Vokes set for international milestone
International
8 June 2017

Vokes set for international milestone

Striker Sam Vokes could make his 50th appearance for Wales on Sunday when Chris Coleman's side take on Serbia in the crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Belgrade. 

Serbia v Wales

2018 FIFA World Cup - European Qualifiers 

  • Stadion Rajko Mitić, Belgrade
  • Sunday, 11 June, KO 19:45
  • Live coverage: Sky Sports, S4C, BBC Radio Wales/Cymru
  • Follow updates on FA Wales Twitter & Facebook

Here we take a look back at a decade of international football that started with an immediate impression for the Under-21 side back in February 2007.

It took a 17-year old Vokes just 36 seconds to open his goalscoring account for Brian Flynn's Under-21 side in a 4-0 win over Northern Ireland, and just over a year later he became one of a number of teenagers at the time elevated into John Toshack's senior squad.

On his third senior appearance, Vokes scored the only goal in a FIFA World Cup qualifying victory over Azerbaijan in September 2008. Now 27, Vokes heads into Sunday's match on the back of an excellent season for Burnley in the Premier League, scoring 10 goals in the top-flight.

However, Vokes' best season for the Clarets came in 2013/14 when he hit 20 goals before a serious knee injury at the end of the campaign ruled him out for the majority of the next one. Vokes helped Burnley to promotion to the Premier League that season, but could do little to prevent their return to the Championship.

A solid pre-season in 2015 ensured he was ready to make amends and another 15 Championship goals followed as Burnley returned for another shot at the Premier League. Last season, his goals helped his side defy the early season odds, and with it establish themselves in the top-flight.

“The gaffer (Chris Coleman) was great through my rehab and spoke to me quite a few times because he went through something similar,” explained Vokes on his return to fitness in March 2015. “He invited me into the camp and it was great to feel that buzz they’d created from the games at the start of the group. It was good to have the change of scenery, chat to them and get that push because seeing how they’d been doing was a huge motivation. It helped me get back fit, it gave me that push in the tough times that this was the end goal, getting back on the international stage and being part of this.” 

FAWTV Get To Know: Sam Vokes
FAWTV Get To Know: Sam Vokes

Just prior to his injury, Vokes had scored for Wales in a memorable 3-1 friendly victory over Iceland at the Cardiff City Stadium in March 2014. Gareth Bale and defender James Collins were also on the scoresheet that evening, but it was the performance from Bale that offered the first real signs of belief that this team could go on to achieve great things ahead of the UEFA EURO qualifiers.

Vokes' next goal for Wales would prove to be even more memorable, as in the now infamous summer of 2016, his perfectly-placed header past Thibaut Courtois put Wales 3-1 ahead against Belgium confirmed a place in the semi-finals of the European Championships.

The goal and celebrations that followed would become one of the defining moments of the tournament for Wales, but while Vokes' header holds a place in Welsh football folklore, his brace after coming off the bench against Norway at the Cardiff City Stadium in November 2011 was equally poignant.

Like the victory over Iceland in 2014 that made a nation believe, the comprehensive 4-1 defeat of Norway is widely-considered to be the best performance under the guidance of the late Gary Speed. The win offered a new-found belief and hope that Wales had finally turned the corner after years of international disappointment. Vokes' two late goals ensuring the result matched the performance.

“There has been a transformation in everything, from the medical staff up to the playing staff,” enthused Vokes immediately after the impressive win in 2011. “The gaffer makes everyone feel a part whether they are playing or on the fringe or not even involved. He is a great manager and there is a great team spirit which shows on the pitch. We are getting the results we need and improving all the time.”

Sadly, it would prove to be Speed's final match in charge of his country. Chris Coleman was subsequently entrusted with the responsibility of bringing the best out of this generation of players, and slowly but surely, the potential was realised.

Still undefeated in the current FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, Vokes scored Wales' opening goal in the group when he set the tone for the 4-0 win over Moldova in Cardiff back in September. 

Four subsequent draws mean that Chris Coleman's side remain undefeated, but having dropped points against Georgia and Serbia in Cardiff in particular, a victory in Belgrade on Sunday would provide the perfect boost ahead of the final four fixtures that take place in September and October.

For Vokes, there could be no better way of celebrating his latest international milestone than with a victory, and maybe even another defining goal.