Football/Soccer

Kyle Vassell aiming to set the record straight with Northern Ireland

New Northern Ireland call-up Kyle Vassell (right) playing for Rotherham United.

NEVER mind being famous for 15 minutes, Kyle Vassell would like his online presence to be correct for more than 15 seconds.

The latest call-up to the Northern Ireland senior squad had a few people heading to Wikipedia – but that ‘information resource’ strangely suggested two different dates of birth for him, nine months apart.

He’s actually still 25, not 26, and he explained the bizarre situation – or tried to: “When I turned pro my Wikipedia was completely wrong – my teams, my goals, everything.

“My agent spent three hours changing everything, so everything was changed for about 15 seconds – and then Wikipedia blocked him and changed it all back! We’ve not been able to change it back since – but 7th of February ’93 is my date of birth.”

His mother was a McGoldrick, originally from Lisnaskea in Fermanagh, which explains the Northern Ireland qualification, but more was needed to bring him into the fold:

“It came about when [NI scout] Andy Cousins came to Peterborough and I was pretty close with Grant McCann, so he knew about my background and he told Andy Cousins, who had come to see Michael Smith at right-back.

“That was a couple of years ago now, then I met the gaffer [Michael O’Neill] earlier in the year at Blackpool and he said I wasn’t far away. This time around I’ve been fortunate enough to make the squad, so I’m delighted.”

McCann, who won 39 caps himself, sold NI fairly hard to the young Vassell, who recalls: “He said it’s a great country to play for and as well as being close I always kind of admired him as well. He made it pretty clear ‘If you get the opportunity, you’re taking it’, so I made sure I have.”

The Northern Ireland connections continued, and he says he has followed the team’s recent fortunes “very” closely: “Throughout the Euros and the World Cup qualification because Conor Washington’s a good friend of mine as well, so I have been watching pretty closely. You always support where your family is from and want that country to do well, so I’ve definitely followed closely.”

With Washington, Jamie Ward, and Kyle Lafferty all absent from the training camp in Austria ahead of Friday night’s Uefa Nations League match in Vienna, Vassell could well get some game-time up front, although Josh Magennis, Will Grigg, and Liam Boyce are also in contention for starting slots.

The 25-year-old won’t fall short on effort, he insists: “I’d say physically I’m strong, powerful, quick enough. Also the thing with me is I’m very determined and I don’t like losing, so I’ve always got a bit extra in me to try and win, to be on the winning team.

“I’m going to try and enjoy it. I’m going to have to run around, maybe kick a few people, and, if I get a chance, score a goal – and then build on that.”

Now with Rotherham United in the Championship, Kyle wants his journey to continue on its upward curve: “It’s all a bit surreal, to be fair, because I had an extensive non-league CV, I had quite a few clubs, and I found it quite difficult to get out of non-league.

“Even though I’m in the Championship now, I still see myself as a non-league footballer, I’m still that same person.

“The fact that I’m now, almost, an international, is a bit surreal, but it’s something I’m embracing and enjoying – and hopefully I can play for Northern Ireland as well as I have been for Rotherham.”

As well as playing for NI, he intends to visit more, saying: “I went over when I was young, then on a pre-season, so I’ve not been over a great deal.

“I never went on a plane until I was about 16, so I took the ferry across when I was a kid. I don’t really go [there] on holidays but I did go over with Peterborough and it’s something I definitely should do more.”

Yet he already feels part of the set-up, commenting: ““The boys are brilliant as well, I want to say that – they’re such a great group of lads – not many probably know who I am but they’ve all made me feel like they know who I am and where I’ve played, and that’s such a good feeling.

“I want to do the best I can in a Northern Ireland shirt to make my mum and my family proud.”

And to get that rogue Wikipedia entry removed…

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