‘’Superheroes are disguised as ordinary people with extraordinary hearts.’’ This quote stands true in the case of this English sensation who made his way from rags to riches. Who would have thought that a man from non-league football would end up being the best striker in the top flight of English football league system! Sounds like a fairytale, isn’t it? Such is the story of 28-year-old Leicester City star, Jamie Richard Vardy.
Born in Sheffield, Jamie, unlike the majority of other footballers, wasn’t a part of any football academy. Speaking in an interview, he revealed that he worked in a 12-hour shift in a factory and then rushed to his training sessions. This affected his health as his diet would mostly comprise of fast food which was available at the motorway service stations.
Vardy faced a criminal conviction for assault and, as a result, he always had an ankle tag attached to him. Vardy says he was sticking up for a deaf friend who was being mocked by some young men. One more condition of the conviction was the 6 pm curfew which affected his schedule. Sometimes it meant that he had to leave a game midway and make a getaway in his parents’ car and return back home on time. Vardy says, ‘It was a case of hoping that we were winning, taking me off and making sure I was home,’
The start of his career took place at Stocksbridge Park Steel, in 2007 where he spent three years at the club. The club is based in a small town wedged between the city of Sheffield and the northern fringes of the Peak District. They played in the Northern Premier League – the seventh tier of the English game – during Vardy’s time.
Their Bracken Moor ground holds 3,500 people and one end is just a grassy bank – nothing in comparison to the might Wembley stadium. The forward was released by Sheffield Wednesday’s academy as a teenager for being too young. Later, he started playing for Stocksbridge where he earned £30 for every game and in addition to that was a tiresome back-breaking work in a carbon fire factory. Things never came easily for Vardy, he worked day and night for it.
After scoring 66 goals in 107 games for Stocksbridge, Vardy made a move to FC Halifax Town in 2010. Nearly £15,000 was spent on buying Vardy during the transfer. The 27 goals from Vardy led to FC Halifax winning the North Premier League title and hereby multiplying his price tag 10 times than before. In 2011, Vardy was bought by Fleetwood Town where he excelled well. The club boss stated that the club was aware of his passion, desire and hunger for goals. They knew he was worth the money and was a special lad. He added saying, ‘’I hope his story is a message to players rejected by Football League clubs who think about packing it in. Don’t. Go into non-league and show what you can do.’’
He scored 31 goals and guided the Lancashire team into the Football League for the first time. For some games, as many as 30 scouts from bigger clubs would descend on their Highbury Stadium. Among the many managers who admired Vardy was Roy Hodgson, then in charge of West Brom, and the Baggies tried to sign him. Little did we know then that Vardy would eventually work with Hodgson at an even higher level!
After achieving their goal of reaching the league, Fleetwood sold Vardy to Leicester City in 2012. The fee was approximately a million, but the add-ons totaled to nearly £1.7 million. This was a non-league record. But the start of the spell wasn’t really a sweet one for Vardy as he struggled to prove himself. Attacked by criticism and questioned for his mediocrity, life became tough for the player. Things had gotten so worse that he considered even quitting football. But, Pearson along with his assistant Craig, motivated Vardy to carry on with his efforts.
16 goals in the 2013-14 season guided Leicester back to the Premier League as champions and there was nothing stopping Vardy from now on. In 2015, after winning Player of the Month at the tail end of the previous season, Vardy was called up to the England squad by Roy Hodgson in May and made his debut against the Republic of Ireland a month later.
Inspired by his rise to the international scene, Vardy started the season by scoring the opening goal in 4–2 victory against Sunderland and didn’t look back. The 28-year-old would start his 10 game consecutive goalscoring run, equaling a record set by Premier League great Ruud van Nistelrooy. Leicester City face Manchester United on Saturday, and it is highly likely that Vardy will break van Nistelrooy’s record. For a player who began his professional football career at 25, breaking a legend’s record is nothing but a dream. Vardy is here to break records, let’s just wait and watch what’s next on his list. Indeed, this man is the living example of ‘’started from the bottom, now we’re here!’’