KYLE VASSELL just knew the comparison would come. Fourteen goals in 12 games, one four-goal haul in the FA Cup and a hat-trick the round after – the 20-year-old is, of course, the new Dwight Gayle.
It’s not a label the Bishop’s Stortford striker subscribes to himself but, with his hot start to the season, it’s not unexpected.
Just two years ago Gayle was busy banging in 42 goals on loan at the Blues in the Conference North. Now he’s scoring in the Premier League for Crystal Palace after a £6m move from Peterborough.
So what does Stortford’s latest scoring sensation make of the, perhaps unfair, association?
“If I was going to come here and score goals it was bound to happen so it doesn’t really bother me,” Vassell says. “And to be fair I knew that before I came because of all the attention Dwight’s got. He deserves it all because he’s done really well for himself.
“It shows what you can achieve. But I’m not one to rush things.”
Not that you’d know it. His hat- trick last weekend against Chipstead took his FA Cup tally to seven goals in two games after sticking four past Hendon and set up a trip to Skrill Premier Forest Green Rovers.
His league goals have helped Rod Stringer’s team – back in the Skrill South after a two-year exile in the north – in among the early pacesetters.
“The gaffer knew what he’d get if he could really get my tail up,” Vassell says. “He’s got a very good team. There’s a reason why he got Braintree promoted from this league a few years ago and there’s a reason why we’re doing so well at the minute.
“A lot of young people struggle to get a manager who puts faith in them and that’s where Rod comes in. He does believe in that old cliché, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
“I think we’ve got one of the youngest squads in the league and we’re doing really well. A lot of teams fall away by winter, but with how we are I can’t see it.”
Vassell also puts his form down to his partnership up top with Cliff Akurang as well as playing week-in, week out for the first time since leaving Brentford and having spells at Dover Athletic, Sutton United and Chelmsford City. The striker also says a “switch flicked” in his head after coming into the real world of part-time football from the bubble of academy football.
“I got picked up playing for my county and went to Norwich City,” he says. “But, being from north-west London, I didn’t really enjoy the travelling. I spoke to the coaches and they got me straight in at Brentford.
“I took it for granted and I thought I was a lot better than what I was. My attitude wasn’t always 100 per cent, my head went wayward easily with life off the football field. I made my mistakes and I didn’t get a pro contract at Brentford. I still regret it to this day. That’s what has made me so humble now and flicked the switch in my head.
“Now I’ve gone the complete other way. Since that day there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t tried to develop myself in some way, whether that’s kicking a ball, in the gym or out in the park running. I only rest on Sunday.
“I had long chats with my youth team manager at the time, Darren Sarrl, who is at Stevenage now. He developed me more than any other person ever will.
“It wasn’t necessarily on the field; it was all off the field that he made me turn from a boy to a man. He was only young and had made mistakes himself. He made me see the light and really respect the ability I have and what I can do in football if I work hard.”
Naturally Vassell’s form has scouts flocking to see him but the level-headed youngster shrugs it off, also pointing out a good job as a construction supervisor at Skanska means he wouldn’t just take any move.
“If I got my second chance at full-time football I would 100 per cent appreciate it more,” he says.
“If I do get back to that level then great, it’s always been my dream to play as high as I can. If I don’t, I don’t. I’ve got a good job and I’ve got to work hard with that as well.
“At the moment I’m only thinking about scoring goals here. We’ve got a great team spirit. We are one team, all together.
“We’ve got belief. When we saw the FA Cup draw with Forest Green we believe we can go there and win.”
New Dwight Gayle or not, Forest Green will be wary.