DAVID Vaughan is “thrilled and honoured” to have been voted The Gazette’s player of the year – but he can’t promise fans he’ll still be at Blackpool come August.
Vaughan is as disappointed as anyone about the Seasiders’ failure to book a second season in the top flight.
He describes the last two years as the best of his career.
His contract is now up and he can leave on a free transfer if he wishes – and Pool’s relegation makes it more likely he’ll go, as even boss Ian Holloway admits.
Everton, Rangers, West Brom and Sunderland are all interested in the Welshman.
And with no transfer fee to pay, they will be able to offer Vaughan big wages to make the switch.
It would be a major blow for Holloway, who knows Vaughan played a key role in helping Pool to the Premier League – and then proved he was good enough for the top flight by turning in a string of good performances.
The fans know it too. Thousands of Gazette readers voted the Welshman best player, edging out second-placed Charlie Adam – last year’s winer – and Ian Evatt in third.
The Gazette presented Vaughan with his prize – champagne and a commemorative back page – at Sunday’s awards dinner in the sponsors’ lounge at Bloomfield Road, when the modest Welshman was genuinely surprised and bowled over to win the public vote.
But he didn’t exactly have good news for supporters already depressed about going down, admitting his future at the club was up in the air.
“These last two years at Bloomfield Road have been great an have probably been the best years of my career, so hopefully wherever I may be next year – if it’s Blackpool or not – I can keep my form going,” he said.
“I don’t know what the future holds just yet but if I do go somewhere else I will take away nothing but happy memories.
“Most of the memories are fantastic. Wembley last year and some of the games this season have been great, and I just have to thank Blackpool and everyone at the club for that.”
Vaughan’s player of the year prize was richly deserved, reward for a season in which he has consistently been one of the best performers.
He kept his good form going right until the end, creating Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s goal at Old Trafford with a surge into the area and a low cross.
“I am really pleased to get this award from The Gazette,” Vaughan said. “It is a really big privilege for me because obviously it is the main paper of Blackpool FC, so all the fans read it and I thank them for their support. It has been appreciated throughout the season.
“On the whole, I’ve been really pleased with this season. It has gone a lot better than I thought it would.
“Obviously at the start I was a bit apprehensive about playing in the Premier League.
“I wouldn’t say I doubted whether I could make the step up but I had never played at the top level before, so it was more a case of stepping into the unknown really, not knowing what you are going to face.
“But after a few games I think everyone knew we were good enough to play in this league and I think we have shown that. On a personal level it has gone better than I could have dreamed of.
“It is quite nice to beat Charlie for once! I think he won everything last year, which he fully deserved. But it is nice to get a bit of recognition from the fans.”
Vaughan’s success was hard to predict, given that in his first year at the club – under Simon Grayson and then Tony Parkes – he didn’t exactly stand out.
“I was playing wide left, which to be fair I’d played throughout my career, but when I first arrived at Blackpool I was struggling with a bit of an injury and it lasted throughout that season,” he recalled
“I don’t think I was playing to my best because of that. “Moving into the centre of midfield under Ian Holloway suited me more and the way things have gone last two years I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Vaughan can’t begin his summer holidays just yet – he is on international duty with Wales, who face Scotland tonight and Northern Ireland on Friday.
The Scotland squad for the match in Dublin includes his Pool team-mates Adam, Stephen Crainey and Matt Gilks.