Often Partisan

Where Are They Now? Part XIII

When people look back at the playoff victory in 2002 and talk about the heroes, people think about Stern John for scoring the equalising goal; Darren Carter for scoring the winning pen in the shootout. Sometimes this player is missed out – which is a shame, because in many ways he was a hero too. Like Colin Doyle, he came into the team after an injury to the regular keeper and, like Doyle hopefully did, he did us proud. I’m of course talking about Nico Vaesen.

Nico Vaesen

Signed by Trevor Francis for £675,000 from Huddersfield Town, the Belgian keeper was brought in originally to cover for and to compete with Ian Bennett for the number one Jersey.

However, it was under Steve Bruce that Vaesen had his finest hour. Brought into the playoff team because of injury to Benno in March, Vaesen was part of the team that lined up at the Millenium Stadium for the right to be in the Premier League. As you will all remember, it was Vaesen’s save from Phil Mulryne that gave the Blues the advantage in the shootout which they eventually won 4-2. I can’t actually remember much of it at the time but having rewatched the video I’m amazed by how unfazed Vaesen is when he saves the pen – no massive celebration, just a cool and calm stroll away from the area with the knowledge he’d made the breakthrough for the club.

Amazingly, that wasn’t his only playoff success. He didn’t really get a run of games for Blues in the top flight and he went out on a succession of loans; Gillingham, Bradford and Palace all benefitted from the stopper’s skills between the sticks. It was Palace where he made the biggest difference, being part of the 2004 playoff winning team which won 1-0 against West Ham in the Cardiff showpiece.

Vaesen got a chance in 2005 to play in the top flight but it didn’t last long; his last game was the 4-1 defeat to Man City in which he conceded a penalty and was sent off – a game more famous for Steve Bruce naming Emile Heskey on the bench despite the player being at the birth of his child some miles away.

Nico left the club at the end of that season and went back to his native Belgium where he signed for Lierse in the Belgian top flight, making eleven appearances. However, Lierse suffered the ignominy of relegation at the end of the season and Vaesen hung up his boots. He did emerge briefly out of retirement at the age of 38 to play for KFC Verbroedering Geel in the Belgian third; however that spell didn’t last long either as the club went bust at the end of the 2008 season.

Since then, Vaesen has become a licensed football agent; notably recommending compatriot and client Simon Mignolet to his former manager Steve Bruce, who was by this time at Sunderland.

Whilst Nico isn’t the sort of hero you’d mention like a Dugarry, an Obafemi Martins or even a Trevor Francis for me the Belgian is a proper Blues hero. I’m thankful to him for his part he played that magical day in May in Cardiff and I hope that next month I can feel the same way about Colin Doyle.


21 Responses to “Where Are They Now? Part XIII”

  • sam says:

    Had a few beers with him after bruges game, top man and spoke fondly of his time at blues! KRO

  • Mark Peacock says:

    I can’t think of a blues goalkeeper who I dislike.

    Nico was a good keeper and I always thought he should have played more for us.

    Did he play against the vile in the first season home and away?

  • Matt says:

    Nico did get a run of games in the Prem for us and played a big part in our first season up. Made 28 appearances before getting injured in the 2-0 win at Villa where, if my memory serves me correctly, The Horse ended up in goal. Injury kept him out for the rest of the season and in the summer we signed Maik Taylor.

  • Rayzorblue says:

    Yes i think he did play against Villa, didn’t he do his ankle or knee taking a goal kick at Villa Park and Horsefield had to go in goal ? Mark how about Andy Gosney ?

  • Graham H says:

    Nico was not only a great keeper but the nicest of men. The type that deserves success and when he left us for you I was pleased for him but very disappointed for us.

    Glad to read he is doing well.

  • Blue in Spain says:

    I thought it was Geoff Horsfield who scored the equaliser in the final? Feed the Hors and he will score!

  • quokkasskip says:

    Horsfield played in goal in the away game in 2002. Think when Nico went off injured.

  • BigBlueNose says:

    Didn’t the Horse get the equaliser in the final? Stern John is a hero for shanking the ball into the net to equalise against the vile at vile park in the 2 all draw after being 2 down. Classic.

  • Reeboh says:

    I met Nico on holiday a few years ago, real top bloke!

  • Jafaa says:

    Great piece again.Does anyone remember a striker we had called Marceilo,nickname marshmellow.

  • desertblue says:

    goal keeper you did not like …… can’t remember Gary ” careless hands “Sprake then !

  • DoctorD says:

    Wow, check out the bcfc.com link almajir gave to the game against Manchester City where we got thumped 4-1:


    I can’t believe the club was so honest in its assessment — while the current bcfc.com website can be praised for being pretty up-to-date, there’s no way a warts-and-all match report like the one above would ever appear in today’s Pravda-like site. It talks about the team being “woeful”, “sloppy”, “shell-shocked” and “in total disarry”.

    Quite refreshing to read it but a big contrast with today’s official site.

  • John says:

    I remember meeting him, along other players like clinton morrison, stephen clemence etc at Becketts farm. He was the only one who had the time to talk to me. very down to earth, whilst the others seemed a bit put out by a 11 year old asking for their autographs

  • Matt says:

    Watching the game against Bruges on Belgian TV they had Nico as a pundit to get some insights into us. He seemed pretty complimentary in his comments (as far as I could tell – my Dutch isn’t so great). They did a big feature on us for about 10mins too, got an old bluenose to give them a tour of St Andrews and potted history of the club, was pretty cool – you could see there was some good respect for Blues and English football there.

  • Bluenosejohn says:

    Pleased to see him doing well. In addition to his performances for us a colleague of mine came across him a few times at a sports centre and said he was a really nice down to earth guy who was very good with people.

  • jazzzy786 says:

    Great keeper and much more of a commanding figure than Benno. There have been loads of unsung heroes as people only remember the skillful players.

    How about a piece on Olivier Tebily – as the song goes “We all dream of a team of Tebilys, a team of Tebilys, a team of Tebilys” (to yellow submarine tune)

    • almajir says:

      It’s possible…

    • Mike says:

      I second the call for a piece on Tebily. That man was awesome and was one of my favourite players when he was with us. I know his ability to play actual football wasn’t all that great all the time but every now and again, he would do something astounding, like go on a mazy run through the opposition team only to shank his shot out for a throw in!! I will always remember though, the time he lost the ball and his boot only to chase the player down and give a full throttle challenge with his stockinged foot and get the ball back. I think it was the Milwall semi final play off game at their place. That really epitomises the commitment that Tebily brought to the team. True Blues legend!!

  • bluenose08 says:

    Somebody mentioned gary sprake who may have been prone to the odd blunder !
    I met gary in stratford one day and was another nice guy who took time out to speak to me.

  • john ransom says:

    what happened to philip summerhill

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