There’s only one Sam Vokes
Sam Vokes was one of three Burnley players, alongside Tom Heaton and Stephen Ward, to represent Burnley Football Club in this year’s Euros. When Ward stepped into the Ireland team for his first game of the tournament against Belgium he made history in becoming the first Burnley player to play in any finals of this competition, but Vokes has now taken that one step further.
He was left out of the starting line up for last night’s quarter-final, also against Belgium, but came on as a substitute to score a third Welsh goal with a brilliant header to give them an unlikely 3-1 win against one of the early favourites to win the competition.
It was every bit as good a goal as the ones he scored for us last season at Leeds and then at home to Wolves, both in 1-1 draws, but I reckon, right now, he’ll be thinking this one is the most important goal of his career, and rightly so.
The television pundits and commentators were quick to tell us that it was his first goal for Wales in over two years and his first on foreign soil since 2009. They are correct, but it doesn’t really tell the story. For the record, his last goal for Wales was in a 3-1 friendly win against Iceland at Cardiff in March 2014 while his only previous goal outside of Wales was scored after coming on as a substitute against Montenegro in Podgorica in August 2009, another friendly which was lost 2-1.
Sam has had two big fights at Burnley, one to actually win a place in the team and the other to come back from the most serious injury a footballer can suffer.
If we look back three years to the summer of 2013. He’d just completed his first full season at Turf Moor. He’d played all 46 of the league games for us in 2012/13 but only 13 of those had been starts and he’d scored just four goals in total.
He moved one place up the list with Martin Paterson opting to move to Huddersfield and when Charlie Austin was sold to QPR two days before the next season started, he suddenly became first choice alongside Danny Ings. It was typical Sean Dyche when he described Austin’s departure as an opportunity for someone else and how Vokes took it, scoring 20 league goals as the Clarets stormed to the Premier League with 93 points.
Unfortunately for Sam, he wasn’t there at the end after suffering a ruptured cruciate ligament injury against eventual champions Leicester, ruling him out of the last seven games and the first half of the following Premier League season.
When he did come back into the side he looked nothing like the Vokes we’d seen in that promotion season but I always remember Steve Cotterill, who suffered two such injuries himself, telling me that it takes a year to eighteen months to fully recover.
He didn’t score a Premier League goal for us and even last season was sat on the bench for the opening game of the season with Lukas Jutkiewicz and Jelle Vossen selected to start up front at Leeds. Even Marvin Sordell was introduced before him as the Clarets drew 1-1 but Vokes was the name on the scoresheet four minutes from time to earn us a point.
We alternated between Jutkiewicz and Vokes for the first few games but it was another cruciate, this time for Juke, that suddenly saw Sam back as first choice, coming in alongside Andre Gray who had by then been signed from Brentford.
As the season progressed he got stronger and stronger; he got better and better and when you look at the timetable Cotterill predicted, it all fell nicely for Vokes who enjoyed a real purple patch in form and goals in the early part of 2016, going on a run in which he scored ten goals in fourteen games.
Having firstly fought his way into the first team and gone on to take that opportunity, he’s gone on to fight back from that injury, and, after that run of goals, he had two more to come for us, the first of them the promotion clincher against QPR and then the first against Charlton on the day the title was won.
I wrote at the time that it was fitting, given what had happened two years earlier, that he should be the player to score the promotion clincher. I felt it was just and so fully deserved given what he’d missed and at least this time he was able to enjoy the walk round afterwards without crutches.
But I’m not sure even he could have envisaged what was going to happen in France. Wales now stand one game against Portugal from the final and Sam Vokes, if he plays a part against Portugal, will become the first Burnley player ever to appear in a major international semi-final.
Hugely popular with the Burnley fans, I can’t think of any player who deserves it more. I’m not Welsh, although I do speak to Brian Flynn, but I’d love to them to go on and make the final now.
There’s only one Sam Vokes.Share this page :