The story of Jamie Vardy is a real life fairy-tale, with him going from non-league football to Premier League champion and England international in the space of a few short years. In fact, his story is so remarkable that a movie of his life is being planned.
Born in Sheffield on 11th January 1987, Vardy grew up supporting Sheffield Wednesday and looked to fulfil a dream as he signed for them as a child. The dream didn’t last long, as he was released at the age of 16 for being too slight in build.
The rejection hurt Vardy and he almost turned his back on a footballing career. However, a friend convinced him to turn out for Wickersley Youth in Rotherham and that led to him joining non-league Stocksbridge Park Steels.
Earning just £30 a week meant Vardy needed to find a proper job to make ends meet and he became a carbon fibre technician, making splints for disabled people whilst plying his trade in the lower echelons of English football.
Wearing an electronic tag, due to a conviction for assault, didn’t help his football career but he eventually attracted attention from other clubs. In June 2010, his goal-scoring exploits earned him a move to Northern Premier League Premier Division side FC Halifax Town.
A successful first season saw him voted Players’ Player of the Year, as he scored 26 goals to finish top scorer for Halifax and lead the club to the league title. The 2011/12 season started well, with Vardy scoring three goals from the opening four games, before a move to Conference Premier team Fleetwood Town.
He handled the step up with relative ease and found his scoring boots in his third start for the club. During the course of the season, Ian Holloway tried to sign Vardy for Blackpool but the offer was rejected. The striker was on the radar of bigger teams but he stayed with Fleetwood, firing them to the Conference title and promotion to the football league with 31 league goals.
In May 2012, Leicester City paid a record £1million initial fee for a non-league player to sign Vardy. His debut for the then Championship side came in a League Cup tie against Torquay and he netted the fourth goal in a 4-0 victory.
The good start didn’t last and he came in for some serious criticism from Leicester fans, after several poor performances. Vardy contemplated walking away from the game but manager Nigel Pearson and Assistant Craig Shakespeare convinced him to persevere.
The 2013/14 season saw a turn-around in fortunes for Vardy, with him scoring 16 league goals as Leicester won the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League. He was also named Players’ Player of the Year after a brilliant season.
On 21st September 2014, Vardy scored his first ever goal in the top-flight of English football as Leicester fought back from 3-1 down to beat Manchester United 5-3. That was one of just five goals for the striker that season, which wasn’t a great return from 34 appearances, but he scored the winner in two important games against West Bromwich Albion and Burnley to help guide his team to safety.
Despite his lack of goals, Vardy was called up to the England squad and made his debut on 7th June 2015 against Republic of Ireland.
There were rumours that Vardy was on his way out of Leicester, with Sheffield Wednesday reportedly having a £5million bid accepted, but it came to nothing. Apparently, it was Assistant Manager Steve Walsh that convinced the club to keep hold of the striker and his faith would be justified.
Vardy opened the scoring for Leicester on the first day of the season against Sunderland and then found the net again, from the penalty spot, against Bournemouth. The second of those, on 29th August, started a run that broke a Guinness World Record for scoring in most consecutive Premier League games.
From that goal up to scoring against Manchester United on 28th November, Vardy scored 13 goals in 11 consecutive games to overtake the record previously held by Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
At the end of October 2015, Vardy became the first Leicester player since 2000 to win a Premier League Player of the Month award and followed that up with a second in the November.
Vardy saw his value shoot up to £18.8m in January 2016, from £2.1m, and manager Claudio Ranieri described him as “priceless”. His value went up even more when he scored his first international goal for England, away at Germany in March 2016. He followed that up three days later with his first Wembley international goal against the Netherlands.
Two goals against Sunderland in April made him the first Leicester player to score 20 goals in the top flight of English football since 1984/85, when Gary Lineker reached that milestone.
A £10,000 fine and two match ban for diving didn’t put a dampener on the season, as Vardy finished with 24 league goals to finish one behind Golden Boot winner Harry Kane. His goals helped Leicester become unlikely Premier League champions, after starting the season as 5000/1 outsiders, and he was named FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season. He was also picked in the PFA Team of the Year.
A third international goal came in a friendly against Turkey on 22nd May, just a few days before he got married. He then netted his first goal at a major tournament when he scored against Wales in the group stages of Euro 2016 in France.
Vardy has just signed a new contract at Leicester, rejecting a move to Arsenal, as he prepares to lead the new English champions into the UEFA Champions League next season.
A real life rags to riches story, Jamie Vardy has truly won the affection of football fans across the nation with his goal-scoring exploits and down-to-earth personality.