The Will Vaulks column: Pushing Roy Keane and my pride in Bluebell Wood

By Paul Davis | 16/04/2019

The Will Vaulks column: Pushing Roy Keane and my pride in Bluebell Wood
Will Vaulks

PFA Community Player of the Year.

I'm not really sure what to say, to be honest.

I feel honoured  to win the award for my involvement with Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice and the recognition, obviously, is nice.

Yet it's a bit of a weird one really.

I play football to be recognised, to play at the best level I can and for people to hopefully think I'm a decent player.

However, I don't volunteer at Bluebell Wood or do work in the community for Rotherham United to be recognised.

It's been lovely in that I've had loads of messages from people and I've made my family, friends and fiancee Alex proud, but that's not why I do it.

The best thing about it has been the increased coverage for Bluebell Wood and the Millers' community work. That's what I'm taking away from it. I don't want it to all be about me.

There are people at Bluebell Wood who do a million times more than I do. I just get the recognition because I'm in the public eye. I just hope it maybe inspires a few other footballers to do a bit more.

Footballers in general get a hard time but you'd be surprised how many of them do good things out there.

The awards night was good because it highlighted some of that. Too many people aren't interested in that and want to write about them being in nightclubs and spending too much money.

I've been volunteering at Bluebell Wood for around two years. For quite a while, only the players and staff at the club really knew about it. But then Bluebell Wood asked me to take on an ambassadorial role and that's different to being a volunteer.

You have to be more high profile then because they need the word getting out about the amazing work they do and the funding they require to do it.

They need me to publicise that. They require £4 million a year and they get only ten per cent of it from the Government.

I've got an ambassadors meeting this week actually. The other ambassadors are brilliant and bring way more to it financially than I do. I just try to do my bit.

I'm happy doing interviews and trying to spread the word but what I really love is going there and spending some time with the kids.

I'm there every week and Bluebell Wood never, ever lets me down. Every time I go there, there is something positive happening.

There are obviously sad stories, tragic stories. But the people there manage to put some happiness and laughter into those stories.

It's a truly incredible place.

I like trying to help people. You get a good feeling out of it and it's not hard to do. As a professional footballer, it's so easy to make a kid's day.

The EFL Awards Evening was held last Sunday night at the Grosvenor. It was a nice weekend, especially as it came after our win over Nottingham Forest.

We were in London on Saturday night but we didn't do the sights. Alex and I have done those in the past. We met up with some friends and went out for dinner and then caught up with them again for breakfast on Sunday morning.

I was up early on Monday to get the train back to be on time for training.

It was emotional watching Joe Thompson receive the Sir Tom Finney Award. Joe twice came back from cancer to keep playing for Rochdale before having to retire at the age of 30.

I actually played with him at Tranmere Rovers for a little bit and we had a chat. It was good to catch up with him and to see he's doing well.

But back to Bluebell Wood ...

Working there has improved me as a person. It's nurtured my caring side and made me aware of reality.

I know there are bigger things in life than football, although on a Saturday afternoon football still feels like the most important thing.

It's something I've managed to balance quite well, being a tough competitor on the pitch and being the total opposite at Bluebell Wood.

There's no reason why you can't be both.

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A LOT has been made about my so-called clash with Roy Keane during our 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest.

It's fair to say, their assistant manager was worried about my long throw. Why else would he stand in my way and try to stop me taking it?

The throw was causing his team a lot of problems.

We'd scored the opening goal from it and then there were a couple of other times when they couldn't clear it.

I could tell when I went over to the ball that particular time that the Forest bench didn't want me to throw it long. They'd already tried to slow the ball down.

There was only a minute of the first half left, so that was fine by me. I was in no rush. You want the throw to be the last attack of the half.

Keane has stood in front of me to try to hinder me.

He tried to affect my run-up but it didn't bother me at all. It was quite funny really. It is part and parcel of the game.

I had to give him a little nudge, didn't I?

He was stood in my way so I had to move him.

I wasn't angry. It's just part of my competitive nature. He was a massively competitive player himself. He might have headbutted an assistant manager if they'd tried to stop him taking a throw!

He knew exactly what he was doing because when I pushed him he was trying to stand as hard as he could.

Teams give us a bit of a stick, calling us a 'long-ball team' and all that, but they can't deal with the long throw. Keane trying to stop me is a back-handed compliment really.

If Forest give you the ball straight back and say 'Here it is, nice and dry, now launch it into our box', they're not seeing it as a threat. But obviously they didn't like it because otherwise they wouldn't have done what they did.

It's happened a few times this season, where teams have tried to slow the ball down or moaned to the ref about where I'm taking the throw from to try to stop me hurling it in quickly.

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ROY Keane was a bit before my time but I'm aware what a great player he was. I can remember watching him on TV.

The aggression of his day is something that has gone out of the game to a large extent. With the way referees are, he'd be sent off every week nowadays for playing the way he did.

You can hardly tackle anymore which, in my opinion, is not right. You should be able to put in a nice, strong tackle and make your presence felt.

I'm not talking about going out to injure players, but there's nothing wrong, in my eyes, with a tackle that wins the ball and hurts the man a little bit.

Let them know you're there - it's the competitive nature of football.

It has to be a contact sport, otherwise it would be just possession and you'd only be able to get the ball by intercepting passes.

It's a shame it's becoming so strict now.


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