James Vaughan – a Huddersfield fan’s view

 

It has been reported by Huddersfield sources that Wigan Athletic have signed the 27 year old Huddersfield Town striker James Vaughan.

The departure of Billy Mckay left Latics short on strikers and Gary Caldwell appears to have taken a calculated risk on the talented Vaughan, whose  potentially dazzling career has been blighted by injury. Vaughan still holds the record of being the youngest player ever to score a goal in the Premier League, having done so against Crystal Palace at the age of 16 years 271 days.

It is a bold move from Latics who already had another striker in Craig Davies who too has had his share of injuries in the past. Should Davies and Vaughan stay fit, then together with Will Grigg, they might well prove to be the strike force that gets the club out of League 1.

James Vaughan was born in Birmingham but joined Everton at nine years of age, being spotted playing in Preston. Vaughan is blessed with genuine pace – at 13 years of age he was the third fastest 100 meter sprinter in his age group in England. He was to impress in the Everton Academy being player of the season for the under 16s in 2003-04. Vaughan soon moved up to reserve team football, where he regularly scored goals, and went on to make that memorable debut as a substitute against Crystal Palace in April 2005, which also led to him being beating Joe Royle’s record of being the youngest player to play for the  Everton first team. He went on to  receive  a full professional contract couple of months later.

Sadly Vaughan was to suffer a knee ligament injury playing for England’s under 18 side and he missed much of that 2005-06 season. Injuries were to sadly blight Vaughan’s career at Everton, including a dislocated shoulder and a severed artery in his foot. But he came off the bench for the 2009 FA Cup Final, after also playing in the semi final. In September 2009 Vaughan was sent on a three month loan to Derby County, but it was cut short by a knee injury. On his return he scored what proved to be a vital goal against Burnley. In March 2010 he joined Leicester City on loan where he made 8 appearances, scoring a goal.

In September 2010 he joined Crystal Palace on a three month loan, briefly returning to Everton before rejoining Palace in January until the end of the season. In an injury-free season Vaughan made 30 appearances for Palace, scoring 9 goals. In May 2011 he signed for Norwich for an undisclosed fee, but his first season was blighted by injury with him making just five appearances. In August 2012 Norwich sent him on a season-long loan to Huddersfield Town.

The Daily Mail quoted Vaughan on his difficult time at Norwich and his move to Huddersfield:

It was really tough for me. I’d had an injury-free year at Crystal Palace and I went to Norwich under Paul Lambert and started well. I then got a small knee injury which turned from four weeks out to four months. The thing is, you don’t really have any days off when you’re injured. You’ll have the Sunday off. But I was living miles away from my family and friends down there and was never able to see them. When you’re not playing that is so difficult. Towards the end of the second season I was just getting fit again and then the manager changed. I wasn’t in Chris Hughton’s plans and had to move on. Huddersfield feels like a new lease of life.” 

Vaughan went on to make 33 appearances, scoring 14 goals in that 2012-13 season. He went on to sign a three year deal with the Terriers in July 2013. Since then he made 50 appearances, scoring 17 goals.

In order to find out more about Vaughan’s  time at Huddersfield we contacted a Terriers fan.

Marko (Twitter @marko2807) is a Huddersfield Town SC holder & ATT Town Fans Panel Member.

Here’s over to Marko:

James Vaughan

August 2012 – Huddersfield pulled a shock loan move for Premier League striker James Vaughan, signed on a season long deal from Norwich City and made a winning debut at home to Burnley. That season, Vaughan quickly became a fans favourite for his 100% committed performances and scoring 14 goals in 33 league appearances for Town. All Town fans were crying out for Town to try and bring him to club on a permanent deal.

That close season, Town beat off a number of other clubs and signed Vaughan on a 3 year deal for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around the 600k mark. In terms of ability, make no bones about it, Vaughan is a premier league player however sadly his injury record is there for all to see and is the reason why he was playing for Town rather that higher up the chain.

That season, Vaughan only managed 23 appearances, scoring 10 goals. Still a healthy strike rate but a season cut short by a number of injuries. Last season, Vaughan made 26 appearances, but scored just 7 goals and again, appeared to suffer injury after injury.

