'I Could Hardly Speak' - Vaughan's Euro Memories

by Paul McNamara

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James Vaughan was elated. Not yet out of his teenage years, the striker had scored the winning goal for Everton on an exhilarating European night.

And just like most people when they achieve something extraordinary, he wanted to talk about it.

Unlike most people, however, his opportunity to chatter nineteen to the dozen came in the form of having a microphone thrust under his nose, his blood still pumping furiously around his body.

Alas, not furiously enough to enable him to give the viewing public any insight into his emotions.

“The day was just freezing,” Vaughan tells evertonfc.com. “I remember doing an interview on the television afterwards and I could hardly speak – that is the main thing I remember about the game.

“But I will never forget the day because it was just so bitterly cold.”

To give Vaughan’s recollections some context, he is harking back to the day Everton spiked AZ Alkmaar’s 31-game unbeaten home record in continental competition.

The Dutch team needed to win the Europa League group match in December 2007 in order to avoid being dumped out of the tournament. They would have fancied their chances, too.

Everton had won their previous three games and already guaranteed a berth in the knockout stages. The demob happy Blues travelled to Holland without a host of regular starters, all putting their feet up at home in advance of the traditional Christmas fixture blitz.

What David Moyes’s team did have in their favour, though, was momentum. They had not lost any of their previous 12 matches, comprising games in the Premier League and League Cup, as well as in Europe.

Vaughan was watching from the bench – wrapped up against temperatures that had plummeted to -12 degrees – as Andy Johnson opened the scoring after only 63 seconds, before future Southampton striker Graziano Pelle pounced to level on 16 minutes.

“We were all sat there absolutely freezing,” says Vaughan. “I was just so grateful when I could get on get on and was able to start running around.”

He had to wait until the 68th-minute for his turn, with David Moyes sending for Vaughan and fellow 19-year-old Bjarni Vidarsson, shortly after Alkmaar had equalised for a second time, following Phil Jagielka’s headed goal for Everton on the stroke of half time.

Alkmaar’s decorated manager Louis van Gaal must have sensed victory, with his team back level pegging and Moyes summoning the novices.

The Everton boss, in fact, would introduce a 16-year-old Jack Rodwell into the fray with 10 minutes remaining, so making the midfielder the Club's youngest player in European competition.

But not before Vaughan had his moment, the energetic forward applying a gossamer touch on Victor Anichebe’s flighted ball to outfox goalkeeper Boy Waterman and give Everton the lead for a third and final time.

“After sitting on the bench for a while, to come on and score – and in a European game – was fantastic,” says Vaughan.

“I can clearly remember the finish. It was a ball over the top, I hit it with the inside of my left foot and it just trickled in.

“It was a big thing to end their unbeaten home record, as well. I remember everyone telling us about it after the game – we hadn’t realised. It is always great to win away from home in Europe, regardless – but even more so against a team that had not lost in such a long time.”

Besides Vaughan, Anichebe, Rodwell and Vidarsson, Everton’s team in Alkmaar contained another Academy graduate in the shape of Tony Hibbert, with both John Irving and Patrick Boyle named among the substitutes.

And Vaughan – who returned to Goodison Park in the colours of Sunderland last week and came up against Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny, two of the latest youngsters to roll off the Finch Farm production line – is delighted to see the Toffees continuing to uphold their tradition of giving talented youngsters an opportunity to shine.

He hopes, too, that his old club can outdo his Everton 2007-08 vintage’s Europa League run, which was halted by Fiorentina at the last-16 stage.

“Playing in Europe is massive for anyone,” says Vaughan. "I was proud to do that and still look back on it now. I am sure a lot of the players there feel the same and will be aiming to do really well in the competition.

“When we were there, it was always the case that the Club wanted to give young players a chance. If you were training well, and doing well in the youth and reserve teams, you would get your chance. And that game in Alkmaar proved it.

“I played for Everton from when I was a kid, all the way through to the first team. So, to play in Europe and score in Europe for that Club was extra special.”

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