BY IAIN COLLIN –[email protected]_sport
AN EMOTIONAL Will Vaulks has described his spell with Falkirk as the ‘best three years of my life’ as he returned south to join Rotherham United on a three-year deal.
Falkirk have in his place snapped up John Rankin on a one-year deal after ‘reluctantly’ agreeing a six-figure deal with Alan Stubbs’ Rotherham for Vaulks.
Stubbs is a long-term admirer of Vaulks and the former Hibernian manager won the race for the signature of the Englishman, who had been linked with interest from Rangers and had previously been on trial at Blackburn Rovers.
The 22-year-old had just 12 months left on his deal with the Bairns and the attraction of a more lucrative three-year contract at a club closer to his family on the Wirral is clear.
Vaulks said: “I just want to say to everyone involved at Falkirk – the manager, the board members, the staff and volunteers behind the scenes – a massive thank you for everything they’ve done for me over the last three years.
“I’m genuinely emotional to leave Falkirk, it’s been the best three years of my life, with so many highs and a few cup final lows.
“Most importantly, thanks to the fans and community for, from day one, supporting me and always being kind and friendly when out in public, and for cheering us on on the pitch.
“I will be back soon to see the boys play and hope they can finish the job from last season and get up to the Premiership.
“It’s up to big Cracks (David McCracken) to come up with the back-flips now!”
In a message on Twitter, he added: “I’m made up to have put pen to paper on my deal at Rotherham, the next step in my career which I can’t wait to get started!”
Vaulks, who began his career with Tranmere Rovers, played almost 150 games for Falkirk after his arrival in February 2013 and became a firm fans’ favourite thanks to some spectacular goals and his trademark somersault celebrations, and the Bairns revealed they had been in talks with ‘more than one’ English Championship club.
Stubbs said: “We’re delighted that he has signed for us because there were a number of clubs after his signature.
“He’s someone I came across in Scotland, obviously from my time at Hibs.
“For me, he was Falkirk’s main player. The thing that impressed me was that he performed in the bigger games. He will be a loss to Falkirk and hopefully that will be Rotherham’s gain.”
However, having had to accept a transfer that is good for both Vaulks and the club, Falkirk have moved swiftly to replace the versatile midfielder.
Rankin was one of eight out-of-contract players instantly culled from the Dundee United squad following automatic relegation in May and the 33-year-old had been training with Falkirk for the past fortnight.
However, with manager Peter Houston, who signed Rankin for United in 2011, having spent his budget for the coming season it took Vaulks’ departure yesterday for a deal to be made possible.
Houston commented: “John is a hardworking and honest pro who has looked extremely fit and sharp over the past few weeks.
“I am pleased to be able to bring him into the club and I’m sure he will add further quality to the squad.
“He is a player that I have enjoyed working with in the past and his experience can only enhance the quality of the group that we already have here.”
John Rankin added to Falkirk TV: “I’m delighted. I’ve been in for the last two or three weeks training, just to keep my fitness levels up and it’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed it, so I’m delighted to be a part of the club.
“I saw a lot of Falkirk last season in their televised games but having seen them at close hand in pre-season so far it’s been really good. It’s been great to be involved.”
Meanwhile, 17-year-old striker Kevin O’Hara has joined League One newcomers East Fife on loan until January.