“Even now there are moments when I shake my head at the madness of it all — going from the factory floor and playing Sunday morning pub football with my mates, to scoring for my country against the World Cup winners in Berlin. It’s the stuff of dreams. It hasn’t always been an easy journey, some doubted that I was capable, and at times I was probably guilty of not helping myself, but nobody can question my passion for football or my commitment once I set foot on the pitch.”
Leicester City’s prolific English striker Jamie Vardy uttered these words four years ago when he launched his autobiography, ‘Jamie Vardy: From Nowhere, My Story’.
There have been a lot of stories regarding team and individual achievements in England’s Premier League but Vardy’s is a one about how a person can overcome all barriers and achieve something special. Particularly during a pandemic, when everyone is seeking inspiration, Vardy’s story could be a good read.
He proved age is not a barrier to achievement. Last Sunday, aged 33, Vardy became the oldest player to bag the Premier League Golden Boot, overtaking former Ivory Coast superstar Didier Drogba, after finishing top of the scoring chart of the 2019-20 season with 23 goals.
Vardy’s story is not short of a fairy tale.
Eight years ago, he was playing non-league football with Fleetwood Town in front of a handful of people. And by May of 2016 — from a footballer playing in the fifth-tier of the English football league system, he became a Premier League champion with Leicester.
Born in Sheffield on 11 January 1987, Vardy started playing football at local team Sheffield Wednesday but was released as a teenager. He was told that he was too small to make it in football, and for some time, he thought his chance had gone.
But Vardy was far from giving up his dream and joined Stocksbridge Park Steels youth system at the age of 16. He made his first-team debut in 2007, earning 30 pounds a week at the club while working in a factory as a technician making medical splints.
Stocksbridge tagged Vardy as a ‘special’ talent, but he was convicted for assault following an altercation outside a pub the same year, and for six months, he had to play wearing an electronic tag.
Vardy then moved to Halifax Town, and after a successful stint, joined Fleetwood Town in 2011. In his only season there, he scored 31 league goals and drew the attention of Championship side Leicester City.
Before the start of the 2012-13 season, the Foxes signed Vardy for a reported fee of one million pounds, a non-league record, and the next year he helped the club to earn back a spot in the Premier League, scoring 16 times in the process.
Vardy made his debut on the English top-flight at the age of 27 in the 2015-16 season. And defying all expectations, he helped Leicester, who were on the brink of relegation on their return, to win the coveted Premier League title for the first time in the club’s history in their next campaign.
The 5-feet-10-inch tall forward scored 24 goals in that extraordinary season, setting a Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive games — a record previously held by former Manchester United forward Ruud van Nistelrooy. He was later voted the Premier League Player of the Season and FWA Footballer of the Year.
Vardy made his international debut on 7 June 2015, and has so far played 26 games for England with seven goals to his name.
At the beginning of this year, former South Africa batsman Hashim Amla told The Daily Star that although he started his ODI career at the age of 25, there was no race against time. Before retiring, he became the fastest batsman to score 2,000 (40 innings), 3,000 (57 innings), 4,000 (81 innings), and 5,000 (101 innings) runs in 50-over cricket.
Vardy, the creator of one of the greatest sporting stories of all time, might have shared and nurtured the same belief.