The Monday Profile: Ricardo Vaz Tê
Bloated Premier League squads need ballast and amid the burnt ends of Match of the Day episodes, the fleeting few minutes of highlights from the KC, Molineux or DW Stadiums have been notable for their late cameos from players unfamiliar – your Henrik Pedersens, Okelsandr Yevtushoks and Itzhak Zohars – the men you feel yourself reaching for the Rothman’s successor volume to run the rule over, or, laptop on knees, Wikipedia.
For over half a decade, one such gentleman was Ricardo Vaz Tê. ‘He looked decent when he came on’ became a mantra as the former Portugal under-21 international strutted his stuff at the Reebok in a promising early career.
Indeed. 81 of Vaz Tê’s career appearances have required him to extract splinters from his behind; so accustomed to the bench has he become – but his contributions were rarely negligible at the Horwich junction. Quick and skilful, one suspected that it was merely the overspending ambition of the Allardyce years that prevented his progression – £8.2 million was fished out for Johan Elmander after all – and to continue to pick the cheaper man would have been an admission of defeat.
But successive Bolton managers rarely had to make that choice. The Guinea-Bissau raised striker made only three appearances between 2007 and 2010, having suffered the devastating setback of ligament damage on the opening afternoon of the 2007-8 campaign against Newcastle. He became not so much forgotten as wiped from the consciousness.
Two half season spells at Panionios and Hibernian helped him take faltering steps back to footballing involvement and wily Keith Hill took advantage of the Edinburgh club’s unwillingness to retain the Lisbon born forward’s services last Summer; Vaz Tê inscribing a deal that make him a Barnsley player until June 2012.
It’s been a knockabout season for the South Yorkshiremen and Hill can generally be satisfied with his efforts – a plumpish points cushion separates the Tykes from the bottom three places. The autumn was characterized by the dynamic midfield play of on-loan Red Devil Danny Drinkwater and Jacob Butterfield and if the Keystone Cops elements to the 4-3 win at Peterborough and 5-3 beating by Ipswich attest to stability akin to that of a flan in a cupboard, a rousing 4-1 victory over Leeds on New Year’s Eve completed an entertaining six months.
Our hero was the main man that day – plundering a spectacular hat-trick – his curiously Eighties barnet recalling Cameo and Eddie Murphy. Two strikes in an FA Cup defeat against Swansea took his tally for the season to 10 and suddenly a career was not only back on the rails, but chugging along in full gear.
January has been a tricky month for Barnsley though – that cup defeat was complemented by a miserable 3-1 home defeat against Millwall while an injury Butterfield picked up in that Leeds game has ruled him out for the season and Drinkwater was stolen from under their noses by the greater purchasing power of Leicester City. Korey Smith and Michael Tonge have been brought in but Vaz Tê, perhaps not fancying the selling club realities, has decided not to extend his own deal for now.
While his performances justify this to an extent – and there will undoubtedly be interested buyers or hirers – it’s disappointing to see him so quickly disregard the faith showed in him by Hill – the latter having pretty much rescued his career (all to the bemusement of Hibs fans). If he can retain his current form in red for another year and a half, then fine – but Ricardo Vaz Tê should not get ahead of himself.