If there was ever an example of a football fairytale, Jamie Vardy’s story would certainly be it. From being subbed to meet his curfew, to playing for England, the Leicester City striker’s rise is nothing short of phenomenal.
Born in Sheffield, Vardy was heartbroken aged 16 when he was released from his boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday. The lowest point of his career, he recently described it as.
But Vardy continued to play the beautiful game. This time in the non-league. He made his way through the reserves to feature for Stocksbridge. He spent three years at the South Yorkshire outfit, but nearly made a premature return into professional football when he spent a week on trial at Crewe Alexandra, as well as also turning down a move to Rotherham United.
But it was inevitable a move would soon come. It came at FC Halifax. He put pen to paper in June 2010 under former Leeds defender Neil Aspin. It was to be the perfect start as well, scoring the winner in his debut.
He seemed to excel in the Conference North as well. 29 league goals for the club, including three at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season led to lots of interest from clubs. And just over a year after signing, he made the trip into Lancashire as Fleetwood secured the striker’s signature for an undisclosed fee. It would be the move that really put Vardy on the map and propel him into the interest of some of England’s greatest football clubs. But he was ageing. If he was going to get that dream move into the Football League, it had to come now.
There would be only one way to describe that season at Highbury – rampant. 31 goals in 36 games helped lead Fleetwood to the Football League for the first time in their history. But would it be with Vardy?
The answer was no. After a historic season for the Cod Army, he would be written into the history books once again. This time he would go down in history as the most expensive player to move from non-league. His destination came in the East Midlands. A £1 million move to Leicester City – a side with promotion aspirations – perhaps soon he might not just be playing Championship football, but instead be lining up against the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Equally it could all fizzle out at this stage also. That looked as it was set to happen. Only four goals in his first season for the Foxes and the fans were starting to get on his back. He admitted he even nearly quit football following the heartbreak end to the season at Vicarage Road.
But how relieved he must have been to listen to his then manager, Nigel Pearson. 16 goals in a defining season in the history of Leicester City seemed to complete his fairytale. His partnership with David Nugent tore the second tier of English football apart.
But if the Euphoria of promotion was a triumph in his career, what would happen next would put him into pure jubilation. September 21, 2014 will be a day that goes down in the history of Leicester City Football Club. The Foxes’ finest hour inspired thanks to his pure pace, agility and stamina. 5-3 it ended against a Manchester United side humiliated as a result of Vardy’s attributes
But then disaster struck. Leicester didn’t win for 99 days and found themselves in a real relegation scrap. But the form of Vardy towards the end of the season and a crucial winner at The Hawthorns against West Brom pushed the fearless Foxes to safety.
No big surprise then when an England call came. He became the first Leicester player to wear the three lions’ shirt since 2004 when making his debut as a sub in June. The question is will his spell with Hodgson’s army last until Euro 2016?