Great moments but were there enough of them? The life and times of Kyle Vassell at Rotherham United

Great moments but were there enough of them? The life and times of Kyle Vassell at Rotherham United

By Paul Davis | 23/01/2021

Great moments but were there enough of them? The life and times of Kyle Vassell at Rotherham United
Kyle Vassell

 

HE swivelled in mid-air, caught the ball perfectly and his bicycle kick rocketed into the net.

It was a stunning way to seal a 4-0 win against Peterborough United during Rotherham United’s 2019/20 march to League One promotion.

Kyle Vassell basked in the AESSEAL New York Stadium adulation in front of a North Stand that knew it had just witnessed something special.

That’s what Vass was capable of.

It was his first league goal for the Millers. It had been a year and a half in coming.

That’s why Vass has left.

The striker, who turns 28 next month, dropped down a division late last week to join Fleetwood Town on loan until the end of the season and won’t be seen in a Rotherham shirt again.

His contract is up in the summer and manager Paul Warne has confirmed there will be no offer of a new one.

Vassell, the enigma without the end product. He had a turn of pace, packed plenty of power and was always willing to try the unexpected.

But a return of six goals in 63 Millers appearances across two and a half years tells its own story.

Rotherham were expecting more from a forward who had netted 22 times in 63 League One and Two games for Blackpool before his switch to New York.

The player himself was expecting more. Thirty one of his outings came as a substitute and that didn’t sit well with someone who wasn’t lacking in self-belief.

Socks above his knee, tattoos up to his neck, that slow, deliberate, faux-nonchalant walk on to the pitch ... Vass saw himself as leading-man material, not as a replacement.

He had his good games and made some outstanding contributions at times yet there was always a feeling that he and Rotherham weren’t quite right for each other.

Every transfer window he seemed on the verge of a move to Salford City and often he was.

Meanwhile, a matter of days after his Peterborough strike, he was at it again, only it was even more spectacular this time.

The FA Cup tie against Hull City at New York saw him at his finest as he took the ball from a throw-in, turned and unleashed a long-range, crazy-angled volley that dipped, swerved and picked up speed on its way to nestling in the top corner.

Goal of the Season.

Vassell’s first year — in the Championship, when he was frustrated at being consigned to the left wing — brought no goals in 27 matches but did bring a Northern Ireland call-up and two international caps.

All six of his goals came in the following season’s promotion push and he was goalless again in 14 games in this term’s Championship campaign.

The Londoner was an interesting bloke with a good take on life. He understood football’s privileges, having worked as a builder while making his way in non-league.

Maybe those building sites were where he first encountered the bags of cement that some supporters reckoned he couldn’t trap.

He was better than that, much better. Sometimes his waywardness made him a difficult man to appreciate in your own team but when his touch was good he was a difficult, dangerous, direct opponent. League One suited him more than the second tier.

Of all the forwards at the club during his time here, he was the most effective link man, the best creator.

Matt Crooks’ header in front of a sold-out away end at Lincoln City last February will never be forgotten. Not everyone remembers who provided the cross that led to the Millers’ winner.

I always warmed to Vassell when I spotted his VW Golf among his teammates’ BMWs, Audis and Range Rovers. I liked the touch of humility. GTI and personal number plate, though. He still needed his touch of ‘flash’.

Building still plays a part in his life: he has his own company, KV Property Ltd.

Manager Paul Warne didn’t always select him but bade him farewell with a glowing personal recommendation.

“I’ve had a really good relationship with Vass,” the boss said. “We’re really close and I’ll keep in touch with him for the rest of my life.

“I think we could both admit we’d just come to a natural end.”

A week after his Hull heroics came Oxford United and Vassell was on a roll as Rotherham pitched up at the Kassam Stadium and destroyed League One’s best footballing side to go top of the table.

The striker scored, then he scored again: a sumptuous lob over the keeper from outside the area after he’d muscled his way between two centre-halves.

Maybe only the watching Salford scout remembers who supplied the cross that saw Richard Wood head a third goal before half-time.

Oxford was the culmination of an amazing two-week purple patch that encapsulated all of Vassell’s best Millers moments.

His strength was that he could do it. His downfall was that he just didn’t do it often enough.

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WARNE ON VASS'S EXIT

“HE wants to play every minute, he always wants to be the number 9, which is fair enough. I just couldn’t guarantee him that.

“He’s out of contract in the summer and I know that wouldn’t have been a contract that we renewed.

“It makes sense for him to go out there, put himself in the shop window and get himself a new club

“I could have said: ‘You’re staying here.’ But once the player’s heart is set on going and trying to secure his future, who am I to stop that?

“Even if I did keep him, would I have the same Kyle Vassell? No, I wouldn’t. Regrettably, I had to agree with his reasoning and let him leave the building.”

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VASS AT ROTHERHAM

2018/19, Championship

27 appearances, no goals

2019/20, League One

24 appearances, six goals

2020/21, Championship

14 appearances, no goals

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VASS GOALS

Shrewsbury 0 Millers 4, League Cup, August 13 2019

Millers 4 Peterborough 0, League One, December 29 2019

Millers 2 Hull 3, FA Cup, January 4 2020

Oxford 1 Millers 3, League One, January 11 2020 (two)

Millers 3 Bristol Rovers 0, League One, January 18 2020




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