The man of October Jamie Vardy has come from non-league football to the England team in a very short space of time
It was only three years ago that Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy was playing for Fleetwood Town in Non-League football. On Saturday he became the first player in the Premier League to score nine goals consecutively in the same season (Van Nistelrooy's record of ten was across two seasons) and is now expected to start for England in their upcoming friendlies against Spain and France. He’d also been named EPL Player of the Month for October. So how has Jamie Vardy reached these heights?
Born in Sheffield, Vardy was in the Sheffield Wednesday youth team but in 2002 he was released at the age of 16 at which point he joined local club Stocksbridge Park Steels. Vardy eventually progressed to the first team and made his debut in 2007, earning a mere £30 a week.
After three years with Stocksbridge he signed for FC Halifax Town (the successor team to Halifax Town A.F.C.) where he carried on his brilliant scoring record which led to him joining Fleetwood Town in the Conference Premier (the highest division of Non-League football). The fee paid by Fleetwood was reported to be around the £175,000 mark, a very large amount of a club of that stature. However, Chairman Andrew Pilley has invested a very large amount of money into the club and during his stewardship, Fleetwood have earned 6 promotions in 10 years and are now in the football league. With a population of just 27,000 they are the smallest town in the Football League.
After yet more impressive displays for the Cod Army, in May 2012 he became the most expensive non-league player in history when he signed for current team Leicester City for £1,000,000. Although he helped the Foxes win promotion to the Premier League two years after signing he initially failed to repeat his goalscoring form in the top flight, scoring just five goals in the 2014/15 season. However, this season he is on a prolific run of form which as seen him catapulted into the spotlight and into England manager Roy Hodgson's national squad.
So how does Jamie Vardy get so many goals?
Vardy is very much a classic number nine forward in that he plays on the shoulder of the last defender, using his pace to run in behind defences and then is able to remain composed and finish his chances. He also wins the ball high up the pitch by pressing defenders, leading them to give the ball away in dangerous areas. Leicester's counter attacking style allows them to use Vardy's pace and suits the former Fleetwood player perfectly and is one of the many reasons why the Foxes are joint top of the table.
Vardy made his England debut against the Republic of Ireland during a bland goalless draw in Dublin on 21st May 2015 and subsequently made his first start for his country against San Marino in a 6-0 thrashing of the minnows.
In both of his starts for England, the other coming against Switzerland, he has been utilised on the left hand side due to England captain Wayne Rooney being played up front by manager Roy Hodgson. However, there are now widespread calls for Vardy to start up front in the upcoming international friendlies due to his incredible recent form and it will be hard for the England boss to ignore those calls as the Leicester striker is currently top goalscorer in the Premier League with twelve.
Vardy's story is very similar to Arsenal legend Ian Wright who himself started out in non-league with Greenwich Borough before being snapped up by Crystal Palace where he formed a formidable partnership with Mark Bright before Arsenal splashed out £2.5m on him. Unfortunately for Wright he never really got a chance with England, winning thirty three caps (mainly as a substitute) and scoring a mere nine goals. Wright feels he was never given a proper run in the team and he is probably justified in that view.
Vardy will hope that his England career is a lot more successful than the aforementioned Wright who has compared Vardy to Italian striker Salvatore Schillaci. The Italian came from being virtually unknown to becoming the top scorer in 1990 at his home World Cup.
The story of Jamie Vardy so far is one of those romantic tales where everybody is cheering for the hero. Vardy and Leicester's success shows that it is worth taking chances on players lower down the leagues rather than importing yet more foreign players into the English game.
However, now is the time for everybody to stop looking at where he's come from and start to recognise him as an excellent centre forward. The future is certainly bright for Vardy and hopefully he is given the time to develop into a top international player, just like he has been given the time to become a top Premier League player.