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Pericard back after injury and prison

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Paul Fletcher | 09:07 UK time, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The northern footballing outpost of Brunton Park might seem a remote destination for a striker born in Cameroon and raised in France to rebuild his faltering career.

But that is what Vincent Pericard is doing after a spate of injuries, a dramatic loss of form and a spell in prison derailed a journey that had started at Italian giants Juventus.

The 27-year-old found himself without a club in the summer and went on trial at Cardiff and Bristol City, but they both opted against offering the striker a contract.

The current season started with Pericard still looking for a new home. He was training with Sheffield United to try to maintain his fitness when a scout recommended him to League One side Carlisle.

Pericard headed north in early October to an area he could not remember visiting before to watch the team in action.

Afterwards he signed a three-month deal - the Big V was back.

Vincent Pericard in action for Portsmouth during their promotion season Pericard was superb early in his Portsmouth career

"I have had a run of games and been scoring goals - it is something that I have been waiting to happen for a long time," said Pericard, who has scored four in his last six games.

"I am very grateful to Carlisle and manager Greg Abbott for giving me the chance. I want to keep hold of the feeling that I have at the moment."

Pericard's footballing journey started at Juve, who spotted the powerful forward playing for France's Under-18 side. They were obviously impressed because they offered him a deal and he spent two seasons with the Old Lady.

He trained daily with a first-team squad that included the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, Alessandro del Piero, Didier Deschamps and, in his second year, David Trezeguet.

Pericard studied Del Piero's clever movement and was blown away by the finishing skills of Trezeguet. For a young man learning his trade it was a dream.

"It was just the best time," added Pericard, who moved to Italy in July 2000.

"The fact that a club like that wanted me gave me a great amount of confidence."

It also got him noticed. His only first-team appearance came in a Champions League match against Arsenal and then-Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp was suitably impressed to take the striker on loan in August 2002.

"For the first few weeks after I arrived in England, Harry Redknapp was not very impressed with me," Pericard told me.

It took him a little while to settle in a new country and adjust to the hurly burly of Championship football.

But he went on to score nine goals in 32 appearances as Pompey won promotion to the top flight and Redknapp managed to persuade Juve to let him sign Pericard permanently.

The striker thought he would be playing Premier League football for the next few years.

"I did very well in pre-season and I was set to be the main striker but then I got injured," he said.

The first injury was to a thigh muscle but on 12 December 2003 - his first game back - disaster struck. He went up for a header with an Everton defender, landed awkwardly and sustained the knee injury that kept him out until August 2005.

It effectively ended his Pompey career and loan spells at Sheffield United and Plymouth preceded his release by Portsmouth at the end of the 2005-06 campaign.

Tony Pulis had managed the strong and powerful Pericard at Plymouth and obviously liked what he saw because he made him his first signing after his return to Stoke.

It was June 2006 and Pericard, then 23, penned a three-year deal. He promised Pulis he would repay the faith shown in him but subsequently failed to do so.

He was a regular in his first season but scored just four times in 31 games. His participation the following year was curtailed by a spell in prison. Pericard had been caught speeding at 103mph but argued that his stepfather had been behind the wheel.

The police checked his story and found that the man in question had not been in England for several years and in August 2007 Pericard was given a four-month sentence for perverting the course of justice.

"It was very difficult - the timing was all wrong," Pericard told me. "I was doing very well in pre-season and feeling fit but then I was sent to prison."

It is difficult to feel sympathy for someone who has told such an idiotic lie and Pericard had to shoulder the full responsibility for his actions. The striker duly served five weeks in a prison in Exeter before his release on parole.

"It was very tough - the diet was terrible, I was locked up all the time and psychologically it was very difficult," he told me.

Pericard tried to maintain a low profile, not telling anyone that he was a professional footballer. After his release problems with the electronic tag he had to wear at all times saw him briefly back in prison.