Beinging the top earner and some at a smallish championship club with modest gates and minimal TV money, it seems that the chairman has had enough paying top dollar to a player who spends as much time in the treatment room as he does on the pitch.

Make no bones about it, Vaughan is quality and we are a different side with him upfront.  However, keeping him out on the pitch seems to have been a step too far. There is no doubting his commitment when he plays however intelligence hasn’t been his strong point. Making wreckless challenges, picking up silly bookings, then injuring himself and incredibly frustrating on his return for a long injury last season, he scored a late winner and after being booked for a stupid challenge earlier on, pulled off his shirt and we all know what happens then! Celebrated scoring the winner and then promptly walked down the tunnel for another unscheduled break from playing. I didn’t know whether to chant his name or call him what I thought at the time!

If he signs for Wigan and gets and stays fit then I have no doubt that he will be the best player in League One. If he makes it back into the treatment room, then he is good as I am!

Good luck to him – If he plays, I’m sure Vaughan will tear them apart. Huddersfield Town are a lesser team without him, sadly we don’t have resources to burn and seemed to be the reason he is being allowed to leave.

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An Everton fan’s view of Francisco Junior

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When Wigan Athletic took the field at Firhill a week ago there were a couple of faces in the starting lineup that I just could not recognise. One of them was to play in front of the back four, in a style reminiscent of Claude Makelele. He looked a cut above most of the players on the pitch.

Francisco Junior had only just been signed on loan from Everton, together with Jonjoe Kenny. During the course of that match against Partick Thistle he must have come close to covering every blade of grass on the pitch, such was his work rate. Moreover he was strong in the tackle and remarkably successful in his distribution given that he had never played with his teammates before. Junior constantly made himself available to receive the ball, even when under pressure. He seemed to float past the Thistle midfieders’ challenges.

To be honest I had never even heard of Francisco Junior. But how could a player of this quality be so relatively unknown? Checking his credentials on the internet after the game made fascinating reading. Junior had clearly had a chequered past – a player with the quality to play at a high level, but one who has failed to do so up to this point in his career.

On completing the loan move Junior was quoted as saying:

“It’s a brilliant opportunity for me to be here to show people what I can do, and most of all to show the gaffer that he can trust me and believe in my talent. I want to learn different things here, and I’ll take any chance they’re going to give me to play in the team in the first team…..My usual position is a forward role in midfield, but on Tuesday I played behind the two other central midfielders.  I feel comfortable in any position in midfield, so it all depends on where the manager wants me to play.”

Francisco Santos da Silva Junior was born in Bissau, capital of the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony. Junior signed for Benfica of Portugal as a 15 year old in 2007. He went on to play for Portugal’s under 19 and under 21 teams.

In 2011 Junior was loaned to U.D.Leiria, a lower division team in Portugal. However, he never showed up to play for them, instead training and playing with Manchester City’s development team, unbeknown to Benfica. The end result was City having to pay €1.5million in compensation to Benfica, where the player returned.

Junior signed for Everton in July 2012 on a free transfer, telling the Guinea-Bissau media that was he was “tired of the impasse between Benfica and Manchester City and businessmen who wanted to win more than they should.” He immediately featured in the pre-season and made his debut for Everton in a 1-0 League cup defeat against Leeds United that September. He was to be sent off on loan to Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in September 2013, where he went on to make just two appearances as a substitute before moving on to Stromsgodset in March 2014. He went on to 9 starts and 2 appearances as a substitute, scoring one goal for the Norwegian club.

Junior returned to Everton in August 2014, being sent on loan to Port Vale In March 2015. However, he was to make just one start after receiving a hamstring injury on his debut.

Junior has clearly had adjustment problems living overseas and adopting the kind of lifestyle one would expect of a professional footballer at a Premier League club. He is in the final year of his contract at Everton. He has not made it at the club and the likelihood is that he will not be offered a new contract. He has signed for Latics on a month’s loan but reports suggest it can be extended.

