Player Profile: Darius Vassell
Date of Birth: 13/06/1980
Height: 5 ft 7 in
National Team: England
International Caps: 22
International Goals: 6
A noughties Premier League legend, Darius Vassell was born in Birmingham in 1980. Growing up he played for local junior side Romulus in the Birmingham Boys League, and from an early age it was clear to see he had something about him. Vassell was clinical and a cut above the rest.
One season he scored a record 46 goals which included a double hat-trick in a single game. His ridiculous form at grassroots level soon attracted attention from boyhood and local club Aston Villa. And in 1996, aged 16, Vassell joined their famous academy as a hot prospect.
At Villa’s School of Excellence, Vassell continued to rewrite the record books. He scored 39 goals in one season before eventually making his first-team debut in 1998, aged 18. During his breakthrough season, Vassell made 11 appearances in all competitions and scored twice. Both of which came in Europe.
The following season appearances where few and far between. Vassell featured 11 times in the Premier League without scoring a goal. His talent was clear to see. He had pace, power and agility. But he failed to replicate the same goalscoring prowess he’d shown two years prior for the club’s youth team.
In 2000/01 Vassell finally cemented himself as a first-team regular. He scored four league goals in 23 appearances. The following season would prove to be the most prolific of his professional career as he bagged 12 league goals in 36 appearances. His form earned him his first England cap, and over the next three years, 21 more would follow. Mainly used as an impact sub, Vassell’s electric pace caused tiring defences all sorts of problems.
Over the next few seasons, Vassell failed to hit the same highs as the 2001/02 campaign, and the Villa fans vented their frustration. They were baffled as to why Vassell’s best performances came in an England shirt.
During the 2004/05 season, for one reason or another, he found game time. In the summer of 2005, the inevitable happened. Vassell departed his boyhood club after nine years of service.
The striker, now 25, signed for Manchester City in a deal worth around £2 million. He formed an instant partnership with the legendary Andy Cole. In his first full season with the Citizens Vassell bagged eight league goals in 35 appearances and reached the FA Cup quarter-finals. Vassell player the majority of the season with a hernia, and would need surgery in the summer of 2006.
Throughout the next three seasons, Vassell fell down the pecking order and even had to give up his number 11 shirt for new signing Elano. Most of his game time in the 2007/08 season was spent playing on the wing. Then manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, a man who needs no introduction, opted to play a more defensive 4-5-1 system. As a result, Vassell’s form suffered drastically.
After four seasons with the Citizens, he was being linked with a move away from the City Of Manchester Stadium. Turkey’s Besiktas saw a £1 million offer turned down, while Premier League rivals Bolton and newly promoted Derby were all rumoured to be interested in the striker, but nothing materialised.
Vassell reached 50 Premier League goes in style by scoring against rivals Manchester United in February 2008. The following season would prove to be his last with the Sky Blues. Across four seasons with the club, Vassell made 124 appearances in all competitions, scoring just 22 goals.
In July 2009 Vassell signed for Turkish side Ankaragücü after being released on a free earlier that summer. Over 3,000 fans turned up to the local airport to celebrate his arrival. He gave them more to celebrate a few weeks later when he scored his first goal for the club against Manisaspor in the Süper Lig.
Vassell spent just one season in Turkey before returning to England. In October 2010 he linked up with Sven once more, this time at Leicester City in the Championship. After a disappointing spell in Turkey, Vassell signed a two-year contract with the Foxes. He made 31 league appearances in his first season netting four goals. While the goals were few and far between, his work rate and guile were second to none. Something Sven appreciated.
At the age of 31, he was a regular first-team player for the Foxes. But in October 2011, during a game against West Ham, Vassell sufferer a serious knee injury which kept him out for the remainder of the season. Vassell left the club that summer after not being offered a new deal. He was devastated.
The ruptured anterior cruciate ligament was so severe that it forced Vassell into early retirement. However, he didn’t officially announce it until five or so years later. Maybe he was hoping one day a club would take a gamble on him once again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
On the 28th January 2016, Darius Vassell announced his retirement from the game. Overall, he made 396 appearances in total and scored 77 goals in all competitions, 50 of which came in the Premier League.
Darius Vassell put in a Man of the Match performance on his England debut in 2002. He was one of three debutants to play in the one-all draw against Holland, the other beings one cap wonder Michael Ricketts and Wayne Bridge.
But it was Vassell who grabbed the headlines with a sensational bicycle kick to level the game in the 60th minute. His fine form resulted in him being selected for the 2002 World Cup squad, where he’d make three appearances.
Two years later he was included in the Euro 2004 squad. He replaced the injured Wayne Rooney in the quarter-final against Portugal. England would go on to lose the game in a penalty shootout defeat with Vassell missing England’s final penalty. The match proved to be Vassell’s last for the Three Lions.
Where is Darius Vassell now?
Since his retirement, Darius Vassell has established a coaching and mentoring company, written an autobiography and worked as a youth coach at the Wolves academy.
Did you know? Interesting facts about Darius Vassel
– Up until April 2011, Vassell was never on the losing side in a league game which he’d scored in.
– Vassell has a nephew, Isaac, who plays professional football for Cardiff and Rotherham forward Kyle Vassell is his cousin.