New Norwich City signing Vaughan ready for next step
At the age of 13, James Vaughan was running the 100 metres in 11.5 seconds – useful when you're an up-and-coming sportsman.
It wasn't just athletics in which he excelled – Vaughan was playing rugby for Lichfield and the Staffordshire Under-14s side as well as continuing his footballing education with Everton, which had started at the age of six.
But at some point a decision had to be made. Did he follow in the footsteps of his father, Dorrington, who played for Preston Grasshoppers, or did he go down the round ball route?
'At one stage it was difficult, but it's only football now. At the time I loved rugby. I still get to watch the odd game here and there, but football means everything to me.
'My father played rugby when I was growing up and I always look up to my dad so that was one of the main reasons I played rugby as well. But for me it was a no-brainer – I have always played football and I have always loved it.'
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Roll the clock forward and at the age of just 22, Vaughan has been asked to make a second major decision. Stay with Everton, which had been his life for 16 years, or move to Norwich City?
He believes that he's made the right call again.
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'Sometimes in life you have to make decisions and I am more than confident that moving to Norwich is the right decision and I am looking forward to the challenge.
'All the memories I have got from Everton are great memories. It's thanks to them I am where I am now and I will never forget that so I appreciate every moment I had with Everton. I have got a lot of close friends in the Liverpool area, so it was a wrench to leave, but it needed to be done and hopefully I can further my career because of it. They all told me it is a great move for me and are really happy for me so I am looking forward to the challenge.'
Those references to the challenge ahead will sit well with his new manager, although Lambert wasn't about to put any pressure on young shoulders.
'It would be unfair of me to say what I would expect of him,' he said. 'I just expect him to come in and work as hard as everybody else. His quality is there, I don't have a problem with his hunger to succeed. He is going to need help through the other lads in the dressing. The togetherness of the squad is there for everybody to see and he will add to it.'
There is physical evidence of his appetite. During his loan at Crystal Palace last season he punched a dressing room in anger at a home defeat by Scunthorpe; in April, 2007, he severed an artery in his foot after a non-malicious challenge with Bolton's Abdoulaye Meite, who left behind a stud-shaped puncture wound. The blood poured through his socks and over his boots.
Lambert has good character references for Vaughan.
'I think that was important. He could be the best player in the world, but if you are not a good character it is difficult to bring those sort of people in. But I have no problem with him.'
Vaughan made his debut at 16 – when he scored against Crystal Palace at the age of 16 years and 271 days he overtook Wayne Rooney as the Premier League's youngest goal scorer.
'That just shows you how highly Everton thought of him at that age,' said Lambert. 'At 16, if you are getting thrown into that level of football at that age it shows you that the people at Everton had a lot of faith in him and it is up to us to get the best out of him.
'(Everton manager) David Moyes was fantastic. I spoke to him on the phone a few times and I met him at the LMA dinner as well so he was fantastic.'
Vaughan immediately becomes the Norwich City player with the most recent Premier League experience, albeit a single appearance for Everton last season, when he came on as a 74th-minute sub at Liverpool in January.
He played 30 times in two loan spells at Palace – where Lambert believes he was the major reason the south London club' weren't relegated – so perhaps has better knowledge of what City might expect.
'I think there is still a gap, but I don't think the gap is as big as it has been,' he said. 'Anyone who has played in the Championship will tell you how hard the division is, but everyone knows the Premier League is another step up from that and we are looking forward to the challenge and seeing what we can do.'