VALLEY Parade’s corner flags can breathe easier knowing they will live to fight another day.

No longer are they in imminent peril from one of James Vaughan’s size 10s.

The joke when he signed for City was that every League Two opponent should be stocking up on replacement flags because of the danger from the striker’s celebratory kung-fu kick.

It is just over a year since a packed away end at Blundell Park spilled over in excitement at Vaughan’s histrionics after scoring his first goal for the club against Grimsby.

The anniversary was marked with the news that he would be leaving for good.

In a team that struggled to hit the net under the cautious approach of Gary Bowyer, his tally of 11 up to the end of January stood out. Four were penalties but he provided a predatory touch in the box that was so lacking elsewhere.

Stuart McCall won’t need reminding that he needs to find a genuine goal-scoring replacement in the next few weeks.

Of course, he saw this coming. To suggest the Bantams boss was caught on the hop, having just last month publicly stressed that nobody at the club wanted to lose Vaughan, is plain daft.

Those comments, thrown back at him by the usual know-it-alls on social media, were at a time when he still felt there was a chance.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: James Vaughan talked of joining an ambitious project when he signed for City in 2019James Vaughan talked of joining an ambitious project when he signed for City in 2019

Vaughan’s head had been turned by Tranmere and the convenience to his Merseyside home but McCall still believed it was not a lost cause.

Hence his determined speech for the online audience at the City fans’ forum three days before pre-season was due to begin.

But then seeing Vaughan’s demeanour back at Apperley Bridge immediately convinced McCall that his conciliatory tone during their frequent summer phone calls had got nowhere. The player wanted out and nothing would change that.

Of course, Vaughan knew the length of travelling involved along the M62 when he joined City in the first place.

But the size of the contract – and for three years – would have naturally out-weighed the cons for a player at his stage of their career.

Vaughan spoke about joining a “big, ambitious project” when he was unveiled by Bowyer.

But let’s be honest, how many at that time seriously expected him to see out the full length of the deal?

Since leaving Huddersfield in the summer of 2016, Vaughan has not stopped anywhere for longer than a year.

He has been one of those “have boots, will travel” strikers throughout his career; albeit, maybe he’s not so keen on the travelling bit anymore.

Some may say that McCall wasted his time trying to win Vaughan back round.

The Twitter sleuths pointed to the damning evidence of the former captain’s removal of any mention of City on his page – while equally happy to “like” anything that Tranmere should post.

Vaughan spoke about trying to get a move sorted from the moment that lockdown happened in March.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: James Vaughan celebrates with Callum Cooke after scoring against Scunthorpe, his last goal for CityJames Vaughan celebrates with Callum Cooke after scoring against Scunthorpe, his last goal for City

But if any manager can alter a player’s thinking and sweet-talk them into giving it another go, it is surely McCall. Remember Mark Marshall, a lost soul under Phil Parkinson but born again when the new manager came in.

Even McCall’s people skills, though, could not pull Vaughan round so the decision was quickly taken to get him out the building without delay.

A transfer fee was out the question – City might have paid an undisclosed sum to Wolves for Elliot Watt but the days of money exchanging hands are nearly gone at this level. COVID has seen to that.

Instead, it was about what the club would save in the longer term by shedding one of the highest-earners off the books. A quick “back of a fag packet” estimate would suggest north of £300,000 with possibly bonuses on top.

Why keep splashing that sort of cash for someone who would resent being there? Bowyer found that out to his cost with Eoin Doyle in January.

Vaughan’s loan exit just preceded Doyle in the final week of the transfer window; a double whammy that shocked supporters.

But the rumblings of discontent had been going on for some time as Vaughan grew tired of living off scraps from City’s conservative tactics.

There were claims he was becoming a vocal critic in the dressing room before it was decided it was best to part the ways.

It sounds like a very similar scenario that brought his permanent exit to a head. Vaughan was understood to be absent from training for the last week of his City career while his departure was sorted.

Whatever the claims that clubs will start to hold all the cards again as times become more chastened, they will never wrench the true power from the players.

For City, it was about making the best of a bad hand. Sticking in that situation was not an option.