Man City star was given "rock star" welcome by new team’s ultras

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Erling Haaland may have received a warm welcome from Manchester City after joining this week, but his arrival has nothing on that of former City striker Darius Vassell at Turkish outfit Ankaragucu.

The former England forward, who famously missed his penalty in the Three Lions' shootout defeat to hosts Portugal in the quarter-final of Euro 2004, struck just 22 goals in 124 appearances for City across a four-season stint before heading for pastures new. And eyebrows were raised when the striker's next destination emerged.

"I wanted something new, something completely different," Vassell revealed in his 2017 autobiography The Road to Persia. And that's exactly what he got. If Vassell and the rest of the watching football world were unfamiliar with Turkish minnows Ankaragucu, they'd soon be made aware of the club and their fervent fans.

"My agent came to me with the option of joining a club in Turkey," Vassell revealed. "He said that a Super Lig club called Ankaraspor were interested in me.

"I asked if he was sure it was them and he corrected himself and said it was actually Ankaragucu who wanted me. They were even more obscure!

"Their club website didn’t seem to be official and I felt I must have been looking at the wrong page, but no matter how much I searched for something else, it was their site all right. I got my head around everything and decided it was worth flying out to meet them and take a look."

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And it's fair to say the club's fans made quite the impression. Upon arrival, Vassell found himself mobbed by thousands of Ankaragucu's ardent ultras. The striker, who had remarkably only flown out for talks and hadn't yet agreed a deal, was promptly draped in the club's colours and ushered through the crowds, who raucously chanted his name and let off flares to celebrate his arrival.

"I simply wasn’t ready for the welcome I received at Ankara Esenboga Airport," he ex-England attacker admitted. "There were thousands of supporters there to greet me, with flags, shirts and they made such a noise; I was totally taken aback, I’d never experienced anything like this before.

"There were people holding up welcome banners, flares were set off and every television camera available seemed to be pointed at me. I must have looked like a rabbit in headlights when I walked out of the airport doors and into the madness.

"People were bouncing up and down, chanting: “Dar-ee-us Varr-sell, Dar-ee-us Varr-sell, Olé, Olé, Olé!” As I made my way through the crowds, I was given a club scarf to wear and then another couple of scarves and a shirt was draped over me.

"A young woman handed me a blue and yellow bouquet of flowers, the club’s colours, and it soon became a real scrum to get to the waiting cars, with people pushing their way through to get close to me. It was the kind of reception you would have expected for a world leader, someone like Nelson Mandela, or a rock star, not an English footballer visiting a Turkish football club."

The overwhelming welcome clearly did the trick though as Vassell, who claimed he felt like he was "in a film being prepped to go to space", did indeed sign later that month. However, the striker's Ankaragucu spell would see him experience anything but Turkish delight. After hitting a mere four goals in his solitary season with the club, Vassell scampered back to England the following summer with his tail between his legs.

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