By now, you’ll have most likely seen the news that striker James Vaughan has left to join recently relegated Championship side Sunderland in a deal purported to be somewhere hovering just under the £1,000,000 mark in a dual announcement alongside Aiden McGeady, with new Black Cats manager Simon Grayson familiar with both players from spells in charge of Huddersfield Town and Preston North End respectively.
In previous years, Bury selling their top goalscorer would’ve caused alarm amongst supporters, most notably the 2011/2012 season when Ryan Lowe left very late in the summer transfer window to join Sheffield Wednesday without thorough research and due diligence being carried out on his ‘replacement’ in the form of Shaun Harrad by then-boss Richie Barker as the slow disassembling of the promotion-winning side started to take place.
On this occasion however, there isn’t the same ‘feeling’. Granted, George Miller has also departed to another north-east club in the form of Middlesbrough earlier today and will link up with their U23s squad (something Lee Clark previously swore wouldn’t happen under his watch, but how much real control he has over that side of the negotiations is debatable). That leaves a theoretical void of 32 goals to fill from just those two players leaving; some of that burden will fall squarely on the shoulders of Jermaine Beckford, who it is fair to say that not many people truly believed would end up partnering Vaughan in attack in 2017/2018. To a lesser extent, the responsibility will also lie with Tom Heardman and Jay O’Shea from the existing roster… but it appears Clark has made contingencies for the scenario of Vaughan leaving judging by a line from the official site’s article:
“Once they matched the Chairman's valuation for him, there was no turning back and he was on his way. We shook hands and wished him all the very best.James was very respectful for what Bury FC had done for his career, now my job is to replace him and we think we have done that with a player the fanswill enjoy.”
The man in question turned out to be Nicky Ajose, who I will do a separate ‘Scouting Report’ post on next week. He isn’t the same sort of striker as Vaughan but I think that will be to the benefit of the team. That doesn’t mean I’m suggesting that he’ll score more than his predecessor but that his presence in the side will give more breathing space to Beckford and make opposition managers think even more carefully about how to combat Bury’s numerous attacking threats.
When Leon Clarke left around this time last year for Sheffield United, it was much less clear to me where the goals were going to come from. Tom Pope was a lot of things but prolific in the third tier was not one of them and none of the other options at the time had the pedigree. Then Vaughan came in and very quickly won every supporter over not just with his obvious charisma and burgeoning goal tally but also his work rate and desire to always perform to the upmost of his abilities.
As a Bury fan, I’m used to the ephemeral nature of players coming and going through the doors of Gigg Lane, especially the ones that show promise or redeem themselves and are quickly Snatched away. That’s part and parcel of being a fan of a selling club. Even though he was only there for a season, the impact Vaughan had on the club as a whole cannot be understated… and the Shakers faithful can take heart that there appears to be a clear strategy from the current management for these eventualities. Time will tell whether their gambit will pay off.
You can also read my Q&A with popular Sunderland blog The Roker Report that I did the day before he signed for the Black Cats on how I think he will do back in the Championship.