Former Falkirk manager Steven Pressley insists Will Vaulks’ fairytale journey from playing for the Bairns for free to becoming a Wales internationalist is part of the reason he loves football.
Pressley watched on with immense pride as the 25-year-old made his national team debut in Wednesday’s 1-0 friendly victory over Trinidad & Tobago, marking his maiden cap with an assist for Ben Woodburn’s injury-time strike.
Just over six years earlier, Pressley rescued Vaulks’ career when he recruited the versatile midfielder from Tranmere.
Falkirk were initially unable to pay the player a wage but Vaulks earned a contract extension that summer and became an integral part of the team under Gary Holt and then Peter Houston before joining Rotherham in 2016.
And Pressley, who is now in charge at Carlisle having left Falkirk for Coventry shortly after Vaulks’ arrival, insists the player’s attitude to the game is second to none.
Pressley said: “I text Will on Wednesday night and said to him that players like him are the reason I retain my belief in football in life, he’s a terrific lad who absolutely maximised his ability through sheer hard work and dedication.
“He is a shining light to many young players about what can be achieved with the right attitude.
“The journey he has endured and then playing for Wales, it’s a great story.
“When we signed Will, we had no finance, we could provide him with accommodation and the opportunity to prove his worth and then we would give him a contract in the summer, that was the plan.”
Pressley admits it was actually Hamilton manager Brian Rice that initially tipped him off about Vaulks.
He added: “I had been looking for a right-back at the time and Brian Rice told me he had seen a young player playing for Tranmere against Manchester City and he got the footage of the game for me.
“On the back of that I went down to watch their next reserve game on a Tuesday night.
“And within the first ten minutes I knew he was the right player for me because he was a player of high energy, and you could see immediately he wanted to be a football player.
“He was being released by Tranmere and we offered him the chance to come to us.
“I only took the chance on him and the other aspects are down to him.”
Speaking in 2018 about his move to Falkirk under Pressley, Vaulks said: “I got lucky with Steven Pressley. He’d watched me for Tranmere reserves.
“If he’d not gone to that game for whatever reason I probably wouldn’t be a pro now. I owe a lot to him.”