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A tribute to Jamie Vardy – celebrating his incredible rise from being a non-league rookie to a PL icon

A tribute to Jamie Vardy- celebrating his incredible rise from a non-league rookie to an England star and a Premier League icon

From the obscurity of non-league football to Premier League stardom, Jamie Vardy’s meteoric rise up the footballing pyramid in England has been an incredibly inspiring journey, to say the least.

There is hardly anyone who would have heard about him seven years ago when he was plying his trade with Fleetwood Town in the Conference Premier but he is now a cult hero at Leicester City and a former England international.

There has hardly been any footballer in England in the 21st century who has completed such an exponential rise from a being a non-league rookie to one of the most lethal strikers in the Premier League.

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Joe Lolley, who currently plies his trade in the Championship with Nottingham Forest, could, by some ways, be the nearest example, although he hasn’t matched Vardy’s exploits by any means.

Vardy’s incredible scoring form in Leicester City’s awe-inspiring Premier League triumph made him a cult hero at the club but that is only a part of his newly-found stardom.

Vardy’s consistently impressive performances in the Premier League has transformed him into an icon; a hugely influential figure in English football, and a former England international.

Yes, it might be hard to believe but the once non-league rookie donned the Three Lions jersey at two major tournaments in recent times – 2016 Euro Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup.

He announced his retirement from international football after scoring 7 goals in 26 appearances for England, with a bulk of those goals coming against top European nations like Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

Vardy is now 32 but he is still looking good for plenty more in the Premier League for the years to come. However, it is certainly worth revisiting the incredible rise of the Sheffield-born ace, which should go down as one of the most inspirational stories in the history of football.

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Early Years

Vardy started his career in the youth ranks at Sheffield Wednesday but he was released at the age of 16 and joined Stocksbridge Park Steels F.C in 2003.

He made his way through the reserve team and into the first-team before making his debut in 2007 in non-league football. Vardy impressed with his stellar displays at Stocksbridge and attracted interest from elsewhere, whilst a trial at Crewe Alexandra ended in failure.

Vardy, however, continued to excel in non-league football and joined F.C Halifax Town in the Northern Premier League in 2010, scoring 25 goals in 37 appearances in his debut season to propel his new club to a triumphant league campaign.

Vardy’s scoring heroics earned him the Players’ Player of the Year award and after just over a year with Halifax, Vardy signed for Conference Premier outfit Fleetwood Town.

The striker’s first season in the Conference Premier proved to be a fruitful one, as Vardy netted 31 goals in 26 appearances to propel Fleetwood Town to their first-ever promotion to the Football League.

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Entry into the Championship

Vardy’s incredible strike rate at Fleetwood Town, which saw him finish as the top scorer in the Conference Premier, prompted Championship promotion-hopefuls Leicester City to make a move for him. He was offered a first-team role under then manager Nigel Pearson.

As a matter of fact, Vardy never played in League Two and League One and made a direct jump from non-league football to the Championship, which, indeed, is an incredibly bold step for any player.

His first season at Leicester City was not smooth sailing, as Vardy found the net on just 4 occasions in 26 appearances in the second-tier. Leicester’s gamble on Vardy failed to pay the dividends at the first time of asking.

However, Pearson and his assistant Craig Shakespeare convinced him to stay and that would ultimately prove to be another talking point of his rise in football.

Vardy put the disappointment of the 2012-13 season behind him and spearheaded the attack brilliantly in the following season, scoring 16 goals to propel the Foxes to the Premier League as the outright winners of the Championship. 

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Premier League debut and still going strong

Vardy proved his credentials to thrive in the Championship but many would have expected Leicester to sideline him or loan him out to another second-tier outfit upon securing promotion to the Premier League. However, Pearson showed immense faith in Vardy and opted to field him up front as a regular starter in the top-flight.

And Vardy repaid his manager’s faith in him with a man-of-the-match display against Man United, helping the Foxes come back from 3-1 down to an eventual 5-3 victory.

The 32-year-old never looked back and produced a number of eye-catching performances in the top-flight, enough to prove that he definitely has the quality to thrive in the Premier League.

Vardy finished the campaign with 5 goals and 8 assists, as the Foxes finished 14th and managed to beat the drop comfortably in the end.

Vardy’s stocks were very much on the rise at the end of the 2013-14 season but even he wouldn’t have anticipated such a dramatic change of fortunes, for him as well as for Leicester in a span of just a single season. In other words, what followed after that simply defied belief.

Pearson’s successor Claudio Ranieri upset the ridiculous 5000-1 odds and guided the Foxes to an unlikely Premier League title triumph in the 2015-16 season, with Vardy scoring 24 goals in the campaign.

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Leicester’s abrupt emergence and Vardy’s incredible upturn of form saw him bag the 2016 Barclays Premier League Player of the Season.   

Arsene Wenger was ready to bring him to the Emirates but he rebuffed Arsenal’s approach and signed a new long-term deal with Leicester City, instead.

Vardy continued his scoring form in the Premier League in the following season and also found the net twice in the UEFA Champions League, as the Foxes made it all the way to the quarterfinals. 

Vardy hasn’t been able to replicate his feat of scoring 24 goals in the Premier League until now but goals have continued to flow for him at an impressive strike rate, nonetheless.

The 32-year-old has racked up a staggering 80 goals and 29 assists in 176 Premier League appearances, numbers which are quite eye-watering for any footballer playing in such a highly competitive league.

Conclusion

It is difficult to find the proper set of adjectives to describe Vardy’s sensational rise in English football from being a non-league star to a Premier League icon.

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It certainly doesn’t require a rocket scientist to figure out that he has by far been one of the most consistent strikers in the Premier League over the past few years and it would be harsh to take any credit away from him.

Vardy’s hardworking nature, lightning pace, instant acceleration, his ability to play off the shoulder of the last defender and time his run to perfection, and clinical finishing, have troubled even the best of defences in the top-flight.

Still only 32, he definitely has a lot to offer as far as Leicester are concerned, and even if he hangs up his boots right now, the story of his rise is likely to inspire footballers for generations to come.

Vardy’s meteoric rise in English football is like a ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel for all non-league footballers who dream of playing in the Premier League some day.

The Leicester man rose to prominence by his sheer dint of merit and hard work, which should be a lesson for all non-league footballers that opportunities are there if you keep working hard.

Working hard and working smart are completely different things but Vardy has shown the ability to combine both in order to produce the desired results.

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