Flips, charity work and midfield dynamism – For our latest ‘remembering’ piece, we take a look back at Will Vaulks’ time at Rotherham United.
The midfielder joined Rotherham in July 2016 for an undisclosed fee from Falkirk. He was brought to the club by former manager Alan Stubbs. Looking back now, signing Vaulks was one of the only good things that he did!
Vaulks made his full debut against Wolves on the opening day of the season. He started alongside Lee Frecklington and Jake Forster-Caskey in midfield, and he made an instant impact.
The Millers would eventually draw the game 2-2, but Vaulks put them 2-0 in front in breathtaking fashion. This strike proved to be a sign of things to come…
The 2016/17 season was a wretched one for the Millers, and Vaulks was in and out of the team. But he was one of few bright sparks that term.
No matter how poor the team were playing and how toxic the dressing room was, Vaulks always carried himself with class and gave it everything that he had.
He made 31 Championship starts that season, which stood him in good stead for what proved to be a phenomenal campaign the year after.
With Paul Warne now the permanent boss, he was tasked with rebuilding the club after a disastrous year in the Championship. He showed a lot of faith in Vaulks and the player went above and beyond to repay this trust.
Rotherham made a strong start to the season as they won eight of their opening 13 games. They scored five goals per game three times on this run as Kieffer Moore and co were causing havoc.
In October, the Millers hosted Scunthorpe United at the New York Stadium. It was here where we were treated to another Vaulks wondergoal and one of his trademark somersaults…
— DBP (@NorthernDBP) October 14, 2017
Vaulks was one of Warne’s standout players this campaign. He always showed great grit and passion when he played, but this year he displayed how much quality he had at his disposal.
He always wore his heart on his sleeve, which helped to endear himself to the Rotherham faithful. His long throw always caused problems, his passing was spot on and he was not afraid to get stuck in when needed!
The 27-year-old has everything you want from a modern-day midfielder. Yet, his versatility was equally as impressive. He particularly impressed when called upon at right-back, but he also performed well at centre-back when his team needed him.
Vaulks continued to play a starring role as Rotherham finished fourth after 46 games. This earned them a play-off semi-final tie against Scunthorpe United.
The Millers drew 2-2 at Glanford Park in the first-leg, which set up a massive return meeting at the New York. Vaulks made the difference that evening, as he provided an assist (via one of his long throws, of course) and a goal that saw his team through to Wembley.
It was Richard Wood who stole the headlines in the final thanks to his magical performance (pun intended). Vaulks played the full 120 minutes though as Rotherham were promoted back to the Championship.
Vaulks’ form was recognised as he was deservedly named as Rotherham’s Player of the Year for the 2017/18 campaign.
After his stellar season in League One, he spent much of the next season as captain on matchdays. He was not required in defence as much this time around.
This meant that he could concentrate on developing as a midfielder. As part of this, he got more involved going forward and added more goals to his game.
The 2017/18 Championship season was his best goalscoring season to date for the Millers, as he bagged eight in all competitions. He also finished up with seven assists.
Vaulks, Semi Ajayi and Michael Smith were the standout performers as the Millers fought for their lives to avoid the drop. They were unlucky not to do so, as their hard work warranted another year in the Championship.
In the end, though, a lack of quality through the team proved to be their downfall. They finished in the final relegation spot on 40 points, four adrift of their nearest rivals.
- Remembering Alex Revell’s Rotherham United career
- Top 5 Positives: 2018/19 Championship Relegation
- Remembering Rotherham United’s 1980/81 promotion season
- Rotherham United’s Team of the Decade (2010/19)
With Rotherham back in League One, it was inevitable that these three players would attract interest from other clubs. Thankfully, Smith ended up staying and he continues to shine for the Millers to this day.
This was not the case for Ajayi and Vaulks, though. Semi signed for West Brom for a significant fee. This move has been a huge success for him personally as he helped them earn promotion to the Premier League last season.
Vaulks meanwhile joined Cardiff City for what was a club-record sale for Rotherham. It was sad to see both players leave because they had given absolutely everything to the club while they were here.
The Welshman departed after making 137 appearances for Rotherham. In that time he provided 17 goals and 14 assists. His impact was perhaps felt even more off the pitch, however.
Throughout his time at the Millers, he was a hard-working ambassador for Bluebell Wood. When he was not playing, he spent a lot of his time giving back to the community and helping the charity in every way imaginable.
Vaulks was an absolute credit to Rotherham United, not just for the player he was, but for the great man he is as well.
We asked for your memories from Vaulks’ time at the club, and we have received more responses for Vaulks than any player before. This really goes to show how well-respected and loved Vaulks still is by Millers fans…
Vaulks has been a regular for Cardiff since signing. He has made 52 Championship appearances during his year-and-a-half at the club.
His form for Rotherham in 2018/19 led to his first call-up for Wales. He clearly impressed Ryan Giggs because he has been consistently called up ever since.
The midfielder’s best moment in a Cardiff shirt so far came earlier this season. Against Brentford, he scored a remarkable goal from inside his own half, which was as good, if not better than David Beckham’s in 1998!
Rotherham face Cardiff at the New York Stadium on Tuesday night. This will be the first time Vaulks has played at the NYS since his departure.
It is such a shame that fans will not be there. There is no doubt that if they were, Vaulks would receive one of the loudest ovations a returning player has ever been given at the New York.
Hopefully, he does not have to wait too long to play at a jam-packed NYS again so the Millers faithful can show their appreciation for all he did while representing Rotherham United…