Cup pen. Maybe we could put James on the right wing as we have lacked pace on that side.
Mike Allison
3   Posted 18/06/2009 at 13:13:52

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Definitely a good question/issue to raise, as it is something that could be important, and we can see little movement on the new signings front. Having James Vaughan regularly fit and on form will be the old cliche of ?like a new signing?.

The positives are his pace, strength, enthusiasm and finishing ability (the penalty was the class act of a natural goalscorer). In these respects he is reminiscent of Rooney, and had he not had all these injuries, it is possible we would be talking about a similar player, albeit a more directly goalscoring oriented version, and he would be in the U-21 squad right now, maybe knocking on the door of the senior.

Unfortunately Stewart raises an excellent point, which is that Vaughan has missed out on an awful lot of development in the last three years, and at times looks more Cadamarteri than Rooney. The headless chicken comment is unfortunately pertinent.

This could be ?one that got away? unless he is managed well, and lucky. Two things need to happen: (1)he MUST stay fit and (2) the mental side of his game must improve (decision making, judgment etc.). I don?t know to what extent injuries are luck, natural to a body type or dependent on preparation, but James and the club must figure something out. For his joints that?ll mean gym work, as Stewart says, but also more, as tight, hard muscles are more easily damaged.

Vaughan needs the right combination of strength and flexibility. I?d have him working with some kind of yoga or pilates to improve this (personally I?d do this with all players anyway, as I?m convinced it would be beneficial) as flexible muscles are less likely to tear, or strain, and the body will generally be better balanced and less likely to be injured.

The second point is about how he?s coached. James needs to sit down and watch his own performances (of which there need to be more) and analyse where he?s run, when and why. Its hard to judge recently because coming on as a sub he?s desperate to make an impact and runs a lot, but he needs to play more intelligently. I also believe that his running around and general over enthusiasm might be a contributing factor to his injuries, as he puts a lot more stress on his body than do other players.

To sum up, I believe Vaughan has the potential to be nearly as good as Rooney (he lacks a couple of the all-round attributes, passing for example) but is unlikely to achieve this potential unless both he and those at the club who work with him manage him carefully. Therefore I certainly wouldn?t sell him anytime in the next two years, and wouldn?t even loan him either, as I?d want to be keeping a very close eye on him.

Liam Reilly
4   Posted 18/06/2009 at 13:35:55

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If anyone deserves a bit of luck, its JV and I still reckon he could be the real deal.

Moyes rates him highly for sure, as does Andy Holden. Lets hope this is his year.
Graham Plewes
5   Posted 18/06/2009 at 13:40:22

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the funny thing is that it’s gonna be all or nothing with James Vaughan; consistently injured, in and out of the team and missing the playing time his development needs or he stays fit, looks dangerous and scores regularly. if the second happens he will keep Yakubu out of the team in away games when Moyes feels we have to play 4-5-1 and find himself been given a chance at international level next to rooney.
Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 18/06/2009 at 15:04:26

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The case for James Vaughan seems to me like a rose-tinted romance based on seperation...absence makes the heart grow fonder if you like..

The footballer who?s been out injured for a while, the one who?s been on a lengthy suspension...we all glorify them into something they?re not on the basis of clouded judgement and romance..

I?ve never looked at James Vaughan and thought, "Wow what a player!" ... I have, however thought, "What a god awful first touch," or "Jesus ? I could?ve scored that..."

I simply don?t think he?s good enough... and no amount of mawkish overhyping will change that... I?d love to be wrong though!
Ian McDowell
7   Posted 18/06/2009 at 15:36:18

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I remember about Vaughan when he got into the side at the end of the 06-07 season when we qualified for Europe. I thought he looked better than AJ who he was playing alongside and really had high hopes for him. I just hope he stays injury free this season cos I feel he really could really make it.
Dan McKie
8   Posted 18/06/2009 at 15:50:24

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I think he needs a loan out. I just cant see him getting the games required here at the moment, and he needs to prove himself! Also, I have not seen any evidence of him being a goalscorer able to play up on his own and still get goals (like Yakubu). It’s a tough one because he is thought so highly of in Everton’s backroom it seems, but he needs to play!
Michael Evans
9   Posted 18/06/2009 at 15:45:58

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I think I would have to agree with Ciara?n on this. We are hopeless romantics when it comes to certain players which means that objective judgement goes out of the window. Perhaps we are particularly prone to do this with strikers.