If he can display that same brand of commitment and skill that we saw on the Scotland tour on a regular basis, Junior will be a player that Gary Caldwell will want to keep. He is still only 23 years old and has the talent to become a highly accomplished professional footballer.

We asked Lyndon Lloyd of Everton fan site Toffeeweb  (http://toffeeweb.com/) for his view on Junior. Here’s over to Lyndon:

To be honest, we know very little about Junior as he’s become one of the forgotten men of our U21s setup.

 He arrived at Everton with a promising pedigree, having come through Benfica’s youth academy and then joined Manchester City, but the furthest he got was a solitary senior appearance under David Moyes in the League Cup three years ago when we lost at Leeds with half the reserves playing. He was hauled off at half time — somewhat harshly in my view, but I know many Blues don’t agree — and hasn’t been seen since.

 It came to light last week that he has been battling the temptations of the party scene and the bad influence of some people he says he thought were his friends following the loss of his mother in 2012 which has clearly affected both his development and his standing at Everton. He says he is determined to put it right and is determined to “make it for sure”, in his words.

On July 20thI I made the following post on our site about the player and his career:

Francisco Junior has opened up on social media about how he almost let drink and partying wreck his career and his belief that he is now focused again on trying to make it at the top level.

Signed from Manchester City’s reserve set-up as a promising midfield prospect, the former Benfica academy graduate has been with Everton since 2012 but remains a largely forgotten figure, as far away from first-team contention as ever.

In that time he has just one senior appearance to his name, a 45-minute showing at Leeds United as one of half a dozen young players thrown into an ill-fated League Cup tie in David Moyes’s final season with the club.

He has been farmed out on loan to Port Vale, Vitesse Arnhem and Stromsgodset while opportunities to push for a place in the first team under Roberto Martinez, like the dead rubber against Krasnodar last December and this summer’s pre-season trip to Singapore, have passed him by.

As David Prentice uncovers in the Liverpool Echo, the 23-year-old has admitted to plenty of reasons for why on his Instagram account, not least the loss in 2012 of his last guiding force in the form of his mother and the distracting influence of people he mistakenly believed were his friends.

“Sometimes is always better later than never,” the Guinea-Bissau-born player wrote in occasionally broken English. “After I lost my mum three years ago I lost my world. I been nearly nine years now living alone with no family and zero support off no-one.

“I stop be profisonal (sic), (party, sleep later, alcohol) because I always think talent is enough. But I was wrong. And that people I call friends now they talk shit about me in my back because am not that person any more and sold history about me.”

Junior has a season remaining on his current contract and has the coming year to get himself back in shape and focused enough to persuade Martinez that he has a future with Everton.

If not, the former Portuguese U21 international is hopeful of doing enough to persuade another club to give a chance to finally make it.

“But just to let you guys know,” he concluded, “am gona (sic) make it for sure. Can be here [at Everton] or somewhere else. thank god for always be there for me and my family and Nojan.”  

Time to rebuild for beleaguered Wigan as icon Martinez bids farewell

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If a week is a long time in politics, this month has been an eternity in Wigan Athletic’s corner of football history. From that magical day at Wembley to the exhaustion and despair of relegation three days later, to the joy of the victory parade at which 30,000 Wiganers sang for Roberto Martinez to stay.

Ten or so days ago, it appeared the Wigan legend was making demands for further investment in the club’s training facilities and youth development — today, the club has announced that compensation has been officially agreed and he will leave to fill the managerial vacancy at Everton.

Well-deserved tributes to Martinez will follow in due course. He was far more than an employee during his managerial stint at Wigan Athletic — he represented the club as a true ambassador, with passion and pride, always portraying the club in the best possible light. He was a source of pride for most of the club’s supporters, a rarity in football who possesses a real love story with the club and town. He delivered footballing memories we shall never forget, including the club’s greatest achievement FA Cup victory but also the highest quality football the club has ever seen during last season’s great escape. He is and will remain an icon.

But he is gone, officially — and his departure leaves the club in a state of uncertainty. If the blow of relegation has been cushioned for many of us by the knowledge that his tireless work behind the scenes has left the club in strong shape for the long-term, his departure brings with it a wave of fresh concerns.

