Vincent Péricard: a player who has played for Juventus, served a jail term and now plays for Conference South outfit, Havant and Waterlooville.
From being a highly rated teenager at Juventus, to a 29-year-old plying his trade in The Conference South, Vincent Péricard’s career is one of the most remarkably varied in world football and here, I track what went wrong and how he finds himself in England's sixth tier of football with Havant and Waterlooville F.C.
Vincent Péricard began his career with French club Saint-Etienne, and made his first team début in March 2000 under manager Robert Nouzaret. The then promising 17-year old striker went on to make just one further appearance for the Ligue 1 outfit. However, his impressive performances for the France under-18 side convinced Carlo Ancelotti’s Italian giants Juventus to part with around £200,000 to secure the powerful teenager’s signature - Péricard’s career was on the rise…
The Senegal-born forward was now training daily with the first team – learning his trade alongside the likes of Zinedine Zidane and David Trezuget and after two years amongst the youth setup, the rising star was finally given his chance in the first team, making a memorable début in the Champions League against Arsenal, with the 19-year-old performing well in a 1-0 victory. This got people talking and Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, realising the youngster’s limited opportunities with the Turin side, took the chance to bring him in on loan for the 2002-03 First division season.
Péricard was outstanding during his early days, scoring on his Pompey debut against Nottingham Forest. Though he struggled with injury during the latter stages of the season, his decent return of 9 goals in 32 appearances assisted by some commanding performances helped the south coast club to their first league title in 20 years and, ultimately, promotion to the Premier League. This form also earned him a contract with Portsmouth as Owner Milan Mandarić was persuaded by Redknapp to invest £528,000 in securing the player’s permanent signature - confirming the confidence he had in the influential forward.
Péricard established himself as a first team regular early in the 2002-03 season but a severe injury to his thigh muscle in late September prevented him opening his account after only six appearances. He was able to return to training in December but a crippling knee ligament injury picked up in a reserve game on the 12th of December against Everton, effectively ended his season. The injury was operated on in the summer of 2004 and he spent the entire 2004-05 season back in France completing extensive rehabilitation on the back of the surgery.
He returned to England in time for the start of the 2005-06 season. In order to gain some match fitness, the recovering Péricard spent time on loan at Sheffield United scoring 2 goals – a brace against Millwall - in 11 starts. Then Plymouth Argyle agreed to take him on. He enjoyed a run totalling 15 starts scoring 4 goals – including his first ever senior hat-trick in a 3-1 victory over Coventry. He was recalled by Portsmouth in May 2006 but subsequently released from his contract.
As a free agent, he was picked up on a free transfer by Stoke City. This made Péricard Tony Pulis’ first signing in his second spell as Potters manager. In early games, Pulis’ shrewd acquisition appeared to be paying off as Péricard scored once again on début, this time against League 1 promotion winners Derby County. His second league goal came against Sunderland, however this would turn out to be his last for the club as his performances rapidly deteriorated. A turn of form which saw Péricard’s first team opportunities disappear as Ricardo Fuller, also a former Portsmouth player, carried good form for the remainder of the season.
Then, perhaps the most damaging part of his career to date, the one-time Champions League player was sentenced to 4 months in prison after “perverting the court of justice” – he denied he was the driver responsible for recorded speeds of up to 103 mph. He served six weeks of this sentence. By this time, it was October, Stoke were performing above expectations and he was surplus to requirements so a loan spell from March 2008 to the end of the season at Southampton ensued.
During this time, Stoke City had gained promotion to the premier league and on his return to his parent club, it was clear that that first team opportunities would be limited and after making just two league appearances during the season– one start against Blackburn and a substitute appearance in a 0-0 draw against Fulham - it was decided that he should go on loan once more. Péricard signed a short term loan deal with Millwall on the 20th of February 2009. After returning to Stoke his contract was terminated at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season.
Once again, the former Juventus player found himself without a club and after unsuccessful trials with Bristol City, Blackpool and Cardiff City over the summer, his career prospects looked bleak. But Carlisle United threw him a lifeline - he duly accepted their offer and officially signed a short term deal with the Cumbria club on October 13th 2009.
During his time with Carlisle, he gained cult status after netting 5 times in just 11 appearances, including a home début goal against Southend and a notable ‘scorpion kick’ against eventual League One champions, Norwich City in an F.A Cup tie. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSJRPesTBhU ) However, he decided against staying with the Cumbrians as he rejected the chance of a contract extension. This was as play-off contenders Swindon Town, had decided to offer Péricard an 18 month contract. He formally signed on the 14th of January 2010 and he made his début two days later, entering the fray as a 68th minute substitute for Charlie Austin. He went on to make a further 11 substitute appearances whilst starting twice as Swindon reached the play-offs but failed to gain promotion.
He scored no goals during this time but, after the summer departure of Billy Paynter to Leeds United, the former France under-21 international was charged with the responsibility of leading the line for Swindon for the 2010-11 season.
Unfortunately for Péricard, he only managed to add two goals in 38 games to his disappointing tally of zero from the previous season. This saw Swindon fall from promotion hopefuls to a team which finished rock bottom of League One having recorded just 9 victories in the space of one season – Péricard’s contract was not renewed.
This left Péricard without a club for the third time in his career and is currently training with Bournemouth under former Pompey team mate Lee Bradbury. The only club who were willing to offer the beleaguered Péricard a contract were conference south outfit Havant and Waterlooville whose biggest achievement to date was losing 5-2 at against Liverpool at Anfield in the F.A Cup in 2008.
He is yet to make an impact with the south coast club after 2 starts and 3 substitute appearances have failed to produce a goal.
But, if he can rekindle any of the form which saw him noticed by Carlo Ancelotti back in his youth, there is no reason why the 29-year-old can’t revive his career at a higher level and make a positive impact for a few years to come...