How far back do you want to go ? Michael Branch and Danny Cadamarteri both promised much and delivered comparatively little; Daniel Amokachi will always be remembered with affection for THOSE Semi-Final goals ... but what else ?

I think most Everton fans will see this coming season as JV?s make or break time - to be fair he?s acknowledged the same.

I sincerely hope he isn?t yet another addition to the "nearly made it club".
Colin Smith
10   Posted 18/06/2009 at 16:57:53

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For me this will be Vaughan’s make or break season. For me he’s got all that’s needed to break through, technical skill, tactical nouse, physical attributes & desire. The tactical side, especially, needs to be worked on.

I also think he should get enough games to prove himself, one way or another. If Saha starts more than 20 games, I’ll eat my keyboard; Big Vic, regardless of the questions about him, will he even be fit for the start of the season, ditto the Yak & will he ever recover the form of the 07-08 season?
David Ellis
11   Posted 18/06/2009 at 16:52:27

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I am with Ciaran on this.

I am old enough to have seen many youngsters put in a few first team appearances at a tender age. It does not mean that they will continue to develop.

Experience suggests that most do not come through to be regular first team players. Rooney was the exception (and, lets face it, was exceptional). James Vaughan looks far more like a Chadwick, Branch or Cadamarteri.

I hope he steps up a level but the odds are against him.

This website contains lots of conspiracy theories as to why Moyes does not pick the fringe players more often. I think the simplest theory is most likely to be correct. The fringe players are not as good as those in the first team.

Gosling is not as good as Osman. Vaughan is not as good as Saha or the Yak (or Cahill).

Nothing curious about this at all.
John Lloyd
12   Posted 18/06/2009 at 19:20:50

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I agree that this season is a big year for him, but I dont fully agree with Ciaron and his ’rose tinted specs’ memory. It was the spell at end of 2006 (i think) when he was starting and especially the last game of season v chelsea (who I think were champions at time?)

James Vaughan was absolutley devastating, pace, strength and a poorly disallowed goal against the best 2 centre halves arguably in the country Terry & Carvalho!

Obviously he needs to get his temperament in check and see if he has the tools he once had. But obviously Moyes rates him highly and if we have learned nothing we have to learn to trust his judgement. He has made mistakes but far less than most managers to my mind.

The curious case of James Vaughan indeed!
Martin Handley
13   Posted 18/06/2009 at 20:40:34

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I spoke to Daid Moyes himself at a fans forum cup final week on this very subject.

The fear he has is that Vaughany will never be more than an impact sub as his knees are shot to pieces; he is basically the same as Paul McGrath was in that more than 2 days a week training and his knees swell up like balloons.

Moyesey agreed that he is probably the best finisher on the books other than the Yak but he is a more complete player, a la Louis Saha but unfortunately (a la Louis) his fitness is suspect.

My friend and I also asked him about Big Vic and were greeted with an answer of "I don?t wish to talk about that young man!" which does not bode well for his future at Everton. I just thought that yourselves and viewers might be interested in that titbit.

Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
14   Posted 18/06/2009 at 20:54:02

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Some high quality (if depressing) insights there, Martin, right from the horse’s mouth, as it were. WIth that knowledge, it certainly makes sense of the manner he was used (sparingly) and how we can’t reasonably place high expectations on the lad.

