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 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-year-old 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.