Jamie Vardy: He Scores When He Wants!

When Jamie Vardy smashed home a penalty in the 65th minute of Saturday’s Premier League clash at the King Power Stadium, he set yet more records. He became the first Englishman to score in nine consecutive Premier League games, the first man to score in nine consecutive Premier League games in the same season and is now just one behind Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record of 10 in a row. Vardy is the top scorer in the Premier League so far this season with 12 goals in 12 games and is now a regular in Roy Hodgson’s England squad. But where did this 28-year-old suddenly appear from?

Jamie Richard Vardy was born on 11th Januray 1987 in Sheffield and grew up in the Steel City, before joining Sheffield Wednesday’s youth academy, but was subsequently released at the age of sixteen for being ‘too small’ before a major growth spurt just a month later. He then joined Stocksbridge Park Steels the following year and combined his footballing commitments with his working trade, employed in a factory creating medical splints which was gruelling on his back. Earning £30 per week, it was here that Leicester City scout Steve Walsh first began tracking the player. However, after getting into trouble with the law, the striker was forced to wear an electronic tag, meaning he had to be subbed off early, jump over the fence into his parents’ car to abide by the curfew.

In his four years at Stocksbridge, Vardy broke into the first team and scored a very commendable 66 goals in 107 appearances for the non-league club, earning himself a move to FC Halifax Town of the Northern Premier League as he scored 27 goals in his debut season as well as claiming the ‘Players’ Player of the Year’ award. Halifax won the league, with Vardy playing an instrumental role in the side.

Despite starting the following season with Halifax, Vardy joined Fleetwood Town in August 2011 and spearheaded their rise from the Conference into the Football League with an impressive 31 goal return in his only season at the club, where he won the ‘Player of the Year’ award as Fleetwood won the league title. It was in this season that City scout Walsh saw Vardy play live for the first time at League 1 Yeovil Town in the FA Cup and was sure that he had discovered a gem. At the end of the season, Vardy was once more on the move but this time he had earned himself a big move; Leicester City paid £1m for Jamie Vardy, a record fee for a non-league player.

Having been brought in by Nigel Pearson in the summer of 2012, Vardy scored on his debut with a headed finish capping off a 4-0 win over Torquay in the League Cup. Despite an impressive start at his new club, scoring against Blackburn, Burnley and Middlesbrough, Vardy’s form dipped dramatically and was prepared to leave the club as his slide continued, but for the intervention of Pearson and assistant Craig Shakespeare.

After the heartbreak of the Play-Offs against Watford at the end of his first season, Leicester and in particular Vardy bounced back in an incredible season which saw The Foxes run away with the league. Vardy formed a brilliant partnership with David Nugent and scored 16 goals, as he was named their ‘Players’ Player of the Season’ for their title-winning campaign.

Jamie Vardy, within the space of two years, had gone from playing in non-league to the Premier League. After making his Premier League debut as a substitute in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal, Vardy played the match of his life three weeks later. Coming from 3-1 down, Leicester City beat Manchester United 5-3 in an unbelievable game, with Vardy scoring the winner and setting up the other four goals; the match of his life without a shadow of a doubt!

Vardy continued to impress throughout the season and, without scoring loads of goals, was recognised for his sheer hard work, pace and energy, causing many Premier League defenders nightmares. As the season veered towards its conclusion, Vardy turned on the style and inspired City to the greatest of escapes as they avoided survived from the jaws of relegation. His 90th minute winner at The Hawthorns to beat West Brom 3-2 was a major turning point and having clinched safety, Vardy earned his first England call-up before celebrating this with a goal in the 5-1 demolition of Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season.

After making his debut against the Republic of Ireland, Vardy returned to the Premier League in August under new manager Claudio Ranieri. It took him a matter of minutes to score again, heading past Sunderland’s Costel Pantilimon with the first goal in a 4-2 drubbing. With Vardy under pressure from the media following a racial slur at a casino, Vardy hit back setting up strike partner Shinji Okazaki for the first goal in a 2-1 win at West Ham.

Vardy scored a late penalty at Bournemouth on 29th August and has scored in each Premier League game since, an astonishing run. He scored the equaliser against Aston Villa as City came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 before grabbing the equaliser again at Stoke, again from 2-0 down. Vardy bagged a brace in Leicester’s only league defeat of the season to date, in the 5-2 defeat to Arsenal and continued his run with the winning penalty at Norwich and two dramatic goals at Southampton to salvage a point from 2-0 down once more! Notching the winner against Crystal Palace extended the run to seven games before another winner at The Hawthorns made it eight in a row. In another energetic performance at the weekend, Vardy won a penalty mid-way through the second half with a sublime touch of control before being taken out by Watford stopper Heurelho Gomes. Regular penalty taker Riyad Mahrez picked up the ball and looked as though he would deprive Vardy of the chance to score for the ninth consecutive game, but after the crowd made their feelings known, Mahrez turned to Vardy offering him the ball and a high-five as if to say ‘Go on Jamie, you have it!’ – Vardy obliged, rifling the ball down the middle to score the winner and put him just one goal behind Van Nistelrooy’s record.

With this fine run of form, pundits and fans alike have been calling out for Hodgson to play Vardy as a striker rather than out of on the left-wing as he has been doing so far. But in his press conference last week, Hodgson appeared to be reluctant to do so, but how can he possible ignore the calls any longer? In the upcoming friendlies against France and Spain, Vardy will be hoping that he gets his chance to lead the line for his country and score his first international goal.

From an electronic tag cutting his games short and the painstaking work of working in a carbon fibre medical factory to being hailed by 32,000 fans at the King Power Stadium, it has been quite a rise for Jamie Vardy. England’s number nine really does score when he wants!

Josh Jones

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