Kinda interesting that Moyesey was as forth coming about it. Of course that may not preclude the possibility that it was in fact a "private" fans forum, and that letting the cat out may result in severe reprimands.
Martin Handley
15   Posted 18/06/2009 at 20:59:59

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I just think that Moysey is as upset as the rest of us that the lad may never reach his potential, although as the saying goes, where there?s life there?s hope.
I thought his blunt answer to the Big Vic question was far more interesting obviously on Moyseys side ? at least that "misunderstanding" in January has not been forgotton.
Alan Kirwin
16   Posted 18/06/2009 at 21:00:23

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Good piece Stuart. Insightful appraisal on your part and deserved attention on the part of James Vaughan.

From early on I have seen something in James Vaughan that suggested to me he was destined for the top. He has/had a telling mixture of pace, control, confidence, aggression and eye for the goal.

Although he has scored relatively few goals (for very obvious reasons), many of the ones he has scored have been technically excellent. And even when he hasn’t scored he has displayed an awareness and intelligence that has impressed me.

How odd that Martin should suggest that DM regards him as possibly our best finisher, particularly when the venerable Ciarán McGlone suggests the complete opposite. Not for the first time Mr McGlone sees things that no-one else does. Another mystery.

I would be greatly saddened if this young man’s career was effectively over before it had started. As your excellent analysis suggests, in the last 4 years he could & would have developed so much on the pitch that, well, who knows where he might be by now.

I recall the away game at Villa 2 or 3 seasons back. Ended up 1-1 but we should have won by 3 or more. James Vaughan was fabulous, ripping Villa’s defence & midfield to pieces, ably assisted by AJ. Good goalkeeping and much bad luck stopped us from scoring for fun. But James Vaughan looked like Pierluigi Cassiragi in his young pomp.

I was also taken with his penalty in the SF at Wembley at the ManU end. If that wasn’t a sign of a kid confident in his own ability I don’t know what is.

The kid has what it takes. Might be that he needs a year on loan in Dutch or French league to kick-start his career in slightly less physical climes & giving him more time to address the things that he’s missed out on (positioning, timing etc).

I have heard a number of players talk about Vaughan’s ability in glowing terms, and now seemingly endorsed by the manager. So it clearly isn’t you or I talking bollocks. The kid deserves a very big break. I want him to make it with Everton, but can see logic in him going away for a wee while to make up for lost time.

Again, nice positive piece Stuart.
Stewart Littler
17   Posted 18/06/2009 at 22:36:55

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Well, you can tell it?s been quiet on here!

A lot of varied and interesting comments, so it?s obvious that the subject is very much ?on our minds?. Some people saying he needs time and fitness, some saying he is consigned to the Branch/Cadamarteri/Jeffers route.

I saw all of those 3 come through, as well as Rooney. Put simply, JV was better than those 3 but not Rooney (based on raw potential as a teenager).

Ciaran, I would agree with you to some extent, but as Ian and John point out, he looked awesome at the end of the 06-07 season. I think it?s a little harsh on the lad to say he NEVER looked all that, but I can understand the gist of your post, in that he will need a lot of work to get anywhere near where he might have been based on that raw talent.

Martin, I?m surprised that DM gave so much away, but I fully understand what he means. For the record, I suffered a 100% tear to my right ACL. The surgeon who operated on me (in 2002; he was the Leeds Utd surgeon at the time as I was lucky enough to have private health care) told me that my knee was the worst he had ever seen. In addition to the ACL tear, I had 80% of my cartilage removed, and had irreparable damage to the inside of my kneecap. My knee still swells slightly now after football, but due to many hours spent in the gym (to this day and always if I want to continue to play), I rarely suffer with any problems.

Now I don?t know the exact extent of James?s injuries, but I doubt they were this severe (Owen?s ACL tear was 60-70%). As stated in the original post, and also by Mike, James needs to work extremely hard to get his knee to the required level of strength. I think it?s right for DM to hold this fear, but I don?t think it?s beyond the limits of the human body for James to have a successful career despite his injuries ? as others have stated, he needs to work hard and get lucky, and I think we are all agreed that a positive result would be the best thing for us all.