"It was very scary but I do not regret it because I came out of it a better person," he said. "It is the best lesson I have ever had - it makes you appreciate everything, being healthy and happy. I grew up so much and do not take things for granted any more."

Pericard resumed his career but was in and out of the Stoke team and failed to score in 11 appearances during the remainder of the 2007-8 campaign. It was a season that will live long in the memory for all Stoke supporters as they were promoted to the Premier League but Pericard's contribution was negligible and he ended it on loan at Southampton.

Vincent Pericard in action for Stoke Pericard struggled to make the grade at Stoke

It was the same at the start of the following campaign. The striker did score against Reading in the Carling Cup but did not feature in the league until December and by February he had joined League One side Millwall on loan in search of regular first-team football.

Unfortunately in only his second game for the club, an away fixture at Cheltenham, he ruptured an Achilles tendon, ruling him out for the rest of the season.

And so in the summer Pericard was unattached, with a once-promising career in danger of prematurely petering out.

Pericard insisted that he thought back to his time with Juventus, concluding that he must be a good player for a club of their stature to sign him. He knew that his form would return if he had a run of games and was able to improve his fitness.

"It makes me happy to be playing on Saturdays and Tuesdays and being part of a team winning games," he told me. "It proves people wrong who doubted me about my quality and fitness."

Pericard's three-month deal at Carlisle expires on 12 January and the club have made no secret of their desire to keep him. The striker likewise wants to continue to repay the club for taking a chance on him - but to truly fulfil his ambition of silencing those who thought he was finished the 27-year-old will have to consider all his options.

"If an offer comes in that is too good to say no I would be stupid to do so," said the striker, who told me that he has attracted interest from several clubs.

"I have never thought my best moments are behind me. I haven't reached my peak yet but I need the environment to show it."

At 27, Pericard believes the next three or four years will determine how his career is remembered and is hopeful that, with luck on his side, a return to the top flight is possible.

Perhaps the best clue as to Pericard's current sense of optimism arrived when discussing international football. Pericard has dual French and Cameroon nationality and a few years ago trained with the African side.

Cameroon will be at the World Cup in South Africa and the striker has not given up on being a part of it.

"It is something that I dream of," he said. "It might be a distant dream but if I keep working hard over the next few months you never know."

Cameroon open their campaign with a match against Japan in Bloemfontein on 14 June - and it would cap a remarkable and unlikely return to form if Pericard was there.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "Vincent, Vincent Pericard"

    Pericard was great for us in the year we won promotion. Was a real shame when both he and Todorov suffered injuries so soon into our first year in the Premier League and neither has recovered to play at the same level since. A stupid lie hasn't helped his career but hopefully Vincent will soon be back playing like he used to during his days at Fratton Park. And if he gets to go to the World Cup he'll have the Pompey fans behind him.

  • Comment number 2.

    An interesting story of how someone can mess up their own life so easily. While speeding is highly dangerous, a 4 month prision sentence that resulted from it is hardly justice when you look at the life involved. That said I have little time for people who can't take responsiblity. There are plenty of talented people on the scrapheap of life, and plenty with not a lot of talent but with drive and discipline that got them to the top. Mr Pericard has only himself to blame no matter what fortune befalls him from here on in.

  • Comment number 3.

    Carlisle is the perfect place for VP to restart his career. We are an improving League One side and he fits into the squad perfectly.
    Take the goal he scored against Norwich in the FA Cup. Boss Greg Abbott said it was a fluke goal and he could be right, but VP has the quality in his locker to produce those moments when others around him couldn't.
    There is no doubt that he will be playing in a higher division next season. Unfortunately not with Carlisle but he needed a break and I'm glad we are the ones to give him it.
    He knows where the goal is and his all-round play has been good this season.
    His contract at Carlisle runs out next month, so let's hope he sings on until the end of the season. God knows we need him to lead our attack to make sure another relegation fight is avoided.

    Up The Blues.

  • Comment number 4.

