Fall from grace – Ex Aston Villa & City star Darius Vassell

I wonder if I am the only person surprised to find out that Darius Vassell is still only 29. It seems like the former England forward has been around forever and demonstrates how after an excellent start to his career things have taken a turn for the worse.

The Birmingham-born striker started his career with Aston Villa, the club he supported as a boy, after coming through the academy ranks at the Premier League club. During one fantastic season with the youth team he fired in 39 goals – a club record.

After making his first team bow in 1998 in a game against Middlesbrough he started to make an impression with his pace and agility but the Villa faithful always thought he was more effective for England during his time with the club in which he scored 45 goals in almost 200 appearances.

Vassell collected 22 caps for England – many of them as a ‘super sub’ causing problems with his speed for tired defences. The first of his six goals for his country came on his debut against Holland where he scored a wonderful bicycle kick to earn Sven Goran Eriksson’s men a 1-1 draw. He went on to make the 2002 World Cup squad and appeared three times. But, unfortunately, his most memorable contribution for England will go down as the deciding penalty he missed as the Three Lions were knocked out of Euro 2004 in a shoot-out against Portugal. He managed to bow out of his international career in good style though as during the same year he scored twice in a 6-1 win over Iceland.

In July 2005 Manchester City paid Villa £2 million for the speedy front man’s services. He had an initial impact in his first season for the club, linking up well with Andy Cole and scoring eight league goals and also helping City to the quarter finals of the FA Cup. But he soon fell down the pecking order and when he linked up again with Eriksson when the Swede took the managerial reins at Eastlands he found himself playing out wide in a 4-5-1 formation. Vassell scored his 50th Premier League goal in a Manchester derby against United in 2008 but he played just 15 times in his final year with the blues and was released after his contract expired in the summer.

July 2009 saw the Brummie move to Turkish side Ankaragucu. 3,000 delirious fans turned out to celebrate his arrival. So far he has netted three times in 14 games in the Turkish Super Lig. Vassell is still a practising Christian and thanks his faith for helping him survive a serious car crash several years ago.