The Rise and Rise of Jamie Vardy

Written by Chris Baxter
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No other English professional footballer in the 21st century has made quite the rise from non-league to top-flight stardom like Jamie Vardy. The 31-year-old’s leap to stardom has been likened to a real-life version of the comic book classic, Roy of the Rovers, who used to defy the odds as Rovers’ leading marksman.
Vardy began his senior football career playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels. He was released as a youngster by Sheffield Wednesday but his acceleration and composure in front of goal soon earned him a move to FC Halifax Town in the Northern Premier League. 26 goals in just 37 appearances caught the attention of big-spending Fleetwood Town, who had ambitions to climb out of the Conference Premier and into the Football League. Vardy hammered home 31 goals in his debut season with Fleetwood, helping them to the Conference Premier title and secure the team’s Player of the Year award along the way.

That form caught the eye of Championship outfit, Leicester City, who were prepared to smash the non-league transfer record and spend £1 million on securing his services in May 2012. The first season with the Foxes was anything but plain sailing though. In fact, with just four goals in 26 league appearances, Vardy had to be convinced to stay in professional football by City’s then boss, Nigel Pearson. Vardy returned in the 2013-14 campaign revitalised and led the line superbly as Leicester romped to promotion to the Premier League.

His speed and direct style terrorised even the Premier League’s best defences. Playing on the shoulder of the last defender, Vardy was the perfect foil for Leicester’s counter-attacking style. He struck up an immediate rapport with French-Algerian playmaker, Riyad Mahrez and although he only scored five goals in Leicester’s first season of survival in the top flight, there was plenty to suggest that Vardy could make an even bigger impact in 2015-16.

Nevertheless, few would have predicted such a step change in fortunes yet again, both for Vardy and Leicester. The Foxes narrowly avoided relegation to the Championship at the first attempt and were 5,000/1 with the bookmakers to lift the Premier League title the following season. By the end of September 2016, Vardy had already eclipsed the five goals he’d scored the previous year. This was symptomatic of Leicester’s season, as they – and Vardy – continued to upset the form book. Vardy became the only player in Premier League history to score in eleven consecutive league games. Although he didn’t quite manage twelve on the bounce, that 3-0 win over Swansea in December 2015 would put the Foxes top of the table – a position they would not relinquish for the remainder of the season.

"Premier League Champions Leicester City" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by boloveselvis

Vardy was everywhere, scooping the Barclays Premier League Player of the Season award and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year gong. Vardy’s breakthrough Premier League season also caught the eye of the Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger, who tried to snare him from the Foxes by triggering a release clause with a £22 million bid. To the surprise of many, Vardy turned down the Gunners’ advances and ended up signing a new long-term deal with Leicester, to the delight of the City faithful.

Vardy is the perfect example of a 21st century professional footballer. Having fought his way up through the leagues, he doesn’t have the airs and graces of many of the self-absorbed players that play in the top flight today. He’s also something of a phenomenon in terms of his lifestyle choices. He revealed in an interview one of England’s Euro 2016 matches that he consumes significant amounts of caffeinated Red Bull and snus smokeless tobacco, which is a popular alternative to smoking in Scandinavia and many other parts of Europe today due to the healthier nicotine hit it provides. Furthermore, Vardy doesn’t tend to exercise heavily in the gym, instead preferring to do his fitness work in training on the pitch.

The Sheffield-born ace has a big summer ahead of him at the 2018 World Cup. It could indeed be his one and only World Cup appearance, as he’ll be 35 by the time the next tournament comes around in Qatar. With England increasingly utilising fast wide men and focusing on counter-attacks under current boss Gareth Southgate, there’s no doubt that Vardy will be an integral part of England’s hopes this summer in Russia. Vardy is an example to all amateur and semi-professional footballers that the opportunities are there if you put the hard work in.

Top Image - Jamie-Vardy-Lưeicester-City" (Public Domain) by ong_gia_kute_1904

Read 5217 times Last modified on Thursday, 15 February 2018 12:21
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Chris Baxter

Chris Baxter

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