The immediate concern is a mass exodus. The loss of certain players was inevitable following relegation. But having already lost seven players to the expiration of the their contracts, either full-time or loan, the club now faces the challenge of keeping players who would have stayed loyal to Martinez but may now be tempted to follow his lead and jump ship. How many of the youngsters, especially the Spanish-speakers, will stick around for Championship football if a British manager takes over under a new playing philosophy? How many players — Alcaraz, Maloney and Kone spring to mind — will Martinez try to take with him? How many of the coaching staff will stay?

The longer-term concern is a potential loss of continuity. After four years of successfully revolutionizing the way the club played football from the youth teams upward, the club now faces the possibility of a new manager with a different footballing philosophy. The hope is that Dave Whelan will take a page out of Swansea’s book and prioritize continuity, bringing in a manager with a similar continental philosophy and an emphasis on youth development. Ideally, but impractically, Martinez would act in an advisory role to Whelan in the appointment of his successor to ensure his vision is continued.

The good news is that most of the candidates linked with the Wigan vacancy are promising from a footballing perspective. Gus Poyet is a personal favourite given his style of football, cultural and linguistic understanding, familiarity with the Championship, and relative youth. Rene Meulensteen represents a gamble, as Jakarta Jack recently wrote, but ticks many of the correct boxes with a continental approach, track record working with youth, and big-club pedigree. Karl Robinson is lesser known. Steve McLaren is experienced and did wonderful work at FC Twente and Middlesbrough, but has some blotches on his managerial record as well. Only Owen Coyle’s name sticks out as an unpopular candidacy. And finally, the Daily Mail couldn’t help but report that Whelan is after Steve Bruce for a third stint in the Premier League, this morning. Unlikely.

A swift appointment must be a priority. There will be much rebuilding over the summer. Poyet, Meulensteen and McLaren do inspire hope in the transfer market, something that should prove vital in the immediate future. But it remains to be seen what sort of budget Martinez’s successor is forced to operate within. There is a lingering sense of unfinished business for Martinez given the challenges posed by relegation. The biggest question is what led to the breakdown in talks between Whelan and Martinez, between that Friday when the Spaniard had asked for assurances about investments in the club, and the Monday when Whelan suggested he would be leaving. Did the manager ask the chairman for assurances about keeping certain players? About bringing new players in? Or strictly about investment in facilities and development?

The next few weeks promise to be unpleasant ones for the Wigan faithful. The ecstasy of the FA Cup win has been blunted by relegation and the slow and painful dismantling of the team that achieved it. The list of those to have left the club includes Antolin Alcaraz, Franco Di Santo, Maynor Figueroa, Ronnie Stam, Joel Robles, Angelo Henriquez, Paul Scharner, and now, most damningly, the captain of the ship, Roberto Martinez. Presumably his coaching staff will follow. Whelan’s swift action will be crucial. His managerial appointments in the past have largely been inspired, but this may be the greatest test yet.

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Go for two, Dave

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The classic double act was that of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor working in tandem. Together they won the First Division and two European Cups with an unfashionable club. What a duo!

As expected Roberto Martinez’s move to Everton grows closer and closer, despite the denials of the Liverpool club.

Rene Meulensteen and Karl Robinson are the bookmakers’ favourites. Either one would be a gamble, but an exciting one. It is refreshing to note that Dave Whelan is open to looking at alternative talent.

Experienced and very capable managers are available with the likes of Steve McClaren and Owen Coyle remaining in the running.

When Martinez goes he will almost certainly take Graeme Jones with him.

My message to Whelan is simple – appoint a duo from the applicants.

Agreed that this would be a burden on the wage bill, but compared with what players earn the salary of another senior manager is not so hard to afford.

The prospect of a Meulensteen/Mike Phelan or Meulensteen/Karl Robinson combination is mouth watering.

However, this columnist would ask Whelan to consider Gus Poyet. For me he is the natural successor to Roberto Martinez. The Uruguayan is not so skilled at public relations as the Spaniard, but his Brighton team have played champagne football this season. Moreover he has a fine pedigree as a top Premier League player.

