a We grew up learning to cheer on the underdog because we see ourselves in them.a
Everyone loves a story, we all love to cheer for someone we thought couldn’t go all the way, but does. Jamie Vardy’s rise has been one such incident.
Just five years ago, the player was representing Stocksbridge Park Steels F.C. in non-league football. This was after the Englishman, as a teenager, was released by Sheffield Wednesday, the club he supported all his life. For a 15-year-old that could be some blow.
Worse still, it was because the club thought Vardy was too short to play for them and cruelly enough, just a month later, he got a growth spurt of 20 centimetres. No wonder, he gave up football for eight months before
joining a Sunday team called Wickersley in Rotherham.
At Stocksbridge, he spent three seasons and gradually made his way to the first team. Northern Premier League side FC Halifax signed him in 2010. It was under manager Neil Aspin that he decided to get into football seriously and give up his main job as a carbon fibre technician.
Vardy had a successful time with the side and ended the season as the Player’s Player of the Year with 26 goals. The striker signed for Fleetwood Town, who were playing in the Conference Premier at the time, the fifth tier in English football. He was nicknamed “The Cannon” back then because of his playing style. He enjoyed another successful season and ended it as the division’s top scorer with 31 goals.
For people who had tracked his career, the A?1m fee Leicester decided to pay seemed worth it, but for everyone else, this was entirely unprecedented. It was a non-league record. The Foxes fans were skeptical and a four goal return on Vardy’s part in his first season justified the fans’ doubts.
The coming season brought a turnaround for Vardy as he scored 16 goals in the league for Pearson’s side and helped them gain automatic promotion to the Premier League. Vardy was named Leicester’s Player of the Players at the end of the season.
His man-of-the-match performance against Manchester United where he scored one and set up the other four goals as the Foxes surprisingly beat the Red Devils 5-3 in the comeback of comebacks, was perhaps enough for any Leicester fan still doubtful of the striker’s skills.
Like the rest of his team, Vardy’s form dipped during the course of the season but picked up at the right time. Vardy scored two goals in City’s five games during April, including the winners at both West Brom and Burnley as the side put together a run of four straight Premier League victories. He was nominated for the Premier League player of the month. Vardy’s goals among other things, were crucial in Leicester’s impressive form at the end of the season which helped them finish their return to Premier League football in a respectable 14th place.
This season, of course, Vardy has been absolutely brilliant. Scoring in 11 consecutive games is an extraordinary achievement for any footballer, let alone someone with this kind of a backstory. Links to Real Madrid might make you chuckle a little, but would you be chuckling if a striker playing for a top 6 club had achieved the same feet?
It’s not just his poacher’s instinct that should be talked about, it is also his footballing intelligence. His record-breaking goal against Manchester United came because of that. The move started with Kasper Schmeichel throwing the ball quickly in the path of Christian Fuchs. Vardy was on the edge of his own area at that point, which shows how much ground he had to cover. He ran behind McNair and pointed to Fuchs where he wanted the ball. Fuchs delivered the perfect pass and Vardy’s extraordinary run from his own area ended with him slotting the ball perfectly in the Manchester United net.
There have been some unsung heroes in Leicester’s surprising brilliant form, as Riyad Mahrez and Vardy are the ones who have got most of the publicity. The likes of N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton are just some of the players who have done brilliantly but when you watch Leicester, you feel as though Vardy is at the heart of everything they do. He sets the tempo for the rest of the team.
As a centre forward, the amount of work he puts in is astonishing. This might invite some laughs but the last time you saw a centre forward running so relentlessly and put in such a shift, was probably in 2013-14 when a certain Luis Suarez took the league by storm.
If he continues to show this much character, desire and willingness to work hard, there is no reason why he can’t end the season with an achievement even more remarkable.