Having worked his way up through the Everton ranks, like many before him,
16-year-old James Vaughan must have got a huge rush knowing he would be on
the bench for one Everton's biggest games of the 2004-05 season — an FA Cup 5th Round
tie at home to Manchester
And although his manager opted to bring on two defenders and accept the
inevitable at Old Trafford and then left Vaughan warming the bench the following week at Aston Villa, another chance for his record debut
came the following weekend against Crystal Palace.
With 15 minutes to go in that game, David Moyes finally
found the moment to bring on Vaughan for his senior debut. At the
tender age of 16 years & 271 days, he became the youngest Everton player
ever, beating Joe Royle's debut age by 11 days.
And what a way to celebrate the occasion: scoring a debut goal that made
him the Youngest Ever Everton Goalscorer, and the Youngest Ever
Premier League Goalscorer.
Vaughan could not sign a professional
contract until after his 17th birthday in July 2005 but after fruitful
negotiations with Everton, Vaughan was signed on to a four-year deal that
would hopefully see him consolidate his place on the highest rung of
Things did not go well for James the following season, however, with just
one sub appearance (v Fulham) after
sustained a serious knee injury while playing with the England U-19s in
September 2005. Knee surgery was required, and the long recovery
The path to recovery was long and problematic, with the knee breaking down
not once but twice before he was finally dispatched to Dr Richard
Steadman's world-renowned Colorado clinic in April 2006. His recovery was reported to
be 'progressing' with hopes that he might figure in Everton's pre-season
training programme come July 2006.
Vaughan finally reappeared in November 2006, partly because David Moyes
ran out of options, due to injuries. Commenting on Vaughan's injury
woes, Moyes said "It's been a slow process for James. He's been doing
extra sessions, and he's probably just a bit too brave for his own good
sometimes. I'm not too sure whether he'd have made the 16 for the [West Ham] match had
we not had those injuries, but he deserves his moment." And he took
it well, firing low and hard through keeper Robert Green to confirm
Everton's win in well into stoppage time.
Progress for Vaughan was slow, however, and long periods went by without
him playing any part despite the failure of James Beattie to hit the net, and
with Andy Johnson going through a number of barren spells. So it was that
nearly two years had elapsed from Vaughan's initial appearance as a sub at
senior level before he was given a starting berth � in a massive game
against Arsenal which the Blues won thanks to an injury-time goal by Johnson.
James's emergence from the Everton Academy coincided with that of Victor Anichebe but many have regarded Vaughan as the better all-round striker. That would appear to be supported by the fact that he had the greater impact at a younger age but those long-term injuries enabled Anichebe to stake his own claim at Goodison, particularly in the first half of the 2007-08 season when he scored some crucial goals in the Blues' Uefa Cup campaign.
Vaughan, however, has proved deadly when fit and given a chance, as evidenced by his own Uefa Cup, the winning goal in a 3-2 victory against AZ Alkmaar in December 2007 that condemned the Dutch side to their first defeat on home soil in European competition for 32 years.
He has good aerial ability, terrific pace, a devastating eye for goal, excellent strength to hold off defenders, and a never-say-die attitude that makes him an exciting player to watch. He recently earned his promotion to the England U-21
But sheer enthusiasm, all too often misplaced in overly exuberant play,
proved his downfall again. In early March 2008 his knee locked up in
training and Vaughan was sent off to knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman
for an operation to fix the problem, which kept him out until August.
He recovered from that in time for the US tour of 2008, and came on as
a sub in the first game (Chicago Fire) only to get dismissed for a silly
tackle with 2 mins to go. There was talk that he would be suspended
for the start of the season and David Moyes was apparently furious with
Vaughan's opportunities were restricted somewhat at the start of the
2008-09 season, perhaps due to more undisclosed problems with his knee
that finally led to more surgery in November 2008... but not by Dr
Richard Steadman, who broke his arm skiing! After a fruitless trip
to Colorado, Vaughan had the surgery done in England and was back in
training by March, but only a handful of sub appearances followed under
Moyes's softly-softly approach to rehabilitation.
He made his return
against Man Utd in the
FA Cup semi-final, coming on in the first period of extra time and scoring
his penalty in the shootout that saw Everton famously beat the Mancs 4-2.
He went on to play in the FA Cup Final, coming
on as a second half substitute. But mostly it was another season wasted,
with not a single goal to show for his efforts. Near the end of the 2009
summer transfer window there were rumours of moves to Stoke, Newcastle and
then (after the transfer window closed) Middlesbrough on loan.
In September 2009 he left for a three-month loan spell with Derby County, where it was hoped he would get plenty of injury-free first-team football. But that fell flat after just two games when he got injured in October, cutting short the loan deal while he once again recovered from injury for an extended period. Goodison was surprised to see him named on the subs' bench in the game before Christmas 2009 but could not see much point in giving him 2 mins on the field when the game was effectively over.
He was given just one start in 2009-10, going on loan again in the Spring, this time to Leicester City, where he was less than impressive... but at least he managed a goal, his future with Everton seemingly hanging in the balance.
With David Moyes bringing in both Jermaine Beckford and Magaye Gueye to strengthen his attacking options, Vaughan looked to be slipping backwards in the pecking order, and rumours were rife that someone would come in for him... but no-one did before the transfer window closed on 1 September 2010. But a week or so later, a loan deal was finally struck, with Vaughan going to Crystal Palace on a three-month loan where he got 14 starts and 5 goals.
He returned, and came on as sub in one game for Everton, which then scuppered the next planned loan move when nobody came in for him in January 2011, so Moyes packed him off back to Palace for the rest of the season. This time, he got another 14 starts and 4 goals.
At the end of May 2011, Vaughan was finally moved on after a season
where he was put out on loan for two spells at Crystal Palace. After a
disappointing Everton career that never really delivered, punctuated by
many many injuries, Vaughan only scored 9 goals in just 11 starts for
Everton in stats that belie an incredible 49 sub appearances. Meanwhile,
he scored the same number of goals in his 30 games on loan at Palace!
Everton agreed an undisclosed fee (rumoured to be around £2M) with
Norwich City, who gave the Birmingham lad a 3-year deal in preparation
for their promotion to the Premier League.
"It was hard to leave Everton," Vaughan told the club's
website. "I've been there since I was six but now it's time to move on
and try and get some games elsewhere."
He then had a loan spell at Huddersfield Town for the majority of the
2012-13 season, before signing permanent terms on 3 July 2013. He spent
two-and-a-half seasons with Huddersfield before joining Birmingham City on
loan. The move was made permanent at the end of the 2015-16 season, but
his stay was brief, as he joined Bury in August 2016.
Vaughan played for just a single season at Bury, making 40
appearances and scoring 24 goals. He completed a move to Championship
club Sunderland in July 2017, playing 27 times before leaving to join Wigan
Athletic in January 2018. He spent time on loan at Portsmouth in
On 25 June 2019, it was announced that Vaughan would join League Two
club Bradford City, following his release by Wigan, on a 3-year
contract. Ahead of the new season, he was named as Bradford City's new
club captain but, in January 2020 he would go out on loan to Tranmere
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