Greatest Underdog Stories – The rise and rise of Jamie Vardy

 

At the end of England’s European Championship group stage match against Wales on June 16, an interesting statistic did the rounds of Twitter and other social media: Jamie Vardy has scored four goals with his last five shots on target for England!

Quite astounding. But then again, who would have thought that Vardy would be ending the 2015/16 Premier League season with the winner’s medal around his neck? And who would have thought that he would narrowly miss out on being the highest goalscorer in the Premier League? And that he would be in the England squad for the European Championship in France ahead of established names like Theo Walcott?

Yet, all of these have happened.

At the age of 16, Vardy wasn’t deemed good enough for the youth side of Sheffield Wednesday and was released by the club in 2002. So he landed at Stocksbridge Park Steels – the team now playing in the eighth division of the English league set up. He then slowly moved through the ranks and became a fixture in the club’s first team in 2007.

Vardy then moved to Halifax Town for the 2010/11 season and ended the campaign as the club’s top goalscorer with 26 strikes. His performances helped the club win the Northern Premier League Premier Division title.

He quickly outgrew the club and moved to Fleetwood Town the following season. Vardy continued his stellar knack of finding back of the net and grabbed 31 goals in 36 games for the side to help them earn their first ever promotion to the Football League.

Jamie Vardy at Fleetwood Town. Video courtesy: Fleetwood Town FC

Vardy continued his upward trajectory as Leicester City came for his signature the following season and he eventually signed for the then Championship outfit. However, he struggled to find the same touch that helped him in the lower leagues, and considered leaving football altogether. But he was persuaded to continue.

In the 2013/14 Championship campaign, Vardy grabbed ten goals and helped the Foxes win the title, and with it, earn promotion to the Premier League.

In his first season in the English top flight, the Englishman contributed five goals and ten assists as Leicester avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth. The following season, Claudio Ranieri came at the helm of the Foxes and the rest, as they say, is history.

Vardy, like his team, was unstoppable and went on to grab a remarkable 24 league goals. The 29-year-old eventually earned a call-up to the national team last year, and has now become a main transfer target for Arsenal.

Jamie Vardy’s all 24 2015/16 Premier League goals. Video courtesy: trickstar

Needless to say, there will be numerous non-league players slogging in training and giving their all hoping to become the next Jamie Vardys.

Interesting facts about Jamie Vardy:

  • In 2007, he received conviction for assaulting a woman and had to wear an electronic tag for six months, which drastically reduced his contribution for Stocksbridge Park Steels.
  • While playing non-league football, Vardy also worked as a technician to supplement his income from the game.
  • His use of a racial slur against an Asian man prompted Leicester City to give him training about race.
  • Stocksbridge Park Steels have named their main stand after Vardy, the biggest name to come out of the club.
  • Vardy has launched an academy of his own to give non-league footballers a chance to succeed, and help unearth more potential Jamie Vardys.
  • He has scored in 11 successive Premier League matches – a record.