On 10 April 2005, centre-forward James Vaughan became, at the age of 16 years and 270 days, the youngest goalscorer in not only Everton’s history, but that of the Premier League too.
His goal, the fourth in a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace, added fresh impetus to Everton’s ultimately successful pursuit of a Champions League place and there were high hopes for the teenager.
The young Midlander had been a champion schoolboy sprinter and followed the likes of Wayne Rooney, Francis Jeffers and Michael Ball off the prolific Goodison youth production line. Many tipped the forward to follow them into the national team.
In cameos over the subsequent couple of seasons, Vaughan showed not only an electrifying turn of pace, but surprising upper body strength and aerial ability too. His finishing showed an initial calmness but as injuries began to blight Vaughan’s career he often seemed beset by nerves and became increasingly erratic. Capped at England U17 and U19 level, he was called up to the England U21 team aged just 18, in 2007. He was awarded Everton’s young player of the year for the 2006/07 season.
That was as good as it got for Vaughan as progress at Goodison was stunted by continual injury. Long stretches on the sidelines were interspersed with loan spells at Derby County, Leicester City and Crystal Palace. He did make one more telling impact in a royal blue shirt: brought on as a substitute in the FA Cup semi final v Manchester United, Vaughan boldly elected to take a penalty in the shoot out and promptly buried it. He appeared as a second half substitute in the final defeat to Chelsea.
After a second loan spell at Crystal Palace in 2011 speculation persisted about his future. In the summer of that year Everton accepted a bid believed to be worth £2.5million from Premier League newcomers Norwich City and he took up the fresh start his stalling career necessitated.