In 1995 Dave Whelan signed the Three Amigos – Diaz, Martinez and Seba – to help Latics play more skillful football.

Now is the time for him to make another bold move.

The bonus is Whelan staying at the club – managers come and go, but his continuing presence is paramount to the club’s success.

Wigan Athletic would be languishing in the lower levels without Dave Whelan. He has made great appointments in the past and one hopes he can make another inspired appointment- or double appointment.

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Towards Europe and Survival

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Roberto Martinez is indeed a brave and unusual man. Who else would turn down lucrative offers to manage Aston Villa or Liverpool to stay with a club that is continually fighting relegation? Who else stays calm and optimistic in the darkest of times when it just does not seem possible for Wigan Athletic to succeed?

The 4-0 home defeat to Liverpool was hard to bear for Wigan Athletic supporters. It was not only the result but the manner in which the team had performed, or one might say, not performed. Then a week later Martinez puts out the most attacking starting lineup we have seen during his tenure, with only one genuine holding midfielder in James McCarthy. The resulting 3-0 victory at ‘Fortress Goodison’ was a revelation. The Everton players must have been shell shocked by not only the result, but in Wigan’s command of the game. A match that will be remembered by Latics fans for years to come.

Sometimes a team struggling in the league does well in a cup competition. So it was to prove on Saturday, when Roberto Martinez took a gamble by putting in most of his first choice players for an FA Cup tie at Goodison Park. Some would say that he risked injury to his senior players at a crucial time and that the FA Cup is an unnecessary diversion in Wigan’s fight against relegation from the Premier League. Better to concentrate on the league and let the second string side deal with Everton. In the event Callum McManaman limped off after 40 minutes and Ryo Miyaichi is now out for the rest for the season, following a tough challenge from Kevin Mirallas.

Whether Martinez was right or wrong to take that risk is a question that would be best answered at the end of the season. The 3-0 win has created a huge amount of interest among Latics followers and has sent shock waves to the other teams embroiled in the relegation battle. Latics face a potential banana skin in the semi final against Championship rivals, but if they can play to their potential then they will not only reach the final, but will probably also qualify for the Europa League.

It is only two years ago since Birmingham City qualified for the Europa League by beating Arsenal in the League Cup final. Three months later they were to lose their final Premier League fixture at Tottenham, condemning them to relegation. They had only won 2 of their final 12 league matches after lifting the cup.

Despite now being in the second tier of English football Birmingham were to perform well in the Europa League, being unlucky to be eliminated in the group stage after winning four, drawing two and losing two matches in the tournament. Their gates averaged 24,431 in the four Europa League games played at St Andrews, compared with 16,451 in the Championship division where they finished in 4th place.

The possibility of Wigan playing in the Europa League is mouth-watering to their loyal fans who have stuck with their club through thick or thin. It would represent the next level of achievement for a club that has come so far since joining the Football League in 1978. At this stage it is only a possibility, depending largely on beating Millwall, but also on whether the other team that reaches the final also qualifies for the Champions League. Given that the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea are the candidates it looks a strong possibility.

In that same 2010-2011 season Bolton Wanderers reached the FA Cup semi final, only to be undone 5-0 by Stoke City. Following that defeat Bolton slid down the table, losing 5 out of their last 6 games.

The experiences of Birmingham and Bolton following big cup ties serve to highlight the knife edge that Wigan Athletic are currently perched on. The main priority has to be Premier League survival, but a win in the FA Cup semi final would provide some icing for the cake and push Wigan into new pastures. The worst case scenario of achieving neither would be a hammer blow for the club.

Roberto Martinez is a shrewd manager and if anyone can guide Latics through the coming weeks it is he. The win at Everton showed the talent he has at his disposal. Despite their lowly league placing Wigan Athletic have the best quality squad they have ever had. Martinez’ main task will be to ensure that such quality continues to shine through consistently in the matches that remain.

A place in the Europa League would be fantastic. But avoiding relegation is what Martinez will have in mind above anything else.

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