Graham Smallwood
18   Posted 19/06/2009 at 00:16:19

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Personally, I think this lad has got a future but like most of you think he needs a run of games, i would suggest that DM gives Alan Irvine a bell at PNE and see if they would like a loanee for the first couple of months of the season. Good points to this are obvious but I?ll state them anyway - 1) local club 2) Irvine knows him well 3) he gets to stretch his legs in a decent standard of football which guarantees games.
Eric Myles
19   Posted 19/06/2009 at 02:26:19

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He’s not yet 21 so don’t be writing him off yet.
He’s got a good 10+ years ahead of him still so I wouldn’t mind if he was wrapped in cotton wool this season and came out next fully fit, hungry and a 20+ goalscoring striker.
Pushing him in too soon may ruin his carreer altogether if he gets injured again before being fully recovered.
Mark Scarratt
20   Posted 19/06/2009 at 02:50:49

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Great article, Stewart. I would love nothing better than James Vaughan to be our top striker for the next 10 years. However, injuries have taken their toll, and every time he plays, he acts like he is making up for lost time. I feel for the lad

He is great as an impact sub, but not great when he starts. He needs a full pre season free of injury and also needs to be coached in the striker's art. He must relax in possession and learn to curb his enthusiasm and use it more intelligently.

At the moment he plays with his head down and takes 4 touches, where 1 will suffice. How many times has his first touch resulted in a desperate lunge to regain possession? The attributes are there and just need to be channeled properly.

Moyes has worked wonders with Jags, Lescott, Baines etc, but please note they are all defenders. Do we need a strikers' coach at the club, somebody such as Graeme Sharp? We have a goalie coach, we have Alan Stubbs and Moyes, but do we have the creative coaching staff that we need to bring the best out of players such as Vaughan. Don?t waste the lad. The potential is there.

Please blame all grammar and spelling mistakes on Mr Jack Daniels. It is 3 am and I thank you.

Barry Sherlock
21   Posted 19/06/2009 at 14:42:04

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Really good article.

I read something a few months ago about Beckham going to AC Milan. They have a medical assessor who does an assesment on individual players and can tell from the way they run, they way they turn, running speed, passing, touch and style of play, weight, height if they are prone to injury and how long they might be able to play at the higest level.

At the time, I thought "wow". It could be that the guy is in fact a fraud. But what if he isn’t? What if he looked at JV, what would he say?

He would say "Do not signeyo thisa player" or something like that. Because as much as we ALL love JV and believe he could be the local lad to bang in 25 goals a season, I doubt he will. Raw aggresion and the lads style of play mean that he will severe the odd artery, brake the odd bone, dislocate a shoulder here or there. And then there is the knees......

I love James Vaughan. I have never willed a player to do well as much as I have with JV. He is a great lad. I hope I’m wrong and he can stay injury free and burst back onto the Premier League scene.
Mike Green
22   Posted 22/06/2009 at 09:45:28

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Isn?t this why we have a reserves side? That?s the place to bring him back to fitness / see if he can cut it and have full control over his recovery.

Personally, I love the lad's desire, enthusiasm and commitment to the club but, bar being shit off a stick, I?ve always thought his end product and first touch pretty woeful, sorry. Would love nothing more than to be proved wrong.
Ciarán McGlone
23   Posted 22/06/2009 at 10:18:40

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Interesting that people will comment on what they haven?t seen... and then suggest that those who solely comment on what they have seen - are ?talking bollocks?...

Johnny Wilkinson
24   Posted 22/06/2009 at 15:11:32

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Firstly, does any one really know what operation he had on his knees? ... cos, from where I'm sitting, not one have you have said the correct problem he had. Also, the person who said he spoke to David Moyes or someone that looks very like him has added his own take on the comments cos it didn't sound like that to me.

And thirdly, how about getting behind the players instead of saying negative comments like a 20-year-old has no future? But I do agree with a loan spell ? just to proof the doubters wrong... and not a permanent move so we lose him.

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