With Tuesday night’s excellent workout at Celtic Park providing some much needed mileage for the squad, it is clear that one player in particular is intent on making up for lost time.
James Vaughan is clearly a man in a hurry and if you are in any doubt just ask Lukasz Zaluska, the Celtic reserve keeper.
On an otherwise fairly tranquil Glasgow evening he found himself on the receiving of a Vaughan challenge as the City frontman strained every sinew in his body to get on the end of a Marc Tierney cross as half-time approached. Nothing particularly unusual you may think… but a challenge you’d perhaps not normally associate with just the second game of pre-season.
Not a deliberately bad challenge (as the Celtic TV commentators seemed to suggest) but robust and full-blooded.
Except for James Vaughan this is no normal pre-season – the likeable Brummie (I wrongly assumed he was a Scouser), at the age of 24, is yet to make the real impact on the Premier League that his early promise suggested.
Not his fault though … no lack of form to blame… no off-field diversions to blame… just a horrendous run of injuries that have prevented him from building on that promise confirmed by an Everton first-team debut 95 days shy of his 17th birthday.
Much has been written on message boards and in the social media around City’s perceived lack of pace in the final third – and the need for Hughton to somehow acquire a Usain Bolt-type figure to scare defenders to death with pure pace.
Whilst I’m not expecting Vaughan to pitch up in Stratford anytime soon, here we do have a guy who does possess that potentially blistering pace. Yes, the injuries will have taken their toll and those knees – described as ‘made of cheese’ by Evertonians – may creak slightly more than they when they were 16 years old.
But here is a lad who could reportedly run the 100m in 11.5 seconds as a 13 year-old – the fastest for that age group in the country at the time.
And now we’re not asking him to be lightening over 100m… just 20m will do fine, especially if that means him leaving a lumbering centre-back in his wake.
If the lad can have a completely injury free pre-season and if he can harness that pent up frustration that must be the result of his stop-start career to date then he has a chance.
Furthermore if he can recapture that one goal in three ratio that so delighted the Selhurst Park faithful in his loan spell, then we’re looking an another striker with the potential to hit double-figures.
It all depends on those fragile knees… and hamstrings… and shoulders.
Let’s all keep our collective fingers crossed that all remain intact and free of injury.
Tuesday night was also notable for the fantastic following that accompanied the squad to Glasgow. The exact number of those who travelled up to Glasgow varies depending on who you ask, but it’s seems there were in excess of 600 of the Yellow Army in attendance – which is just brilliant.
We were never going to replicate the Scottish invasion of Norwich that accompanied Adam Drury’s testimonial match but, in true holiday romance spirit, the Y’army did their very best to match the party atmosphere that prevailed back in May.
It was good to hear that their efforts were also recognised north of the border with one Scottish commentator reporting that that there were more yellow jerseys on show than at the Tour de France (at least I think that’s an intended compliment, given that – to my knowledge – only one yellow jersey exists! [Well done Bradley Wiggins by the way]).
But for now we’ll assume it was intended as one.
As the Olympics rapidly approach it’s possible that the rest of pre-season will be slightly lower key than is normal – but if we can keep the squad injury-free and acquire the occasional Snodgrass and Turner along the way then things are looking good.
After all… low key suits us right?
Judging by the way City knocked the ball around on Tuesday night, particularly in the second half, it looks likely that Hughton’s way is the Lambert way, and that can only be a good thing for us supporters.
Whether he sticks to his preferred 4-4-2 or tinkers with it in the way that his predecessor did to accommodate Messrs Hoolahan and/or Butterfield will have to wait for another day – but to see the ball staying predominantly on the green stuff can only be a good thing.
For an indication of Hughton’s starting XI for 18 August we will most likely have to wait until the Borussia Monchengladbach friendly seven days earlier – which should hopefully give us a decent guide.
Whether that starting XI includes one James Vaughan remains to be seen – much depends on those creaking knees – but if he can remain healthy maybe, just maybe, this is his time…