Premier Intermediate


Written by: Johnny McNabb 22 Feb 2022
© Pacemaker Press

Portstewart full-back Richard Vauls has one ambition before hanging up the boots – to lift more silverware.

The Coleraine lad has been at the Port since January 2017 and has picked up a host of medals in a variety of competitions.

However, as he enters his 32nd year, Vauls wants to add to his collection under Johnny Law’s guidance, with the sea side club already lifting the Craig Memorial Cup this season.

“I’ll be 32 years-old in September but I feel fit, healthy and I’m enjoying my football,” he said.

“I feel as good as I’ve ever done and provided I stay injury free, then I can go a good bit longer.

“Thankfully during my time at Portstewart I have won the Northern Ireland Intermediate League, Intermediate Challenge Cup, Intermediate League Cup and the Craig Memorial Cup twice.

“However, I don’t want to stop there and I know we have the quality in our ranks to be more successful.”

Vauls would make a name for himself at the age of 15 as he signed with Stoke City after catching the eye when playing at Lisburn Youth.

Despite the glamour of moving across the water, Vauls openly admitted to struggling coming to terms with living away from home after short-term spells at Stafford Rangers and Cowdenbeath.

“I was playing for Lisburn Youth at the age of 13 and Walter Windrum asked me over to Stoke and I signed there two years later,” he added.

“Everyone thinks its rosy heading over to England but I knew after a month about how hard it was going to be as I found it difficult being away from friends and family.

“I was a regular in youth and Reserves set-up during my three years there and it took a bit of time adjusting to full-time training.

“I remember marking Jordan Henderson when he was at Sunderland and coming up against the likes of Jack Wilshere, so that was certainly an experience.

“When I left Stoke, I had a short time at Stafford Rangers before Jimmy Nicholl signed me at Cowdenbeath in July 2010 but I couldn’t overly settle there, even though Jimmy is probably one of the best individuals I’ve ever worked with in football and he tried to look after me.”

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The lure of coming home would be too hard to turn down for Vauls as he signed for Coleraine – but after what looked like being the start of a special relationship between the two – the left-back acknowledged that he struggled with life both on and off the pitch as he joined Ballymena United two months later.

“I decided to move back home and thankfully Coleraine wanted to sign me and it was a no brainer as it’s my local club,” he continued.

“However, if I’m being honest, my head wasn’t there and Oran worked that out and it was my decision to leave.

“At that stage, I was ready to pack football in but Roy Walker made three attempts to bring me to Ballymena United and I knew I wanted to play.

“I had two great years there under Roy and Spike Ferguson, but my third and final year was disappointing as I broke my ankle in training and it was a tough injury to overcome.”

After being released by the Sky Blues, Vauls took an extra six months break to recover the wounds from the ankle injury as he joined Portstewart in January 2015.

That first stint at Mullaghacall would help aid a move to Crusaders at the start of the 2015/16 campaign as Stephen Baxter’s men retained their Gibson Cup crown.

“I was thankful that Portstewart signed me that January as it helped me in my recovery and I got plenty of game time,” he reflected.

“That summer I made the move to Seaview and to be fair Stephen was great with me. They had just won the league the year before and their team was settled with household names and I struggled to get many minutes in the league.

“Despite that, I was still able to take part in Cup competitions and was named in matchday squads here and there, but I found it impossible to break into the team which had the likes of Billy Joe Burns, Colin Coates, Paul Leeman, Davy Magowan and Craig McClean.

“It was a great experience to be part of a team that regained the league and the squad Crusaders had at that time was scarily good.

“I was given a new deal to stay but I struggled to make training at times due to work and Stephen understandably wasn’t going to change a winning team so we agreed to part ways in September 2016.”

© Pacemaker Press

Vauls, who works as an Outfield Facilities Inspector for the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, would go back to Portstewart in January 2017 under Gary Taylor.

That move would prove to be a fruitful one as he remains an ever present figure five years on, with the former Northern Ireland youth international also highlighting the improvement of the Premier Intermediate League.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been over five years since I re-joined Portstewart,” he acknowledged.

“However, I’ve enjoyed playing football here, I’ve settled down off the pitch, got my head straightened out and had plenty of game time.

“The season COVID struck we had a good chance of getting promotion to the Championship as we were neck and neck with Annagh United. The momentum was with us and we fancied ourselves to have achieved that, but unfortunately we were denied an interesting finish.

“The Premier Intermediate League is so competitive, it is really tough and has most definitely improved.

“Some players could definitely play at a higher level but that only improves the product and I’ve certainly had no easy games.

“I think every season I’ve been at Portstewart we have won something or got to a final and I hope that trend continues.”