Scunthorpe United v Bradford City - Charles Vernam keen to make up for lost time at Bantams

CHARLES VERNAM will always treasure his last visit to Glanford Park – even if the memory is a bittersweet one.

Bradford City's Charles Vernam battles with Bolton's Alex Baptiste earlier this month at Valley Parade. Picture: Simon Hulme

Then in the colours of Grimsby Town in a League Two derby fixture at Lincolnshire rivals Scunthorpe United last March, the Bradford City forward found the net in the Mariners’ 2-0 win.

The significance of that date – March 7, 2020 – is not lost upon him in more ways than one.

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The fates decreed that it would be the last time that Vernam played in front of fans – ahead of the suspension of football in the EFL in the first lockdown of 2020.

THAT WAS THEN: Grimsby's Charles Vernam comes under pressure from Crystal Palace's Jeffrey Schlupp during an FA Cup Third Round clash at Selhurst Park in January 2019. Picture: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Circumstances dictated that it was not just his final goal for Grimsby, but also his final appearance, with a majority of clubs voting to end the 2019-20 season in mid-May due to Covid-19.

Vernam moved to Burton in July and now finds himself at City. It has been a funny old last 12 months as he is the first to admit.

But in terms of his swansong for Grimsby, the 24-year-old, who went to school in the town with a number of his friends being Mariners supporters, picked some way to bow out at least.

More especially given the fact that he was on the books of Scunthorpe as a youngster.

FORMER CLUB: Charles Vernam in action for Burton earlier this season. Picture: Jacob King/PA

Vernam told The Yorkshire Post: “I had been on a decent run of form and a lot had been made out that I had come through the academy at Scunthorpe and it was brilliant – a great atmosphere and a great day.

“It was unbelievable. Grimsby had around 2,500 (fans) there or something like that and it was a really special moment and one that I will always remember.

“I am now going there with Bradford to hopefully do the same thing and get a positive result and if I can score or assist to help that, then I am doing my job.”

Vernam had much to look forward to after that victory at Scunthorpe. He was on an impressive run of form which also featured a stunning hat-trick in a 3-2 victory at Colchester – including a wonder goal which earned him the EFL’s Goal of the Season award in 2020.

The first lockdown stymied his progress and his luck took a turn for the worst after. He is now aiming to rewind the clock at City – and given last year’s untimely break in his career, he certainly will not be moaning about a busy schedule or a long season either.

He added: “When the break came about, I was playing some of the best football of my career and I had been on a really good run and I think I had scored seven goals and got five assists from about 15 games.

“It was a really hot patch for me and since then, the breaks have not helped and I have had a couple of injuries and bits like that.

“I am now looking forward to showing the Bradford fans what I can really do because I know it is in there and I have shown glimpses of it, but I want to show it week in, week out and for 90 minutes. I believe that is around the corner and definitely to come.”

The challenge of representing the claret and amber may have worn heavy on some players in previous years, but Vernam has proved himself to be made of the right stuff in his career to date.

It says something about him that, in his time as a young professional with Derby Under-23s, he grasped the chance of heading to Iceland in May, 2016 when many others would have been happy to take the easy and safe route of continuing to play academy football and had the summer off.

His time on loan at Icelandic top-flight side IBV, based in the town of Vestmannaeyjar on Iceland’s south coast, was soul-enhancing and aided in his football education – even if he did get stick in a summer which saw Iceland stun England in Euro 2016.

On his time at IBV, a club whose alumni includes David James and Hermann Hreidarsson, Vernam recalls: “It was an amazing experience and one that I will always be grateful for taking on.

“It is easy to sit in your comfort zone when you are 18 or 19 in an under-23s set-up and it was about taking things into my own hands.

“I had not played as much as I wanted to and needed first-team games and used the summer period to go and play some men’s football and loved every minute of it – the place, people and the experience.

“I would always recommend it if someone has the opportunity to do that and go and experience it and take it on because it is a life experience as well as a football experience.

“It made me better as a person and a player as well.

“I was quite lucky as I had a couple of other English players in the team I was at and we did a lot of stuff and they showed me around.

“It was not quite as warm as our summer, but the 24-hour daylight was a bit of a blow to the system and the black-out blinds were in heavy use.

“But to throw yourself into a culture is an amazing experience. I know a few people who have done it now and it was brilliant.”

Last six games: Scunthorpe WDLDDD; Bradford City WWDLLD.

Referee: T Nield (West Yorkshire).

Last time: Scunthorpe 1 Bradford City 1, September 28, 2019; League Two.

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