It’s…Jamie Vardy: The Rapid Ace Who Rose From Lower Leagues to Win English Football’s Top Prize

It's...Jamie Vardy: The Rapid Ace Who Rose From Lower Leagues to Win English Football's Top Prize
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​The tale of Jamie Vardy will be a bedtime story told by father to son for decades. How could a man getting paid £30 a game to play non-league football go on to win the Premier League in such a short space of time?

The Vardy movement is a piece of footballing culture that will stand the test of time. The 2015/16 Premier League season saw the biggest surprise in recent history, when Leicester lifted their first ever top flight title.

Rival fans screamed things like ‘Leicester have stolen the Premier League’ and ‘a team like Leicester can’t win the title’. And guess who was laughing in their faces? It’s…Jamie Vardy, and he did this all while swigging a can of Red Bull.

Leicester City v Everton  - Premier League

So how did ​Vardy end up in the Premier League?

The man from South Yorkshire was released by ​Sheffield Wednesday at 16. It wasn’t looking good for him. The Hillsborough-born striker then ended up working in a carbon fibre factory, and his footballing dream looked dead in the water.

Vardy then made the decision to sign for eighth-tier club Stocksbridge Park Steels. The Englishman’s debut for the club was mediocre to say the least, as he failed to score in a 1-1 draw with FC United and received a yellow card for his day’s work.

This was Vardy’s life now: working endless hours at a factory and getting paid £30 to play non-league football.

But the football gods wanted more for him. They smiled on Vardy and blessed him with blistering pace and the ability to score double figures season on season.

After three seasons, ​Vardy had scored 66 goals and was on his way to Halifax Town.

The rise of a non-league footballer is a beautiful thing to watch. It’s like when a baby enters the world for the first team – but this wasn’t a baby, it was a 5’10 man who was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

He stayed with Halifax for one season and netted 29 goals. His stock was rising, his banter was coming, and his party was only just getting started. 

If the Vardy story was a Hollywood blockbuster it would have everything. From the moment of opportunity, the sacrifice and the setbacks, and the damsel in distress in the form of his wife Rebekah Vardy.

Going back to 2011, when things really started to look up for Vardy, he was linked with decent clubs including ​​Huddersfield and Crewe, but Fleetwood Town won the race and signed him for £150,000.

Vardy was reaching heights that he thought were impossible, earning good money and starting to become a decent footballer. The man couldn’t stop scoring.

And this is what prompted one of the big fish to take him from the Fishermen in 2012.

Alex Bruce,Jamie Vardy

That big fish was Leicester. They took a punt on Vardy and paid £1m for his services, a record fee for a non-league player.

The South Yorkshireman was now getting paid £45,000-a-week and living in dreamland. Vardy started to establish himself during the 2013/14 season, showing he could perform on the big stage and finishing the term with 16 goals as Leicester were promoted to the Premier League.

From this moment Vardy used his Premier League platform to his advantage: his performances were spectacles to watch as he pounced on defenders like a wild animal.

Vardy scored his first Premier League goal against ​Manchester United on 21 September 2014, the Englishman also assisting four in a man of the match performance. The Foxes won 5-3 in an all-time Premier League classic and would avoid relegation, eventually finishing the 2014/15 season a respectable 14th. 

Sure, that season must have felt like a dream for Vardy, but nobody could have predicted what would happen over the next 365 days – bar a few punters. 

Claudio Ranieri,Jamie Vardy,Robert Huth,Danny Drinkwater,Leonardo Ulloa: Riyad Mahrez,Andy King,Kasper Schmeichel

Two years after they got promoted, Leicester did the unthinkable and won the Premier League. It was a season that christened some of footballers greatest stars, with players like ​N’Golo Kanté and ​Riyad Mahrez showing their pure talent as they bossed their way to the league. 

Claudio Ranieri had given Leicester the Premier League title, but would it have been possible without the help of Vardy? His goals were pivotal in the club’s success, finishing that historic campaign with 24 league goals. He also wrote his name into the record books by becoming the first ever player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League games.  

His efforts were rewarded with a call-up to the national team. From relative obscurity, Vardy was going to represent his country, and would play and score for England at Euro 2016, netting in the 2-1 win against Wales.

Slovakia v England - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016

The rise of Vardy can be summed up in four words: ‘once in a lifetime’. And not in a WrestleMania 28 kind of way. Will a player from the eighth tier of English football rise up and win the Premier League again?

The people’s sonnet is ‘Vardy’s having a party. Bring your vodka and your ch-.’ Well, that final bit’s not appropriate, but he is different to every single Premier League striker and that’s what makes him the people’s player.

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