KYLE VASSELL: ‘I want to make my family proud’

Rotherham United's Kyle Vassell in action against Nottingham Forest. Joe Giddens/PA Wire.
Rotherham United's Kyle Vassell in action against Nottingham Forest. Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

New boy Kyle Vassell hopes to emulate his cousin Darius - by leading Northern Ireland to the European Championships.

The former Aston Villa striker was part of England’s squad for the 2004 tournament in Portugal.

Now the younger Vassell is hoping he can fire Northern Ireland to similar heights and make his family proud.

“That’s what I’m here for,” said Vassell, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his mother’s family from Lisnaskea.

“As a kid you dream of World Cup and European Championships, you always dream of the biggest tournaments.

“The Euros is absolutely one of them. I one hundred per cent want to get there and the fact that we already have, and we have a great team.

“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.”

After serving his time in the non-league, the Rotherhamstriker has forced his way into the international scene with some impressive performances.

But he admitted he is still getting his head around it all.

“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,” he explained.

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

Vassell has been on Michael O’Neill’s radar for the last couple of years, all thanks to a former international, who let the coaching panel know of the striker’s family ties to Northern Ireland.

“It all came about when 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,” he explained.

“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.

“Grant 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.”

Vassell has been keeping a close eye on Northern Ireland over the past couple of years.

“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,” he said.

“You always support where your family is from and want that country to do well, so I’ve definitely followed closely.