    "a 4 month prision sentence that resulted from it is hardly justice when you look at the life involved."

    To get sent to prison for speeding is very rare, but when you lie you commit a much more serious offence (pervert the course of Justice) and it is irrelevant how minor the initial offence. Pervert is max life imprisonment and if found guilty you will serve prison time. He was stupid to lie to a Court. So although it seems harsh, in reality it's the least he should have expected.

    To be honest, I've no time for footballers who mess up their careers, especially talented ones (Pennant, Bentley etc) so I couldn't give a monkey about Pericard, been a flop since he came to England overall.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is a very interesting blog - seems to me Pericard's career has been curtailed more through injuries than his stint behind bars. I shall keep an eye out for him.

  • Comment number 6.

    "If an offer comes in that is too good to say no I would be stupid to do so," said the striker, who told me that he has attracted interest from several clubs.

    Interesting story but you'd think Pericard would be a bit more grateful to Carlisle (i.e. show some loyalty and sign on for the season) after they took a gamble on him when nobody else was interested. Typical modern footballer?

  • Comment number 7.

    royalsfanmike - I think that Pericard does realise that he owes Carlisle after they gave him a chance. However, like any modern footballer I think he is keen to play at the highest level possible, perhaps more so in his case given that at one point he seemed set for a lengthy spell in the top flight.

    Crazy Paving - I agree that at times it is easy to despair when you read about the behaviour of certain footballers. I think in Pericard's case he made a very stupid mistake and paid for it. At least he claims to have learnt from the experience, arguing it has made him a better person.

  • Comment number 8.

    VP has been saying in the local rag, the News & Star, that he would be happy to stick around, but as Man City showed last weekend, there is no loyalty in football. It's a business so we'll see if he does stick around. I hope for the sake of the club, he does.

    Up The Blues.

  • Comment number 9.

    Vincenzio,

    You were superb at Pompey, and I remember clearly how Rio Ferdinand couldn't cope with your power and pace when you came on in the FA Cup 3rd round tie in January 2003. We nearly got a replay....

    I hope you continue to develop in your career, and make the most of your talent! Keep on the straight and narrow.

  • Comment number 10.

    This Juve link keeps getting used.. An example of this is Celtic just getting rid of a player called Massimo Donati... all Celtic fans heard of when he was signed was that Ac Milan had spent 10mil on him.. Big clubs can make mistakes too..

    The fact the guy is using it too shows a hint of desparation.. Juve signed me so I must be good.. I would say prove it on the park.. not with past associations.

  • Comment number 11.

    so much bitterness in the comments! half of you are personally affronted! why? where does your apparent disenfranchisement come from? take the story for what it is.

  • Comment number 12.

    I always thought he had an epic full name; Vincent de Paul Pericard and I recall him being really good on CM 02/03. Good luck to him.

  • Comment number 13.

    Indeed #11 - Why are people so bitter about the guy? I didn't read him saying here that he didn't care about the wrongs he committed.

    He spent time in prison - true. But his career has been let down by his injuries. This man seems to have brittle bones. Hopefully, they'll be tough enough to give him a chance to make it to the World Cup. What a feat!

    Keep dreaming Vincent! What are we without hope?

  • Comment number 14.

    Lots of appreciative chat from the Portsmouth supporters - I'm not sure that Stoke fans will exactly feel the same way.

    I'm not convinced that Pericard will make the World Cup squad but I think it is a good clue as to his frame of mind that he is still hopeful of making it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting blog, thank you Mr Fletcher.

    It's a pity some people see fit to kick this guy when he's down. He's done his time and seems to have taken a mature attitude about his experience. I wish him well.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hiya Paul, thanks for this blog

    I always find it interesting to see how footballers fare from abroad, particularly when you are in a very good Juventus team at a very young age.

