Let’s hope Sam can play it again soon

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

WHEN I in­ter­viewed Sam Vokes ex­actly two years ago, the striker was a mil­lion miles from the fear­some goal-ma­chine he is to­day. A Bournemouth debu­tant at barely 17, he had moved to Mick McCarthy’s Wolves in 2008 and sub­se­quently van­ished from view.

Fre­quently in­jured and bounced from loan club to loan club, Vokes scored just 14 goals in four years, al­most all from the bench. When we spoke, he had just pitched up at Brighton and was, to put it bluntly, sick of life on the road.

“I’m well used to liv­ing out of a suit­case,” he said, by then 22 and surely be­gin­ning to worry that his best years were be­ing wasted. “But I think it’s time to move.

“All I want is to find a place where I can get set­tled, get reg­u­lar games, and get to know a squad for the whole year, not just a few months. If I can do that, I’ll prove my worth. I know it.”

And how right he was. Gifted an op­por­tu­nity to im­press by the BARCELONA have been handed a 14-month trans­fer ban for il­le­gally sign­ing young play­ers, a sanc­tion I’m sure will have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact.

It’s a bit like Vic­to­ria Beck­ham be­ing banned from buy­ing more clothes, or pre­vent­ing Paul McCart­ney writ­ing more songs. God will­ing, they should just about get by with what they have. de­par­ture of Char­lie Austin in Au­gust, Vokes has shone for Burn­ley this sea­son, scor­ing 20 goals and forg­ing a part­ner­ship with Danny Ings ev­ery bit as tele­pathic as that of Luis Suarez and Daniel Stur­ridge.

Though it was Ings who won the Cham­pi­onship Player of the Year award, he knows full well that with­out the in­tel­li­gent, tire­less hold-up play of his mate, his tally of 26 goals would be much re­duced. Ings may be the vir­tu­oso, but Vokes is the con­duc­tor.

So it was ter­ri­bly sad to see him crum­ple to the turf last Satur­day, his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment torn.

It is a hor­ri­ble in­jury, one of the worst a player can suf­fer. And what makes it even worse is the tim­ing. For all the op­ti­mistic ‘at the ear­li­est’ fore­casts, it takes at least nine months to re­cover, more still to re­gain max­i­mum sharp­ness.

Just ask Glenn Mur­ray. Palace’s top scorer last year, the 29-yearold snapped his ACL in the play-off semis against Brighton. He has only just re­turned, miss­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of what could be his only chance to play in the Pre­mier League.

Now Vokes is fac­ing the ex­act same fate, with the Clarets al­most cer­tain to strug­gle if they do go up.

I hope he’s a fast healer, and I hope Burn­ley prove me wrong. Be­cause Vokes is a guy who has suf­fered plenty of knocks in his ca­reer and showed great pa­tience to earn a crack at the top flight.

If would be aw­ful if that chance was snatched away just be­cause his studs got snagged on a divot.

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