Leicester City’s fairytale: Jamie Vardy’s Cinderella story features golden, not glass boot

In years to come when people recall how Leicester's City intrepid Foxes turned sporting logic on its head to become champions of England it will be Jamie Vardy's rags to riches tale that may sound the most implausible.

It will also offer hope to the thousands of young dreamers tossed aside every year by English football's shiny academies.

Because Vardy, whose goals have fired Leicester to the Premier League crown, proves there are gems lurking in the weed-strewn wilderness of the lower leagues, that rejection as a teenager does not represent a dead-end on the pathway to glory.

Six years ago, having been discarded by Sheffield Wednesday for being too small, he was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels, earning beer money in the seventh tier of English football and working 10-hour shifts at a carbon fibre factory.

Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring a goal. Reuters

Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring a goal. Reuters

A conviction for assault meant he played with an electronic tag on his ankle.

It smacked of another hard-luck story, but scroll his career forward, through FC Halifax and Fleetwood Town and a Football League debut for Leicester at the age of 25, and Vardy is the hero of one of sport's greatest upsets.

No wonder Stocksbridge are naming a stand after him and television crews from all over the world have been descending on the modest club. There is even talk of Hollywood interest.

The story might not end there either.


Having fired 5,000-1 shots Leicester to the title, what price the 29-year-old helping England win Euro 2016 in France?

Big Break

"It just goes to show what can happen if you keep your head down, keep working away and praying for that big break to come around," Ian Wright, who also came through the minor leagues on his way to becoming an Arsenal great, said.

While some of Vardy's goals this year have been world class, the volley against Liverpool a great example, it is old-fashioned hard work that has served him so well.

"He's not changed his style of play and his strengths have always stayed the same," Simon Garner, Vardy's strike partner at FC Halifax, said recently.

"Jamie terrorises back fours with his pace and he plays with no fear. When he was in the team you always knew you had a chance. He can win games on his own."


Neil Aspin, who signed Vardy for FC Halifax, recalls going to watch him play for Stocksbridge.

"Straight away I could see he had something," Aspin, who is now in charge at Gateshead, said. "It was his pace, touch and that tenacity. I remember looking round a bit nervously to see who else was there to watch him, I knew we had to sign him."

Reuters

Jamie Vardy's rags to riches tale may sound the most implausible. Reuters

Vardy scored 27 goals for Aspin's Halifax, before moving to fifth-tier Fleetwood, where he banged in 34 more, opening the door to the big time.

Under fire

Signed by Leicester for a reported one million pounds ($1.47 million), Vardy scored on his debut in the League Cup but managed only four more goals all season in the Championship (second tier), even coming under fire from the fans as his goal drought deepened.

Manager Nigel Pearson kept faith with Vardy, though, and was rewarded the following season when he scored 16 goals as Leicester were promoted to the Premier League.

It looked like being a short stay in the top flight with Leicester spending virtually the whole season in the relegation zone before an incredible late-season revival.

With only five goals to his name last season, however, there was scant evidence to suggest Vardy's career was about to go through the stratosphere.

The arrival of Italian coach Claudio Ranieri then unlocked Vardy's potential to devastating effect and he scored in 11 consecutive Premier League games, breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy's record with Manchester United.

His pace and movement and tenacity proved perfect for the fast, counter-attacking game Ranieri introduced and the understanding he struck up with Algerian playmaker Riyad Mahrez has become almost telepathic.

Mahrez was deservedly voted PFA Footballer of the Year and Vardy did not even play in Leicester's last two games due to suspension but his name will be sung the loudest at the biggest party the city has seen after the title was clinched on Monday.


Published Date: May 04, 2016 02:06 pm | Updated Date: May 04, 2016 02:06 pm



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