    Also, I'm a Blade, and I remember watching him at the Lane a couple of times. I think he always seemed to look better than he actually was, when you looked back at the game. However, he didnt seem to play to bad for us.
    Obviously when he started falling down the slippery slope it seemed as though he couldn't stop.
    However, well done him for picking himself up, and best of luck to him. As a by-the-by, I think he should show some loyalty to Carlisle and stay with them at least until the end of the year.

    Ps - Also, when it came out that he was training with us in the summer, there was some relief amongst Blades fans once it became clear that he wasn't going to join us!

  • Comment number 17.

    Im a Stoke season ticket holder and your correcct Mr Flectcher, i dont agree with the pompey fans assessment of VP, the guy was dreadful for us in his 3 years, the very first few games he was ok (at best) but he quickly started to show the form that he would maintain for the rest of his 3 year stay ie he could shot, he couldnt control, he had no pace, he never won any headers, he couldnt pass, i could go on!!

    The scary thing is, he actually started a Premier League game for us last season, Blackburn away, we were 3 - nil down inside 30mins, he barely played again, thankgod!!

    Good luck to him and Carlisle, but i doubt he'll ever be troubling the top flight of any country again.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    United Dreamer - I think the fact that Pericard lied to the police about who was actually behind the wheel has counted against him somewhat!

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Anyway its interesting to be reminded how precarious success in football can be and how easily it can be derailed.

  • Comment number 22.

    In your dreams Vincent. When Cameroon approached you prior to the African Nations Cup in 2002, you turned them down claiming you were French. Now that you find yourself in the football wilderness, you have suddenly become Cameroonian. No chance mate! Please advise David Ngog at Liverpool not to make the same mistake you made.
    Good luck all the same.

  • Comment number 23.

    I am very pleased that Pericard has got his life and career back on track but as to going to the World Cup with Cameroon that is rather more than a distant dream it is an impossible dream. Cameroon are currently ranked two places below England and might well be higher in the rankings but for a poor run of form when Alex Song was banned from international football for a year, looking at Pericard's career record if he was English and thought he could make England's squad for South Africa I don't think you would give a fig for his chances, well they are not much better for making the Cameroonian squad.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I had wondered what had happened to Pericard! What a shame he wrecked a few years of his career, probably his prime. However, there's still time for him to show his full potential. Pompey fans- I do love how you appreciate the players who got you to where you are. (And please note that although that may sound sarcastic, it really isn't meant to be; I'm used to seeing so many people slag off other clubs on these comment sections!)

    He may not achieve the heights he thought when he joined Juventus, but perhaps he can show all the doubters that he has deserved another chance. And ok, he may be yet another mercenary, but at least he's been honest, unlike certain other footballers.

  • Comment number 26.

    In response to mikeys comment about massimo donati, he is actually a very good player, Tony mowbray wanted to keep him as he started the season in fine form scoring that great volley against Arsenal but he had already set his heart on a move back home. He didnt make the grade at Milan because like any major club they expect immediate results when paying large sums, getting into the milan squad is not an easy task.

  • Comment number 27.

    He's a poor player and always has been. I watched a lot of him in his Portsmouth years and he looked like a poor man's Heskey if that's possible. Rare glimpses of quality but he only scored 9 goals in 32 games playing up front in a good team that stormed the league and had the likes of Paul Merson in it. Dreadful player but I wish him all the best.

  • Comment number 28.

    Good blog Paul, I wish him all the best, but I believe he may have found his level as a 1 in 6 strike rate for a forward is not good!

  • Comment number 29.

    He's just signed for us at Swindon, and I for one don't share the optimism that our other fans seem to be showing. Hopefully I'll be proved wrong.

    I think if I was a Carlisle fan I'd be a bit miffed, are Swindon a much better option for him, or is it all about money? Still I don't think you can really blame him, it's not his fault he was only offered a 3 month contract.

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  • Comment number 32.

    Its a great come back by Paul .the injury was not easy to get recovered. I really prayed for him as without Paul the team would have been something that is good for nothing. Article Spinner

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